Thoughts About The Politics of Travel

Hello there. You most likely don’t know me. I’m Michael Demmons and I am a traveler and a travel blogger based in Atlanta, Georgia. I write at a blog called The Round The World Guys. It’s a place where my husband and I talk about our travels and offer tips & tricks about how you can maximize the value you get out of your vacations.

Well, it will be anyway. It’s only a couple months old and doing quite well so far. We just hired a tech-type person to design us a fancy, user-friendly layout that will evolve and get better over time.

A bit about me. I’m in my late 40s and have been traveling to various places around the world now for about 15 years. I’ve been to over 40 countries and don’t intend to stop till I see them all. I’ve been on every continent except Antarctica, which I’ll remedy in 2019. Travel keeps me sane and grounded and makes me realize how lucky I was to be born in where I was. I mostly travel with my husband, but we can’t travel together much right now because we have a 14.5 year old Labrador Retriever who pretty much needs constant attention. That’s old for a Lab, if you didn’t know. Really old.

Why blog here? To be honest, it’s because I asked John if I could check in once in awhile. A travel blogger might not seem to be a good fit for a blog that’s mostly a discussion about politics, but politics is a big factor in travel. While my first interest is travel nowadays, my second interest has always been politics. I don’t get the chance to talk publicly about politics much anymore. I gave up blogging about that years ago. That said, I thought I could offer a perspective on U.S. politics and how it is likely to affect travel both to the U.S. and around the world for Americans and others. So, as those topics come up, I’ll write about them here as they really don’t fit well at our site.

My next trip is in February, when I will be traveling to Iran for a couple weeks. Iran is a great lesson in how politics affects travel. People who travel a lot necessarily learn about the places they’re going. If you listen to the news here or look at the Department of State’s page on Iran, it looks like a festering hellhole that no sane person would ever travel to. But that’s not the reality. Iran is actually one of the safest places in the world for travelers, the people are friendly, and the food is delicious. Sure, there are things you simply can’t do there – like photograph government buildings. But face it, doing that here nowadays can get you a bit of side-eye from the authorities, too.

The politics here in the U.S. also affects travelers from other countries. I am a Canadian, but I live here. U.S. policy is often mirrored by its allies and Canada is no exception. Because of this, as a Canadian, I will be officially treated exactly the same as an American while I am there, meaning the visa process is strict and I need a guide the entire time. That means the cost increases from just a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand.

So that’s the type of thing I will write about here. I expect to maybe write once a month or so. Unless something weird happens and there’s room for more. If there’s anything you ever wanted to know about travel in general or the politics of it, I’d be interested in having that discussion.

In the mean time, Go Falcons!






65 replies
  1. 1
    raven says:

    Cool, I have lived in Athens for 32+ years. I look forward to reading your blog.

  2. 2
    Baud says:

    we have a 14.5 year old Labrador Retriever

    That’s what I was looking for. You pass the test. Welcome.

  3. 3
    Jane2 says:

    Welcome back! Looking forward to your posts.

  4. 4
    mai naem mobile says:

    I kind of had a serious thought that if Lumpy L’Orange is in office for more than just a few months, a good business maybe helping Americans with immigration to other countries. Most of the top choice countrise for Americans don’t want you unless you’re young and highly educated or meet a skilled need; or you have a boatload of money. So i figured figuring out countries who will take other people who don’t fit in those categories would be a good little gig.

  5. 5
    Felonius Monk says:

    Welcome aboard. Sounds like an interesting perspective. Looking forward to your posts here and will definitely check out your blog.

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot. GO PATS.

  6. 6

    @Baud:

    I knew that would be a good place to start.

  7. 7
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Nice to see you back here, Michael. You were doing some front-paging here about ten years ago when I first came to Balloon Juice. I look forward to your travel posts.

    FWIW, I’ve lived in the Atlanta area since 1984, and I worked at the Canadian Consulate General for 25 years, so a strong affinity for your home and native land.

  8. 8
    mai naem mobile says:

    We traveled to HK,Singapore and India after Clinton was impeached and I remember getting comments from a few cab drivers about why the US let Clinton get impeached over an affair when he was doing a good job as POTUS. Also,we were in India at the same time Bill Clinton was also there and we were kind of following a lot of his route 2-3 days later. Anyhow, the joke we kept on hearing was how Bill Clinton needed to come to India every year because the politicians had fixed the roads and cleaned up the areas that Clinton had visited.

  9. 9

    I am planning on Cuba in the near future, part business, part I’ve always wanted to go. Got any helpful links since it’s relatively new for US citizens?

  10. 10

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    That’s true, I was. I develop a thicker skin since then. ;-)

  11. 11
    tobie says:

    Welcome! I look forward to reading your posts and can’t wait to hear about your trip to Iran. Please send details about the food. My mouth waters whenever I read a Persian cookbook.

