Public security is not good.
Cases of public shootings, robberies, and theft are frequent as are searches and seizures by customs agents. Highly frequent gun violence occurs. Travelers should stay alert to their surroundings, suspicious of individuals, and avoid going out alone at night.
This travel warning was on the Chinese Embassy website last week. The government owned site was cautioning their citizens about travel to the United States! Because I am a travel agent at Monroe Travel Service and so very often must answer concerns about traveling to Mexico or Europe, you can only imagine how much it bothers me to read the same travel advisory directed against my country!
Here is China, a country with the world’s greatest number of tourists who travel abroad–and whose people spent more than $261 billion abroad annually for the last couple of years — suggesting “public security is not good” in the USA. The financial impact on our travel industry could be significant! Statistics show the Chinese spend twice as much on international tourism as U.S. travelers and, considering they have a population of 1.4 billion, that is probably true.
Of course, I do believe there was some political retaliation behind this directive, but we need to realize China is not the only country issuing warnings to their people about the gun violence, the perceived discrimination and the risks involved in traveling in our country. Similar warnings have come from a variety of countries including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, the Bahamas, and even Canada, our neighbor to the north!
This perception about America is rather surprising. Usually, travel warnings deal only with risks associated with war, political instability, a disease, or natural disasters, such as the fires in California or the lava flow in Hawaii, but, nowadays, safety and security is the issue. In a world of 24/7 news, I suppose we should not be be surprised when the rest of the world has doubts about traveling in our country!
They hear of our mass shootings and gun violence. Last weekend, 34 people were shot in Chicago alone! They see the riots, the murders, and the protests, as well as reports of police brutality toward minorities. They know about our travel bans, the increase in deportations and problems with immigration. Children being separated from their parents make big headlines everywhere.
Our political strife looks as scary to them as it does to me, but, whereas, I believe it is just part of the “oh so very sad swamp” game, I also know how vast America is geographically. In a few hours, you can travel across Italy and be in another country, but you can’t even traverse Texas in 5 hours! It is hard for foreigners to understand a country as big as ours, so a shooting in Chicago is seen as a threat to their visit to the Rockies!
When America becomes an unwelcoming place to visit, they go somewhere else. The tourist industry suffers, and, sadly, these potential guests to our country never get to know how great our country really is. They miss its beauty, but, most of all, they never meet our 321 million citizens who are kind, law-abiding, and receptive to foreigners. They don’t realize that traveling the USA would show them that problems in one state or city are not as wide spread as they might have thought.
For example, the wild west mentality, where everyone carries a gun and they need to be cautious about angering an American, is not prevalent everywhere. They never see how beautiful diversity can be; how the culture of Louisiana is entirely different from that of California–but, still, we remain united by a common bond of ideas and beliefs. Image is everything, and America needs friends everywhere.
Considering most other countries do have their own national health care program, I do appreciate why countries warn their citizens about expensive emergency health care in the U.S.. I even understand when countries, like Switzerland and Germany, advise their citizens not to “find themselves on the wrong side of the law while trying to enjoy a day at the beach” since the U.S. criminalizes public nudity as “indecent exposure.” Topless bathing –not only of adult women but also of little girls–is not permitted in America.
Furthermore, I would not even dispute the Russian government’s edict on their travel site where they warn their citizens that taking a taxi is not always convenient since most American taxi drivers are immigrants who speak English poorly and often know less about the city than the tourist.
Yet, when we ,as a nation, get such a bad rap around the world from government issued travel advisories, I think we should be concerned. The Chinese “Public security is not good..” remark is not only misguided and irresponsible, but heightens the “us” vs “them” mentality which is becoming so inherent in our country and the world as well.
So, the question is this: What can we do? It seems the news feeds simply can’t keep up with all of the latest details updating us on the ongoing crises, violence, and tragedies happening in every corner of the world imaginable, and it sounds scary? So how do we respond to the events and circumstances that so often seem out of our control?
I think the answer is simple: we must travel! We must connect with the world! We need to reach out beyond our borders, ask questions, open our hearts and minds to the unknown, see the possibilities for ourselves, show them who we are as a nation, and welcome “them” to our shores so they will do the same.
Whether we visit a country and culture completely different than our own, or just choose to explore an area within our own community we usually avoid, we should expose our preconceived ideas to the truth to help us understand better what we see with our own eyes. When statistics and situations become names and faces, walls crumble. Instead of fearing and not understanding our differences, we choose tolerance.
I don’t mean to preach, but travel is good for us in so many ways. It constantly shows me that the more I know, the more I don’t know– and that is okay. Since we are all a part of a global community and, let’s face it, there is no where else for us to go, it just makes sense to learn more about the “others” and the world we share together.
One of the greatest minds of our generation was Dr Seuss. I loved reading his books and showing his drawings to my girls. Books like The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs & Ham, and, my favorite, On Beyond Zebra were part of our nighttime ritual. Seuss had some pretty profound truths hidden in his nonsensical sounding words and, lest you have forgotten, let me share this excerpt:
“Said Conrad Cornelius O’Donnell O’Dell, my very young friend who was learning to spell, ‘The A is for Ape, the B is for Bear, the C is for Camel, the H is for Hair, the M is for Mouse, the R is for Rat … I know all letters like that. Through to Z is for Zebra, I know them all well,’ said Conrad Cornelius O’Donnell O’Dell.
‘Now I know everything anyone knows from beginning to end, from the start to the close, because Z is as far as the alphabet goes.’
And I said, ‘You can stop if you want with the Z, and most people stop with the Z, but not me. In the places I go, there are things that I see that I never could spell if I stopped with a Z…You will be sort of surprised what there is to be found, once you go beyond Z and start poking around….”
Don’t be afraid to travel. Read government issued statements, the news, and social media, but rely on your own instincts, and, when you do go, make a political statement by representing America well at all times. Just call Monroe Travel Service and let us help you experience the world beyond Z!
It’s like Dr. Seuss says, “It’s high time you were shown that you really don’t know all there is to be known!”
Dianne Newcomer is a travel agent at Monroe Travel Service, 1908 Glenmar Street. For your next vacation, call the professionals at 318 323 3465 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to help with your plans.
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