It's not terribly surprising, of course, give how completely completely nuts the administration has gone. And yes, I know that's a subjective term, but consider the four issues Trump and the RNC were talking about yesterday -- four months before the election, in the middle of a pandemic, with massive unemployment, national social change and Russians bounties. There was Trump’s tweet that NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace should apologize for a noose being found in his driving team's garage, another tweet about how unfair it was for sports teams to change their nicknames from ones that are racist, the RNC slamming Joe Biden for his “assault” on the Declaration of Independence by him writing an op-ed that refers to “all people are created equal” rather than “all men.” (All that was missing was for spokesperson Liz Harrington -- say, a woman said that -- to have started her complaint with, "Hey, Ladies!") And the White House Press Secretary proudly proclaiming that the world looks at the United States as the leader in COVID-19. Yes, honest, she said that, without even a hint of irony.
With their approval plummeting to 38%, these were the issues the administration thinks are winners that will expand their base. In a pandemic. With massive unemployment. Amid national social change. And a Russian bounty scandal.
And as a bonus note: the upcoming book by Trump’s niece has gotten so much attention that the publisher announced they had moved up release two weeks to July 14. Happy Bastille Day!
But rather than spin the Trump Wheel o' Wonder and pick a topic wherever the dial lands, I've decided to take a look, not at the news of the day, but a very interesting article about one area that is affected by it all. And an area that, on the surface, seems somewhat limited in its scope, but actually has much wider implications.
On the heels of my vacation over the weekend to my guest room -- and yes, I've recovered from jet lag for anyone curious -- here is an excellent interview in the Washington Post with travel expert Rick Steves, who has spent most of his adult life traveling through Europe, writing about it and leading tours. His observations on the future of travel are insightful and honest, not being overly pessimistic or optimistic, but how things will adjust to changing realities.
For Steves, travel isn't just about seeing the sites, but even more it's the human experience, interacting with other cultures, having a beer in an Irish pub and chatting with the locals next to you, getting a kiss on the cheek in France, making it all accessible to everyone, and that's what he sees most impacted.
"The only way somebody can have a quality experience is to pack the house," he says. "You’ve got to pack the theater. You’ve got to pack the bus. You’ve got a pack the airplane. You got to pack the hotel because then you can generate enough revenue to provide a service that’s top notch. If you have to have every other seat filled, you’ve got half the revenue. So the little mom-and-pop restaurants that I love to feature, if they can only have 50 percent capacity, they can’t pay their rent. And that’s what scares me.
"If the airlines can only put half as many people on the plane, it’s going to cost us all double. Then travel becomes an activity just for wealthy people. And I’ve always wanted travel to be affordable and accessible to people who just, you know, are reasonably employed but not necessarily wealthy."
He also draws an interesting connection to travel and the necessity of people staying at home, and why in today's world that isn't and should be a luxury but important to all.
"Travel is the best way to get to know your neighbor," he explains. "If a community is going to function, you need to know and respect your neighbors, need to trust your neighbors. You need to collaborate and work together. That’s not just a community thing. Community is global now. That’s a scary thought for a lot of people, especially people who don’t travel, who are afraid of people who are different.
"When you travel, you celebrate diversity. When you travel, you’re not afraid."
You can read the whole interview by Natalie B. Compton, my favorite travel writer for the paper, here.