A lot of people try to depoliticize travel. Many of us have a goal of visiting every country in the world, regardless of whether or not we agree with whatever is going on in the country. A lot of us use the justification “nowhere is perfect”, so if you nitpick different things you disagree with within each country, you’ll never get anywhere. Yes, the United States isn’t great with police brutality. Some countries in Europe aren’t great with religious tolerance. Some countries in Asia aren’t the most comfortable for the LGBTQ+ community. Going by that logic, it makes sense to just not boycott any specific country, because if you do that, you’d be largely limiting your ability to access the world.
But think of it this way – travel means spending money (unfortunately), so when you travel, just like when you eat or shop somewhere, you need to be mindful of where that money goes, right? Let me explain to you this concept that I learned very young. In the early 2000s, after the country of Denmark supported some very Islamophobic statements, many Muslims around the world decided to boycott Danish products so that their spending doesn’t benefit that country. What that meant to me back then was not eating my favorite chocolate product imported from Denmark.
Flash forward to 2019, there’s so much we can boycott between xenophobia, racism and bigotry in the world. Where do we draw the line?
Here’s how I see it – when a country’s sheer existence is a violation of human rights, that is where I draw the line. For example, visiting Israel, a country whose existence is marked illegal by numerous United Nations resolutions, to me would be an example where my money spent is going to hurt others. Spending my money that way would go against any human rights beliefs I have. The same would apply if we were living in a time when South Africa was still in official apartheid. Using my money to go there would be directly supporting racism, colonialism and segregation.
Many go to these places, with no political affiliations, with pure intentions just to explore the place and decide on their own. But with the internet access we have these days, it’s much more responsible to use it to decide where your money goes, and who it helps.