Living Abroad Under President Trump

by Published

Editorial Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone, not those of GoAbroad.com, our staff, or our products, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

I’ll never forget staying up all night to watch the 2016 election unfold from my boyfriend’s house in Madrid, Spain, or the flow of tears that followed. I attended a family birthday party the next day – a room full of Spaniards and one embarrassed U.S. citizen with puffy eyes hoping that Donald Trump’s name would not be mentioned. 

I guess this is a good place to make a disclaimer: I am not a Trump supporter. I lean to the left and both my upbringing and travels have encouraged open-minded and egalitarian viewpoints (i.e. expect this perspective as you continue to read).

After a trip home to the States, joining the Women’s March, and discussing the state of our country with numerous friends, I’m abroad again for the rest of the year. So begins my time as a self-proclaimed U.S. ambassador on behalf of the Americans who want the world to know “We aren’t ALL like him!” 

And so far, I’m not going to lie, it kind of sucks. 

If you’re living abroad, you may feel stuck, not able to look away from the car crash called American politics that keeps popping up on your newsfeed. It might feel like a horrible dream as you watch events unfold from across the world. It might not seem real. It might also feel like your travels have turned into a bit of an apology tour. 

Don’t worry; you aren’t alone! If you’re already living abroad, or if you’ll be joining the club later this year, here are some things you can either relate to or expect as an American abroad with President Donald Trump in office.

Questions You Now Have To Answer 

If so many people are unhappy, how did he win?

You’ll likely have a few conversations around a pint about how American government works, and exactly what IS the Electoral College? Of course, there’s also discussion to be had about the propaganda Trump used, the lack of voter turnout, and why so many democrats were #feelingtheBern.

Did women actually vote for him?

Women travelers will get this question more than men – more as a “how is that possible?” Just as you can’t speak for every American, you can’t speak for every woman. Here’s some facts: the majority of women did not vote for Trump, the majority of white women, however, did vote for Trump, and more women voted for Trump than a lot of people expected.

Wide view of people marching in Los Angeles, California
There’s a lot to talk about in American politics these days, from the inauguration and the Women’s March and everything that has followed.

Do you think he’s capable of doing what he says he’s going to do?

I hope not?

Another convo about how American government works seems fitting here (and why not, another pint please!). Luckily, democracy and a two party system give way to checks and balances. Fortunately for President Donald Trump today, his party has the majority in Congress, which gives him an advantage. But he still can’t run the country like the CEO of a business, even if he tries—and we’ve seen him try already.

How long do you think he will last?

The wait and see game no one wants to play. People will more likely ask if you think he will get impeached. Maybe he will? Who knows what could happen! But, as you might have already had to explain, American government is a complicated system with a lot of moving parts, and it takes cooperation on both sides of the aisle to impeach the president.

Oh, you’re from the States! Are you running away from Donald Trump?

Ha ha, so funny (gives side eye). Sure, that comment is probably meant all in good fun, but I would like to think that people don’t automatically assume that a main motivation for working, volunteering, studying, or simply adventuring abroad is to escape a Donald Trump presidency. (It’s more like a free bonus for deciding to be a meaningful traveler.)

The White House lawn
As a traveler right now, you might have a lot of questions about what’s going on inside the White House.

It’s just four years….

OK this isn’t a question, but a comment that you will definitely get (right after you’re asked for your view on Trump and share your honest fears).

Maybe people feel they can say that to me because, with my fair skin, heterosexual orientation, and traveling lifestyle, I won’t feel the potential effects of his presidency, cabinet picks, and increasingly divided nation directly. But, try saying that to environmentalists, public school teachers, and anyone from a minority group in America (Mexican, African-American, LGBTQ, Muslim, etc.), all who have legitimate, rational concerns regarding their rights, safety, and future. 

Thinking of neighbors, loved ones, and friends back home, saying “it’s just four years” sounds like throwing them under the bus and watching from a pedestal. It’s not just four years. In my opinion, it’s an ideology that’s being fostered and encouraged with a dangerous outlook on many levels.

Questions You Now May Have 

Beyond being questioned about our new president, I can’t leave out the questions that we, as Americans abroad, have buzzing through our heads after every mention of Donald Trump on the local news. 

