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Travel Journalists Ponder the Status of America As a Destination

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Canadians are questioning when it will be safe or pleasant to return to the United States in the wake of a siege on the U.S. Capitol. (Vacay.ca file photo)

Following the terrorist siege on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, many travellers are questioning when, or if, they should again visit the country.

Four of Vacay.ca’s editors and writers share their opinions on America as a destination once pandemic-related travel restrictions are eased.

Here are their thoughts.

Linda Barnard: No to Travel to Red States

Since President Donald Trump took office in 2016, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to sell a U.S. travel story to a Canadian publication.

This was a sharp turn. In pre-pandemic times, American travel always provided me with material to inspire travellers with stories about fascinating, often-quirky people, creative makers, delicious regional food, and beautiful places.

Canadians have always been enthusiastic about American travel. (Florida is the No. 1 visited destination for Canadians.) I feel that’s open to change in the wake of the January 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. at the hands of a Trump-incited mob.

As a long-time journalist, I’m accustomed to keeping my personal feelings and politics out of my work.

That’s going to end.

I can’t do much as a freelancer. But I can do this: For the next four years, I will not visit, write about, promote, or spend money in any of the red states that supported Trump.

No to Alaska. I have plenty of beauty, Indigenous culture, and wild spaces to write about in my home province of British Columbia.

No to Utah. I’ll miss you, Sundance Film Festival, but I’ll continue to write about the Toronto International Film Festival.

No to Florida. I’ve written about stunning beaches from Bali to Tofino.

No to Tennessee. Alberta beckons with stories of unparalleled mountain trails and a dynamic music scene.

No to Texas, Ohio, and Louisiana.

I write this with a heavy heart, with thoughts of my American family members and many friends who live south of the border.

Perhaps, like me, Canadians will consider where they take their first international vacations when the global pandemic is behind us and we are finally able to travel again. Will it be to a country where more than 74 million people voted for Trump and all he represents?

It’s a big, beautiful world out there.

Linda Barnard is a Vancouver Island-based travel writer and former film critic at the Toronto Star.

Adrian Brijbassi: Time to Let Go of America

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Independence Hall in Philadelphia is where the U.S. Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were adopted. The democracy those documents brought to life is shaken following a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C. (Vacay.ca file photo)

I hold onto sweet memories of the 10 years I lived in the United States. The relationships I made, the experiences I had, and the quality of work I did are treasured parts of my history. When it’s safe and responsible to travel again, I will venture to New York and Florida to see family and friends, and go elsewhere to participate in business conferences and meetings wherever they take place. Those are givens, as is the fact I cannot see myself ever again going to the United States for a vacation or for a media visit where I promote American destinations through my writing and photography.

I am disgusted by the American government and the American people. For many years, I had segregated the heinous actions in Washington, D.C. — the devious wars it started, the dubious alliances it built, the corporate agenda it championed — from the character of the population, asserting that the citizens were generally good people with straightforward and innocuous goals: a satisfying job with fair pay, neighbours they could count on, and a chance to save for the things they wanted. I no longer hold that view. What has been made clear in the past four years is the true nature of America: It is a deeply flawed, terribly paranoid, and preposterously stubborn society that clings to racial divides and misguided religious rhetoric while a scant number of obscenely wealthy people benefit economically to the detriment of the rest. Who wants any part of that?

lt’s not an easy decision to ignore the nation’s tourism riches. I ache to return to New Orleans, to soak in the revelry of Frenchman Street and get caught up in the city’s zaniness. I crave to dine at Atelier Crenn, a San Francisco star on the global culinary scene. And I want to see the wonders of the Grand Canyon, but now may never make the trip.

I’m okay with that decision. By going somewhere else, I will save myself discomfort and needless anxiety. Whenever I see a white American face, I will wonder if I am sharing space with an ally or a villain. I don’t want that negativity in my life.

While I am well aware racism persists in Canada, too, I know the thread of our mosaic is made of far sturdier elements of the good stuff: common decency, political discourse that — despite bouts of ugliness — meanders its way to progress, and responsible media. As a travel writer and a consumer, I want to know more about Canadians and people like them. Maybe Americans some day will catch up to the rest of the developed world and their stories will be intriguing too. Right now, I have no desire for the place and may never again.

