What It’s Like To Travel During The Trump Era

I need travel so I don’t die of boredom from my own internal monologue.

Emma Cunningham
Photo: Emma Cunningham

“Where are you from?”

It’s a question I’ve been asked countless times throughout my travels.

Pre-Donald Trump hay-wire, I always answered proudly and confidently like any American would…

“I’m from the States! Where are you from?”

Post-Donald Trump catastrophe, it sounds a bit more like this…

“I’m from the States…” followed by a long pause waiting for the Trump comments to arise.

Trust me, they arise. Every. Single. Time.

The most surprising “So what do you think about Trump…?” comment I received, spurred from a middle-aged, homeless Indonesian man at a bus stop on the island of Java.

I remember taking one good, long look at him around at the environment we were in; zero TVs or newspapers for miles, no smart phone in his possession, and was instantly hit with pure bafflement.

“What the HELL do YOU know about Trump?” I thought.

Then I caught myself off guard when the thought led me to…“Well, what does ANYONE know about Trump?”

Now, before you stop reading this, roll your eyes, think I’m defending the orange-faced monster, or pick me as a “Trump supporter” and think this post is turning into, “Maybe Trump is a nice guy…?!” bluster, let me reiterate a few things:

Like most American millennials, U.S. politics and history were shoved down my throat throughout my 16-years of education. So much, that I can still recite (without error) the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which was mandatory to learn to pass the 7th grade. However, I did not vote in the 2016 election, nor do I think I will ever vote in ANY election after one like that.

Emma Cunningham
Photo: Emma Cunningham

Thanks to my badass of a mother who, at 26, worked as a parol officer and qualified to shoot a gun with both her hands, while not ONE male officer of the correctional institution could; I understood that feminism was a worthy concept long before I was aware of actually being female (meaning, I wasn’t even old enough to bleed when she reiterated this phenomenon of a story to me). But still, no…I did NOT strut the streets of my American city during the 2017 Woman’s March yelling, “This pussy grabs back!” outraged by another media-blown, Trump comment.

And although I consistently border hop and travel the planet with my American passport that I know I am very privileged to possess — I refrained from hopping on social media and ranting about immigration regulations and border control in my country, or how the “world is one” and “we are all people”, like everyone else who considers themselves “well-traveled” did at the time.

So why didn’t I take part in these profound actions like the rest of the American society with a Facebook account and a selfish, ignorant, entitled attitude? Well plain and simple, when it comes to it all (Trump, life, human rights, religion, borders, politics, etc.), I don’t know what the HELL I’m talking about.

Emma Cunningham
Photo: Emma Cunningham

I really don’t. No, I’m not scared to admit that. Nor does it make me feel dense, misinformed, uneducated or un-American by doing so either. I don’t know what I’m talking about, so…well…I keep quiet.

Here’s the thing about “politics”, “religion”, “life” and the “world”, and whatever else I listed above — none of us know jack about ANY of it. And yet, we are SO quick to state our opinions online, or at bars, or amongst our loved ones, and even to strangers behind screens, like we have it all figured out. There is something SERIOUSLY wrong with this.

Ask yourselves Millennials, honestly, “What do I truly know about U.S. politics? About taxes, social security, health care, religion, global warming, or The War On Terror? What does it actually take to build a freaking wall along the US/Mexican border within the next 4 years? What do I know about international borders? What do I know about human rights and feminism? What do I truly know about American media? What do I know about any of it?” You know? Like, SERIOUSLY ask yourself…”Why was I not invited to ‘Aaron’s Party’? Why was it a chicken that crossed the road? Why not a dog? Everyone loves dogs. Why didn’t Bob Marley shoot the Deputy too? How much longer until lunch time? Will there be pizza?”

Emma Cunningham
Photo: Emma Cunningham

Okay, maybe the last few questions aren’t too relevant. But you get my point.

Unfortunately, in the United States of America, everything is fake. Fake food, fake money, fake bodies, fake personalities, fake images, fake politicians, fake systems, fake happiness, and some even believe to a certain degree (brace yourselves)…fake terrorist attacks. And maybe, just maybe, even fake holiday celebrations.

Like come on, feminists! Did you actually know it was “International Women’s Day”? Was that marked on your calendar? Or did you just scroll through your Instagram feed to see that it was in fact, a day to celebrate vaginas. My guess is you follow Emma Watson, and decided you wanted to seem like you too, were “making a difference”, or that your statements “mattered”, or that you should keep up with the latest social media trend.

You know what they won’t write on your grave?

“Here lies Monica. She had really great Facebook opinions.”

Can you see what I’m getting at here?

We buy into this hoop-lah, and we question NOTHING. Nothing about what the media is feeding us, nothing about our country, about life, about our existence, about what is freaking REAL.

You could work as an American politician for 40 years; you could be an astronomer that figures out how to communicate with life on other planets; you could be an honor roll mastermind at Harvard University, or a biochemical wizard, or whatever other career path that includes the brain power of a damn machine.

Emma Cunningham
Photo: Emma Cunningham

But guess what? There would STILL things for you to learn about your craft, about the world, about living. In a world as evolving as ours, the amount of things out there for us to learn about is unfathomable. Education does NOT end lucidly after we receive a piece of paper. In my opinion, it’s just beginning, because now the “school” part is over, it’s done! Now school can’t get in the way of your true education.


The “advice” I have for my mindless generation, so quick to believe what we read online, so quick to conform to what the generation before us believed, think America is the greatest country on the face of the earth, to craft pink signs of uteruses then hit the streets to scream and stomp, or cast votes on unprofessional campaigns, or hop on ANY SORT of bandwagon — learn.

Knowledge is infinite. And once this idea clicks for you, once you view life as a doctorate education classroom, once you treat every hour as a learning experience and opportunity, once you acknowledge that you are a student your entire life, and each hour of that stupid, little life is something for you to learn, question, test, wonder, or realize; you become absolutely free.

Strive for the highest knowledge your brain capacity allows and look at every. single. thing. you do as an opportunity to expand your mind. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know anything about it” but then be willing to open up and LEARN about it. You’re onto something when you admit you don’t know anything….

So no, even though CNN and VICE notify my phone daily with constant fake garbage on a fake communication mechanism, and though I wrote esoteric amounts of research papers on these fake social concepts throughout my entire college career, and though I’ve circled these thoughts for what feels like a fake lifetime; I still don’t know anything about any of it.

Emma Cunningham
Photo: Emma Cunningham

But there is something that I do know. Something that IS real.

My friends, my family, my highs, my travels, my hopes, my plans, my fears, my dreams, my soul. THOSE things are real.

And I never have to question them.

I need travel so I don’t die of boredom from my own internal monologue. I think that most of us generally have a total of about 20 thoughts. We just sort of scroll through those same thoughts over and over again. Maybe your 20 are much more interesting than this, but mine include: “How much longer until lunch time?” “Am I actually any good at my job?” “I should write that down,” “I want Fruit Loops,” “Wow, I’m pretty damn poor..” or “I hope there are cute guys there.” Et cetera.

These are my general day-to-day thoughts. That’s what I got to keep me warm at night. And sweet Jesus is it boring.

When I travel, I’m forced to have new thoughts. “Will I die if I do this?” “Is this the right bus?” “WOAH! That’s pretty different!” or “Was this meal ever formally a house pet?” It doesn’t even matter what the new thoughts are, it’s just good to have a variety to reboot my brain. I can feel myself reconnecting, coming full circle, and discovering some interesting and spunky things about myself.

Emma Cunningham


World traveler, writer, adventurist - you can typically find Emma out on the road, headphones on, suitcase in hand, hanging on every note the world has to offer.

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