I am a proponent of technology in moderation.
When it comes to social media, I participate but believe (now more than ever) that it’s important to communicate with folks face-to-face as much as possible.
Whether it's on Facebook or in texts, we lose so much: context, human contact, the true meaning of camaraderie and friendship—just to name a few.
Breakfast at the diner has always been a key component of my social media mix. For a decade, it was at Downtown Deli in Bluffton, S.C. Now, it’s Al’s Diner in Methuen, Mass.
The breakfast bar at Al’s is a big U shape, masterfully designed for looking folks in the eye when you’re kibitzing about local and world events.
I have noticed the mood and the tenor of table talk change dramatically over the past year. As the politics became more divisive on my TV screen and my Facebook feed, so too did the level of debate among longtime friends and neighbors who knew better than to talk politics for so long but simply could not avoid it in the Trump era.
Travel has been my mediation tool. A relative newcomer to town, I found myself deescalating voice levels with the shiny distraction of getting away from all this mess.
“Where you headed for winter break with the kids?”
“Oh, you’re looking to take a cruise this summer? I got a great travel agent that can hook you up.”
The minute I say I’m an editor for a travel website, the discussion shifts and I become a travel advisor.
“You work in travel? Wow, you’re lucky.” I've heard it so often over the past three years and boy, don't I know it. It has never been truer than right now.
My head is not in the sand here. I am alarmed as a journalist at all of the “media is the enemy” talk and the developing pattern of our President to refer to any dissenting views or reporting as fake news.
However, I also see a lot of ways that this specific leader can help the travel industry and, as puzzled as I am by much of the noise coming from the White House, I am willing to let our President govern before I hit the panic button.
Politically speaking, folks that have felt powerless for the last decade are now led by a proven master of media manipulation (and I say that with equal parts praise and disdain). Never before has every Tweet and every edict from Pennsylvania Avenue stirred discussion on Main Street this much because the noise is both constant and polarizing.
Many have emailed with each Trump story we have run about the travel ban implementation, saying, “TravelPulse should stick to travel.” To those voices, I have said that we are presenting unbiased reporting and opinions meant to inform.
This isn’t about how I feel about the travel ban personally. The reality is that impeding anyone's ability to travel based on profiling is a real threat to the travel industry. So, we’re going to keep talking about the issue.
Then there’s Cuba. It has been one of the U.S. traveler’s few impenetrable frontiers until the last two years. However you feel about the politics of the country, our ability to communicate and learn while seeing the country empowers us all.
There is so much fear that this administration will roll back the progress that has been a positive for the travel industry. I’ll say it again just as I said it months ago: I don’t see it happening.
Trump has far too many other more important legacy points, and as a businessman, he is not going to so directly impede the financial gains of an industry so vital to the U.S. economy.
I’m even more confident now seeing how so much of our President’s early moves have been centered around business that Cuba is an agenda Trump knows to avoid.
No, the development that I’m most concerned about is that this past political cycle and now the unrelenting barrage of messaging from Trump has further disintegrated the accepted norms of decorum and decency when we debate, especially online. It’s far too easy to hit send on social media, but the implications are everlasting.
So while I may tell my diner friends that travel is an escape from the plague of negativity filling our current discourse, the reality is travel is way more important than that right now.
I’ve used this space to recite the gospel that international travel makes us all globally aware and connected. But right now, traveling within our borders is equally important.
Even a weekend road trip across state lines can help you see the bigger picture. Break bread with strangers while you’re playing tourist. Be vulnerable enough to ask for directions or guidance on what to see and do in a strange place and the likely outcome is you’ve made a new friend. Sure, you can complement that with a Facebook friend request, but with a foundation of a handshake, hugs, laughs and a face-to-face appreciation of one another’s plight.
Those are the moments that truly inform us and empower us. Those adventures cut through all this viciousness that threatens to divide us.
My pals at the diner think I’m a hippie for spreading a message so centered around decency and self-discovery. Then they try it and realize how simply traveling and listening to strangers helped them combat the decay of civility in daily interactions with lifelong friends.
Instead of ingesting the news and your world view from others 140 characters at a time, I challenge you to add 140 characters to your life over the course of Trump’s first term. Now more than ever, exercising our freedom to travel is the greatest weapon against the closemindedness that leads to fear and terror in our day-to-day lives.