  12. 12
    Origuy says:

    Welcome. I saw the program Rick Steves did a few years ago about Iran. Looks like a fascinating place.

    I went to Moscow a few years ago. I wouldn’t go now. My Russian expat friends tell me that people’s attitude toward Americans has changed.

  13. 13
    Another Scott says:

    Welcome aboard! It sounds like you’ll be a great addition here. As you can see in the national parks thread below, lots of us have interests in going places.

    The woman who has cut my hair for years is from Tehran and is back there for a month to visit family. Here’s hoping that Donnie doesn’t do something stupid that causes her problems getting back home… :-(

    Looking forward to your posts!

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  14. 14
    Yarrow says:

    Politics affects travel in the US as well. My parents were doing a driving trip of the National Parks in the western US when Bill Clinton was President and Congress shut down the government. The parks were all closed. It was too bad for my parents but a real shame for the many foreign tourists they met. Those people had come to the US to visit our National Parks and had a more limited amount of time in which to see them. And they were prohibited from entering.

  15. 15
    debbie says:

    Promise us you won’t be staying in a Trump property on any of your trips.

  16. 16
    arrieve says:

    Looking forward to your posts — I’m an avid traveler and also blog about it. I went to Iran in 2015 and had a wonderful experience. The people are warm and outgoing, and love to meet Americans and practice their English. And the food is very good — I loved the pickled garlic cloves on the salad bars and saffron ice cream. And the cookies! The best cookies I ever had.

    Traveling is always political, just because I’m American and America has such a huge footprint in this world, people tend to have opinions about it. I’m leaving for Abu Dhabi, India, Jordan and Paris Wednesday, and expect that I will have to deal with many questions about Trump. But at least I will miss the inauguration.

  17. 17

    @TaMara (HFG): Another blogger I know has covered how to get to Cuba quite well. Here you go.

    https://expertvagabond.com/travel-to-cuba-for-americans/

  18. 18

    @arrieve: Not as many questions as you might think. Most travelers from outside the US understand that Americans who travel are a little more informed about the world. You will get questions, maybe, but they’ll be more ribbing than anything. At least that’s been my experience.

    I’ve gotten some stares when wearing my Old Navy Fourth of July t-shirt though!

  19. 19
    Quinerly says:

    Welcome!

  20. 20
    RandomMonster says:

    As a lifelong travel enthusiast, I’m thrilled there’s a FPer who will take up the subject now and then!

  21. 21
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Welcome aboard. In 05 or 06 I unthinkingly went to Spain with a “F*CK B*SH- I’d Like to Buy a Vowel” pin on my jacket. Everybody and their mother’s uncle wanted to shake my hand when we landed in Madrid.

  22. 22
    Hal says:

    After 8 years of President Barack Obama “the Democratic Party is weaker than it has been since the 1920s. … The man who seemed to hold such promise for his party ended up taking a scythe to it. What happened?”

    Never change NYT. Of course part of the answer to Trump’s ascendency is that it’s Obama’s fault. Opinion offering from a totally unbiased source.

    Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, served in the last three Republican administrations and is a contributing opinion writer.

  23. 23
    Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes says:

    You’re a welcome addition, and offer an important perspective. Married to a career luxury adventure agent, lately with a Southeast Asia/India/Africa focus, and a great deal of Australia experience. Hers is a Virtuoso agency. Her most interesting political travel to date was the planning trip and a longish group jaunt that spent a lot of time in Myanmar and Bhutan after Thailand and Cambodia. I do travel a lot, but can’t afford to lose all the months away from work.

  24. 24
    Tokyokie says:

    I’ve lived overseas, and I have come to learn one basic fact that seems to elude most Americans: When in a different country, show respect for the people, culture, and history of that country, and you will be treated as an honored guest. It’s important to keep in mind that many behaviors that are perfectly acceptable in the U.S. are frowned upon or even illegal in other countries. (Which is why I try to avoid police states for foreign travel.) That’s how I approach foreign travel, and I have yet to experience a hostile response.

    And I envy your traveling to Iran. Were it me, I’d take an extra suitcase and load it full of the wonderful pistachios you can get there.

  25. 25
    Baud says:

    @Hal: The NYT is garbage.

  26. 26
    Comrade Colette Collaboratrice says:

    Glad to see you here. I’ve had the (mis)fortune to travel or live abroad during some of the more disgraceful moments of recent campaigns and administrations, from Reagan to the Bush election to Trump, so I’ve learned how to say “hold on, I didn’t vote for him!” and “I don’t understand it either” in several languages. I’m looking forward to practicing those phrases in Afrikaans, Turkish, and French in the coming year, and I expect that’s how I’ll be approaching travel preparation for the next four years. Sigh.

