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!

Floriduh Woman: Personal Grooming Edition

Don’t do this!

Internet punsters are celebrating Megan Barnes as Florida’s “Pubic Enemy,” others are chattering about her “razor sharp focus.”

The 37-year-old Barnes catapulted to instant fame for an alleged multi-tasking mash-up that earned the bottle-blonde’s mug shot a spot on hundreds of Web sites.

According to a startled Florida Highway Patrol trooper, Barnes was shaving her bikini area while driving south on the famed Overseas Highway when she crashed into the rear of an SUV March 2.

In the police report obtained by ABC News, the trim job was apparently essential because the arresting officer, trooper Gary Dunick, said the Indiana native told him she was heading to Key West visit her boyfriend.

“She said she was meeting her boyfriend in Key West and wanted to be ready for the visit,” Dunick told the Key West Citizen.

It gets weirder. In order to pay full attention to her sensitive regions, police say Barnes enlisted her ex-husband, Charles Judy, who was riding shotgun, to hold the wheel.

Yes, her ex-husband.

Much more information at the link.

Back from Denver and Prepping for Japan


Hedgehog and me, hanging out.

Back from my Colo trip. Had lunch with Hedgehog, during which we discussed Russian history and literature from a mushroom and other perspectives, and also the differences between SCA and LARPing. And traded pics of our cherished furkids, of course!

Next week we’re (my partner and I, not Hedgehog and I, although that would be fun, too) are going to Japan to tourist along with my stepson, who is ending a three-year gig as an assistant English teacher with the JET program. JET is a great program that pays decent (for entry level), is well run and mentored, and gives you great international experience in a truly fascinating place. So if you know a soon-to-be or recent grad with a yen for foreign experience, they might want to check it out. I believe the JET people give preference to those who major in something related to Japan or Japanese, but that’s not essential. (Howard had zero Japanese but lots of sports and other leadership experience.) They’re big on “character,” and of course they’re looking for people who will do well in an unfamiliar environment surrounded by new people.

This is a great option for recent grads, especially in a down economy. I believe they aim for geographic and experiential diversity, so those from the flyover states may actually have an advantage over coastal / Ivy types. (Howard’s cohort also included people from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa; and people from outside the U.S. may also have an advantage.) You can stipulate where you would like to be placed—I’m guessing many candidates say Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka—and your preferences will be taken into account, but you must be willing to go where placed.

And recent horrifying tragedies aside, Japan is probably the safest country to visit, so any helicopter parent types reading this can relax. (Unlike my mom who, when I called her up from Italy during my first Euro trek, thirty years ago, asked me if there was anything to eat. “Yeah, Mom, it’s Italy. They have food.”)

Anyhow, last year when we visited, we saw Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima. (A highlight was the Ghibli Museum, dedicated to the works of anime superstar Hayao Miyazaki.) This year, we’ll be driving a rental car around the mountainous Tohoku region north of Tokyo, which also happens to offer some of the best onsen in Japan. (Onsen, a.k.a., Japanese baths, are the best thing in the world, assuming you don’t mind scrubbing your privates amidst a roomful of strangers doing the same.)

Summer Travels and Reading

This summer, I’ll be in

Minneapolis (Wed, June 15 only)
Davidson, NC area (for a few days around July 4)
Denver (July 22-24) – I’ll be speaking at VegFest
and Japan (!) early August (Tokyo and Tohoku region)

Area Juicers – email me (see Quick Links menu at right) if you want to get together.

Also, anyone have any reading / listening plans for this summer? I can recommend:

The Long Ships by Frans Bengsston – a rollicking good read about the travels and travails of a Viking. Set in and around the Year 1000.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman – great book that I heard HBO is making into a miniseries. In particular, I reocmmend the ensemble audiobook.

As a bonus, both of these books feature road trips (or, in the case of Ships, the watery equivalent), and (for Betty) both put the Thor back in Thursday.

No Thor in this one, but otherwise fine: the audiobook of Goodwin’s Team of Rivals was a superb listening experience.

Anyone else have any summer plans or recommendations to share?



EgyptAir Flight MS804 Update

Despite reports that wreckage from EgyptAir flight MS 804 had been found, the plane is still missing. The airline is reporting that the wreckage that has been recovered is not from their missing aircraft. While it will be impossible to know exactly what happened until wreckage, including the flight recorders, is found, speculation has already begun that it was an act of terrorism. More specifically it has become part of the presidential primary back and forth between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump. What I find interesting about this is that none of the groups that one would expect to have made claims of a successful terrorist attack have done so yet. There is one erroneous report from a news agency I’ve never heard of claiming that an Islamic State’s news agency has claimed responsibility. It sources this to the Islamic State’s news agency, but provides no links to their statement.  The only place that this unsourced report has been referenced is at the notoriously unreliable Gateway Pundit, where its already been updated to indicate that this has not been verified on the Islamic State’s news agency’s twitter feed. The link to that twitter feed goes to an account suspended page.

Whether or not this one seeming erroneous report proves out as true or not, the lack of claims of responsibility are very interesting. There are complete update timelines at both the Guardian and BBC articles I’ve linked to above if you’re looking for updates from responsible news media outlets. The updates provide information on what is known now, such as the behavior of the plane based on its radar returns, prior to the crash. As soon as more detailed information comes out, we’ll update. Please remember that as is the case with every type of incident like this, information is moving quickly between multiple sources involved with the search and investigation, and anything reported within the first 72-96 hours may or may not turn out to be accurate.

Consider the comments an open thread to talk about whatever.

And Now for Something Completely Different: Syrian Refugees Welcomed by Canadian Furries

Yes, you read that headline right. Given all the insanity we’ve been covering this weekend, I thought it would be good to post about something nice for a change. When the Vancouver, BC hotel that was hosting the annual VancouFur convention turned out to also be one of the temporary housing sites for Syrian refugees that have been admitted to Canada something really wonderful happened. The anthropomorphic animal reenactors reached out to the refugee children to welcome them to Canada.


To quote one of the participants:

Mike Schmidt, who attended VancouFur wrote on Vancity Buzz: “One of the many highlights for me was when the new group of Syrian refugee children came in and got to interact with us. To them we were cartoons to come to life, to us [it] was a means to display our acting performance to a very appreciative audience.


Click on over and see the videos and more pictures of the refugee children having a great time interacting with the furries (the first one is autoplay).


* Image found here.

** Image found here.

Moving Day

Tonight at midnight the trooping fairies will move the Seelie and Unseelie Courts to their winter demesne. This also means that tonight is the last night that The Fool is abroad on the wild hunt until next Spring.


So perhaps a little Halloween music is in order. Fairport Convention’s version of Burn’s Lay of Tam Lin, It tells the story of how the Princess Janet saved her true love, Tam Lin, from being sacrificed on Halloween by the Queen of Fairies:

So travel safely tonight, avoid The Fool, and don’t forget to set back your clocks!

* The Wild Hunt by Peter Nicolai Arbo