For the last six months, like many around the world, I’ve been glued to my TV. I’ve obsessively watched cable news, set my browser’s homepage to CNN and downloaded a handful of news apps to my phone. There was even a brief moment when I turned on the breaking news notifications; pop-up alerts on my phone every day.
Overloaded with information, I feel simultaneously more aware and more woke than ever before. The obsession started before the USA election, staying up all night to watch the political debates, to tune in on Twitter. And like so many people, I was confounded by the results of the election—just as I was equally surprised by other global affairs this past year. My vision, my ideals, my world as I knew it seemed to be disappearing.
Before the election even took place, I was planning a 3-month trip through the USA. I arrived to New York City days before the election, enough time to spot people queuing up for tickets to Hillary Clinton’s election night party. I’d planned to visit Washington, D.C. on the same trip sometime after the election. I was expecting my candidate to win (like so many people did) and thought it would be an opportunity to witness a bit of history, to measure the mood of the country. When things didn’t go as expected, my trip to Washington, D.C. was already booked. Was I going to visit D.C. during Trump’s America?
For European visitors to the USA, you may need to apply for an ESTA in order to visit the United States. The ESTA is cheaper and easier to get compared to another visa, and with an ESTA you can stay in the USA for up to 90 days.
Like anyone who has a trip already booked—it’s hard to cancel. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t want to cancel. This is still my country, dammit. Maybe my government isn’t representing my best interests; maybe my government isn’t representing my country’s best interests, or even the world’s. But Washington, D.C. is a city of the people, for the people and, yes, by the people.
And here’s the thing about D.C. Yes, it’s the capital of the United States of America. But as we’ve been told for decades, America is one of the leaders of the free world, one of the world’s biggest forces on the planet. Washington, D.C. is a global city as much as it is an American one. There are 177 countries with embassies in Washington, D.C. That’s a lot of global representation. With so many countries represented, of course you’ve got restaurants featuring cuisine from every country, every ethnicity, every cultural background.
Washington, D.C. is this incredibly diverse city. Every political interest in America, in the world, is represented here. And there’s no denying the city’s cultural impact, either. The Smithsonian Institute and its collections of 19 museums makes it the world’s largest museum. The Library of Congress, our national archives, is the world’s largest library—with books in every language. These superlatives just roll off the tongue; it’s always easy to claim something is the best or the biggest. But when you have a city that’s home to so many of the world’s superlatives, it’s worth a moment to stop and think about this.
America’s capital city is home to the world’s largest library, the world’s largest museum collection and it’s been the site of some of the world’s largest protests. It is not just a city for Americans, but one for the world.
Over the past several months, since inauguration day, I’ve heard countless friends from abroad talking about their lack of interest in visiting the USA. And while I understand where they’re coming from, and I certainly understand their concerns and worries as foreigners in an increasingly xenophobic country, I do still believe in an America I know.
There are so many things only possible in America, so many incredible sights and sounds and, yes, people. There’s a history in America—one worth knowing and understanding. We’re the country of superlatives, and while we may be excessive in them as in so many of our attributes, I don’t see it as a detriment. Our capital city is testament to America’s greatness. We’ve built monuments and museums documenting our successes and our failures. We’re always learning and building and trying to improve. There have been and there will always be hiccups on the way, but here we are.
In spite of politics, the USA is still a great destination, a place of as much global history as American history. Yes, we’ve got a representative democracy. Our country and its political systems have elected a government in power, in D.C., that are our political representatives. But at the same time, the data from the election shows that the majority of the voters in America did not actively support this outcome. It’s this reason alone, proof of the interests of the people, that I believe prove it’s still largely safe and sane to visit the USA.
Washington, D.C. is the home of our political government, but also of a global history. It’s a city steeped in history and power, but one that is constantly changing and evolving with the feelings and sentiments of the people. During my visit to Washington, D.C. in the interim period after the election and before the inauguration, I saw a lot of different ideologies on posters and protests in the capital. But I also spent hours inside the Smithsonian; I spent a day wandering the National Mall visiting the memorials and monuments; I spent a night out in Georgetown and I spoke to people. So many people. So many ideas and thoughts and opinions.
America has always been a country of immigrants, a place for new and novel ideas and experiments. Tides can change quickly so please don’t write off visiting the USA just yet. It’s an exciting and interesting place with exciting and interesting people. Worth the visit.
Now is the time to visit the USA.
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It’s interesting to get the international perspective on travel to the U.S. Many people here (CZ) did want to go pre-Trump, but have been put off my the travel restrictions and all the uncertainty that comes with it, so are less wanting to bother with it (and getting a visa) than before. A little sad, but I can’t exactly blame them.
Yep, it’s a similar sentiment in Germany…but I do really believe it’s still important and useful to visit the USA. I can understand the desire to avoid it out of the inconvenience and uncomfortableness with the various travel restrictions, but if you can get to the USA safely, I do think it’s still worth visiting!
I know what you are saying but I can not visit the USA right now based on principles. I can not support a country that elects a mess like this. I am also sick of the argument that not all Americans share these views and the “Not my President” mentality. Wake up. Enough people did vote for him. That is a problem, one that should not be ignored or brushed off. Until that gap is closed I will be spending my travel dollars elsewhere.
I reckon whether or not America is safe to travel depends a lot on where you are from. There do seem to be a few horror stories.
Great article!!! As a person who lives in DC I think you are right. It’s one of the most liberal cities in the country with gay marriage far before it was legalized by Supreme Court, legal pot, tech hub, and so much more. Also as a foodie it has great restaurants that are worth exploring. Plus DC is surrounded by other liberal states like Maryland that was first to vote gay marriage by popular vote. Most Americans are not for him and evidence that he lost popular vote, but sadly due to backwards system he won. No country is perfect and many go through up, down, and crazy moments. In less then 4 years he will be gone, hopefully
I love the USA and lived there for 18 years prior to moving back to the U.K. 2 years ago but I won’t be visiting anytime soon.
In my view, if you visit a country as a tourist, you’re saying with your £/€/$, etc that you’re ok with the government of that country, how it treats its citizens, etc. I’m not ok with the backward steps that the USA is currently taking regarding healthcare, GLBT+, minority and women’s equality, foreign policy. The list goes on and on.
I also won’t be going to places like Russia, China, Turkey, etc for similar reasons.