Adrian Brijbassi is the managing editor of Vacay.ca. He has previously worked at New York Newsday and the Toronto Star.

Rod Charles: Over 74 Million Reasons to Stay Home

I watched with morbid curiosity as the President of the United States incited a mob and then unleashed it on his own democracy. I was disgusted but not surprised.

“The scenes of chaos at the capital do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are,” said President-elect Joe Biden. “What we are seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness.”

Well Mr. Biden, I disagree. This is exactly who you are as a country and it’s time for good, progressive, and honest people like you to get that. Otherwise there is no hope.

It wasn’t a “small number” of extremists at the Capitol. It wasn’t a “small number” of Nazis in Charlottesville. It wasn’t a “small number” of politicians and media personalities that enabled Trump. It wasn’t a “small number” of kids who were separated from their parents and put in cages. It wasn’t a “small number” of police officers firing rubber bullets and tear gas into peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators protesting the George Floyd murder. White supremacy is no small thing and it didn’t begin with this small-minded president.

It’s difficult for me to express the sheer, unbridled contempt I have for Republicans. In the 2020 United States presidential election more than 74 million people voted for Trump despite his immoral behaviour, racism, and jaw-dropping incompetence. That’s not a “small number”.

As a good, progressive, and honest Canadian person of colour who does actually get it, I plan to avoid America as much as possible.

If America will not come to grips with the gravity of racism and its troubled past then I will focus my career elsewhere. There are many destinations — even a few “shithole countries” come to mind — that I can write about where people are treated with dignity and democracy is respected.

Rod Charles is a Toronto-based writer and Deputy Editor of Vacay.ca.

Claudia Laroye: Terra Non Grata

As a student of history and politics, I tend to take the long view when looking at destinations through the lens of my professional work as a travel writer. While I’ve never boycotted destinations or countries outright, there are certain places that I choose not to visit, such as Saudi Arabia, for both political and personal reasons.

As travellers, we make choices – what hotel to stay in, how to get there, where to visit. As a white woman, I recognize that I have white privilege which grants boundless choices. In speaking with my close circle of friends, the majority of whom are women of colour, I learned that they do not feel they have the same freedom.

They have regarded the United States as terra non grata for the past four years. They do not feel welcome, which mirrors the same sentiment I hear from certain friends who make the United States their home. The simmering pot of inequity that’s been boiling for years has overflowed, shaking foundations and revealing divisions previously papered over with a façade of toxic civility.

My friends’ experiences have given me pause, even though I’ve enjoyed many, many wonderful trips to the United States over my lifetime, including two to the American South just weeks before Canada’s pandemic lockdown. These trips served to dispel preconceived notions I had about the people and places I visited in Louisiana and Mississippi.

At its best, this is what travel can do, connect us to others, open our eyes, and shake our complacencies. Separating people from politics is important; however, the past four years and recent events in America have made it very difficult.

If we regard travel as a political act, then we can choose where to go, who to support and let our choices speak for us. Standing in solidarity with my friends south of the 49th parallel who share my values means I should be comfortable travelling there to support their places, spaces, and tell their stories. And yet.

These challenging times demand an inward gaze. I can’t in good conscience travel to places where people I love are made to feel unwelcome. I will make my choices accordingly.

Claudia Laroye is a freelance writer and founder of Claudia Travels and is an editor for Vacay.ca.

NOTE: For most of the past four years, Vacay.ca and our sister digital magazine, VacayNetwork.com, have resisted publishing content from the United States. When we did it was for a set of reasons that fit our criteria: to promote diversity, such as an article on the LGBTQ scene in Miami; to spotlight topics on sophisticated culinary experiences we know will resonate with our audience, such as a series on touring Oregon’s wine country; or to provide newsworthy information, such as our feature on the opening of Disneyland’s “Star Wars: A Galaxy’s Edge” theme park. Our editorial focus will continue to be primarily on other destinations in the world.

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