  27. 27
  28. 28
    Taylor says:

    @Hal:

    Never change NYT.

    They should just die quickly, and reduce the surplus population.

  29. 29
    MomSense says:

    Welcome! Please give some skritches to your lab from me. Looknforwsrd to reading your posts.

    Haven’t traveled outside the US in the last five years but before that I traveled many places around the world.

  30. 30
    arrieve says:

    @Tokyokie: You can’t bring back pistachios because of the sanctions. Or caviar. Or carpets. I get the carpets and the caviar — those are big-ticket items. But pistachios?

  31. 31
    Mobil RoonieRoo says:

    Welcome! As we have an almost 4 year labrador, you will be required to include old puppy pictures in your upcoming posts. I am definitely looking forward to your travel posts.

  32. 32
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Goodness. I worked at the Buffalo Consulate General (which I understand has now been downgraded) for several years after college. They treated their employees very well.

  33. 33
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Gelfling 545:

    It’s not only been downgraded, it was closed altogether in, I think, 2012. Thank you, Stephen Harper.

    EDIT: Idiotic decision given that BFALO was a key transit point and critical for trade. Just imbecilic.

    Do you mind saying what years you were there? If there’s any overlap, we likely know some of the same people.

  34. 34
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    Welcome (back) aboard the good ship LollyCole! This is a well-travelled pack of snarling jackals, so your subject will be of great interest.

  35. 35
    Mel says:

    @Baud:
    Labs!! Our beloved Lab was with us for almost 16 years. She was the funniest, goofiest, sweetest girl.

    Look forward to reading your posts!

  36. 36
    Aleta says:

    @Michael Demmons: This sounds great, thanks Michael.

  37. 37
    NobodySpecial says:

    Welcome. Won’t read you, but other who will will no doubt enjoy it.

  38. 38
    Aleta says:

    And your dog is beautiful.

  39. 39
    PJ says:

    Hi Micheal, and welcome! I am thinking about a trip to Iran this year, and wonder if you have any specific advice. I am hoping to visit many of the classical Persian sites (Pasargadae, Susa, Persepolis, Naqsh-e Rustam) while there. I have a cousin who is a European citizen who has been married to an Iranian and lived in Tehran since the 70s (before the revolution). Thanks to my immigrant father, I also have a European passport in addition to an American one. My cousin has no difficulty in traveling back and forth, but I was wondering if you have any advice about traveling on a European vs. American passport or any other particular advice.

  40. 40
    amygdala says:

    Welcome, Michael. My most well-traveled friend, currently in Antarctica, visited Iran last year and had a wonderful time.

    Looking forward to reading about your adventures.

  41. 41
    amorphous says:

    This is a blast from the past. Bring back Tom From Texas and MMONIDES!

  42. 42

    @PJ:

    Travel on your European passport (unless it’s U.K.) and you can get a visa on arrival. You can do what you want.

    Lucky you!

  43. 43
    Nethead Jay says:

    Hello from Scandinavia. Looking forward to the perspective you describe. I used to travel more, both to the US and lots of other places, but have had to cut back these last years. Hope to pick that up again sometime in the future though. See you around.

    Oh and since you’re a Falcons dude, Geaux Saints! (You knew that one was coming, right)

  44. 44
    cosima says:

    Mr. just sold some of his motorcycle kit through our local/area facebook page. The fella who showed up to get it is restoring an old Indian something (I’m no motorcycle person, leave that to Mr.)??? Anyway, they spent ages talking in the garage, apparently the man had lots of good stories. He’d bought the motorcycle in India, and rode it back up to Scotland with his wife. Part of their trip was through Iran — he said that was great, they got minders at the border, paid a flat fee, and were cut loose at the next border. He said everyone was friendly and it felt very safe. He said Pakistan was scary & unfriendly.

    I think that we’ll wait to see what happens over the next year or so before tackling any truly exotic trips, though I am hoping that when we next go to Ronda that we can add in a side-trip to Morocco for a day or two (or longer). I guess that will depend on how the world is treating US passports then (October, at which point we will hopefully be done with the shitgibbon and enduring Pres Pence, with who knows what sort of damage having been done in the interim).

    Welcome Michael! We have a lab retriever too.

  45. 45
    JGabriel says:

    Michael Demmons:

    I expect to maybe write once a month or so. Unless something weird happens …

    Unless something weird happens? Given the current state of American politics, I think you just announced that you’ll be blogging daily instead of monthly.

    And welcome back, Michael. Sometimes I wonder where you’ve gotten to and how you’re doing, so it’s nice to see you’ll be checking in again every once in a while.

  46. 46
    Steve in the ATL says:

    You had me at “Go Falcons!”

