How traveling taught me when not to travel

Bootsnall prompt: How has travel changed your life? Can you pinpoint a single moment – a day, an hour, a split second – when you knew that things had changed? How did that change impact your life, both on your travels and at home?

This year, I’m putting off my plans for long term travel. Again. I’d been planning to leave for Europe this month to do some WWOOFing and writing for the growing season in Europe. It was finally going to happen.

Until the Obama campaign called me. I’d applied for a fellowship with the campaign on a whim. And in January, just days after finding my first farm to stay on in France and formally launching my freelance writing business to sustain me during my travels, I scored the fellowship.

I couldn’t say no. Even though I sometimes disagree with our President’s decisions, I’ve approved of many more. I’ve also seen what he means to so many people, both in the U.S. and abroad.

At this time during the first campaign, I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. My parents sent me a care package of Obama swag, including an Obama Biden 2008 t-shirt. I wasn’t in the habit of wearing t-shirts while I was there, but this one I just had to wear. I threw it on immediately and went out for a walk.

The responses I got to that shirt were amazing. It sparked conversations with shopkeepers and waitstaff. People from all over the world stopped me on the street to express their support for Barack Obama. One Italian young man stopped me and said, “Obama? I vote Obama!” and invited me to have a drink with him.

There have been so many moments when travel changed me, but it was wearing this t-shirt and participating in the discussions it sparked that proved to me just how important it is to consider politics and international relationships when traveling. It reminded me how the acts of one country can impact the entire world.

This year, I’m in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania volunteering for the campaign. I hear from many Americans how we need four more years for President Obama. But I’ve also felt like a magnet for people from other countries who support our President. This week, I’ll be working in our office with an Italian woman who hopes to be a citizen in time to vote this year. During voter registration drives, I’ve met people who aren’t citizens, but are supportive enough to volunteer for the campaign. A few of them might be joining my neighborhood team this week.

I’m already making plans for traveling after the campaign, but for right now, I’m exactly where I need to be.

And when I need fired up for campaign work, I often watch this video:

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One thought on “How traveling taught me when not to travel

  1. Pingback: Giving back, at home and abroad « Erin Hutton, Writer

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