What is happening to the U.S.?

A question all Americans are thinking. With the assault on the media, talk of “fake news,” and unclear stances on foreign relations, it’s hard to really understand what’s going on (let alone explain it to someone else!) 

Sipping a pint in the pub with friends
You probably find yourself sipping a pint at the pub and trying to make sense of it all while fielding questions from your international friends: Why? How? What’s next?

Is travel going to get harder for me, logistically?

From the impact on the economy and value of the U.S. dollar, to the potential lowering of competition from international airlines (in support of the American market) that could increase ticket costs, to the risk of reciprocal bans on American citizens in response to the immigration ban, Trump’s “America first” policies are bound to affect travelers. We just don’t know exactly how or to what extent just yet.

Should I worry about anti-American sentiment? 

Headlines around the world seem to either ridicule our democracy’s pick for president or express fear and doubt for the global future. Trump’s head has literally taken many forms in a variety of satire, piñatas, and parade floats. With a brash and egocentric leader representing our nation, the fear is that international anti-Trump sentiment will lead to a rise in anti-American sentiment, too. 

Should I go back home?

You could have asked this in one of two ways – the more common, “do I ever actually have to go back?” Or the complete opposite, “do I return now to join the resistance?” 

After so much hype from voters on both sides about leaving the country based on election results, the latter of the two may seem counterintuitive. But if you were like me, you felt a surprising desire to return home and add your voice and hands to the work that now needs as many voices and hands it can get to advocate for and protect the liberties at stake.

Don’t get me wrong—the last thing I’m trying to do is make you feel guilty for living abroad. Don’t let Trump ruin your plans and goals! 

What I AM saying, leads me to the biggest (and best) question of all…

Man typing on a laptop
You can still be an active and engaged U.S. citizen abroad—start writing and calling your reps if you can!

So, how do I remain active and engaged even while abroad?

The United States has a powerful global presence and influence, so being out of the country doesn’t make you “free” from Trump. It’s our duty as Americans and international citizens to remain active and informed no matter where we are. So how can we do it? 

Use your voice (or your penmanship).

A lot of campaigns are urging constituents to call their representatives and voice their support for or against current policies and acts in question – an easy way to stay involved if you have Skype credit.

Otherwise, break out your stationary and put your debate skills to work (a Japanese or Brazilian stamp might just catch their eye!). You have the unique ability to provide an international perspective as an American traveling abroad. 

Of course, if all you have is your phone and spotty Wi-Fi, there are still online petitions that just take a few clicks. 

Join a political advocacy or awareness group.

Democrats Abroad and Republicans Overseas can be a good place to start if you claim a party preference, but you don’t need to stick to U.S. based organizations to have an impact. You can volunteer with a social organization that takes a stand on global issues, participate in marches, donate to social causes, and even use social media as a tool to encourage your friends back home and in your host country to do the same.

Stay up to date. 

Instead of relying on the top covered stories, do your research to find the more trustworthy news sources and subscribe to a few. Make it a point to read both U.S. and international news to keep a broader perspective. 

And most importantly…

We the People sign at an airport rally
You are an ambassador now, whether the job title is official or not, wield that power wisely!

Be the ambassador you wish to see in the world.

It’s not comforting to be the butt of a lot of jokes right now – but what is comforting is knowing that as a traveler, YOU (not just Trump) also get to represent America to everyone you meet. People will get to know you, the American, with all your values and traits, and decide for themselves what they think. 

Isn’t that a big piece of what meaningful travel is all about? Breaking down stereotypes, learning from different cultures, teaching from our experiences, and fostering connections around the world?

I’ve personally been receiving more sympathy than anything else for having to deal with Trump as president. It’s kind of funny – I feel the need to tell the world sorry on behalf of my country, and others feel the need to say sorry to me. 

What if we stop focusing on saying sorry and start focusing on being an example instead? Living abroad doesn’t have to feel like an apology tour when we are actively doing what we can from abroad to better our communities back home and actively remaining a positive and respectful member of our new communities around us.

Yes, with great (travel) power, comes great responsibility. Luckily, we have a supportive network of fellow travelers and Americans abroad to take on that responsibility together.

Editorial Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone, not those of GoAbroad.com, our staff, or our products, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.