  47. 47
  48. 48

    Welcome and I second the call for dog photos!
    One of our labs lived until almost 17 — she was a great dog, Mars (short for Marcella). She had various health problems over the years — allergies, fat tumors, ligament surgery, astigmatism — but nothing terminal or medically serious. I remember asking the vet once what he thought would likely be a serious-enough problem for her that she would die, and he said “mobility” — that turned out to be the truth, in the end the ligaments in her legs disintegrated and she couldn’t walk anymore. That’s when we had to make the terrible decision to put her to sleep.
    My sister once said to me “dogs don’t know how long they live, only how well they live”. That was a very comforting thing when we have lost some of our dogs too early, long before they should have gone. I am so glad we had the years with Mars and she had a good life with us.

  49. 49
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @Michael Demmons: #42

    I’m so excited about your contributions to Balloon Juice. A hearty welcome! Although I don’t travel as much, internationally, I know I will love reading your perspective and advice on the subject.

    P.S. Hope you post more frequently then once a month.
    P.P.S. My spouse was mugged in Moscow. Will you be addressing issues such as crime rates?

  50. 50
    Anne Laurie says:

    Welcome back, Michael!

    There are so many enthusiastic travellers here, I’m sure you’ll be a popular front-pager, no matter how often you decide to post.

  51. 51
    realbtl says:

    When I saw the title of this post I flashed on an earlier thread and thought Traveling in Trump country tips? Glad to see it will be something much more interesting and welcome back Michael. I kinda remember you from the old days.

  52. 52
    hedgehog mobile says:

    Welcome! The mr. and I are planning a trip to Finland and Iceland later this year. We had been thinking about a stop in St. Petersburg but that’s now off the list…

  53. 53
    Uncle Ebeneezer says:

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes: Hopefully we will get some posts on SE Asia. We went to Vietnam and Cambodia last February and we are positively dying to go back (either Hanoi/Northern Vietnam, or Laos/Cambodia.)

  54. 54
    FlyingToaster says:

    Welcome! I haven’t been able to travel out-of-the-country since my daughter was born (logistics of travel with cooperative kid but utterly recalcitrant husband), but we still keep our passports current. A fair amount of domestic travel for me and WarriorGirl (at least 2x per year air travel, 1x Amtrak) is about all we have time for.

    Speaking of which, do keep an eye out for which states’ IDs fail to pass muster for travel in Trumpistan. We at Chez Toaster use passports at TSA lines. Heh.

  55. 55
    stinger says:

    Welcome! Travel will be great to read about, and a fine addition to the already eclectic mix of topics here.

  56. 56
    Kristine says:

    Hi, and welcome–I just signed up for your newsletter.

    The only places I’m interested in traveling to in the near future are in Europe, but hell, the way things are going even that could get complicated.

  57. 57
    Felanius Kootea says:

    Wow, you’re back. I remember you as a front pager many years ago.
    Hope things go smoother this time :-).

  58. 58
    J R in WV says:

    Welcome to the snarling pack of jackals !!

    I like Atlanta too. Not the Falcons, just Atlanta.

    So I checked out your blog, and hit the Dive Indonesia link. Beautiful photos, you say you learned to dive there. I did a lot of diving off Key West back in the 1970-71 era, never needed a card, I was in the USN and could get air easily.

    How about links to where to go to get a card, where to go for live aboard diving, etc? Or in the West Indies, Belize, etc, which is easier to get to, but probably a little more expensive to be in. The post has wonderful pics, but no real information except how wonderful it is there.

    Hope to see more from you, anything to think about but current affairs!! House rebuilding has been swell, travel, we love it, so more is better.

  59. 59
    Batten Down the Hatches says:

    Welcome! I have always wanted to go to Iran and am already looking forward to your next post.

  60. 60
    eclare says:

    Welcome as well! Charlotte is adorable. Last big trip was to Croatia two years ago for two weeks, loved it.

  61. 61

    @Uncle Ebeneezer: Most likely will, since this is my favorite area of the world.

  62. 62
    Eric NNY says:

    Pictures of the Lab please.

  63. 63
    Xenos says:

    Welcome back to the blog, Michael D.. It is good to hear from you, especially that you are doing well.

    There are a few expat commenter-types, so keep us all up to date on your travels, and let us buy you drinks if you are in the area.

    Cheers!

  64. 64
    Uncle Ebeneezer says:

    @Michael Demmons: Ah, so I see you like to eat! ;) And Welcome, look forward to reading what you have to say/write!!

  65. 65
    Bumper says:

    I remember you from before. Checking your dog’s name confirmed it! Welcome back. But probably would have been better to have let people know you were a front paper before. Seems a bit…not so honest to let people think you are new here.

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