Political Considerations for the Traveling Millennial

We all remember that ominous day in November 2016. No matter where you were in the world, you knew that the decision to elect a pseudo-businessman and reality TV star persona would have repercussions. There were a lot of questions and frustrating conversations that drove many millennials in the international community to restructure their future plans.

Only time will tell if the advent of Trump will affect the dispersal of millennials to live as expats, but one thing is clear: it is easier than ever to both travel and live abroad, and there is already a growing number of people from the United States living outside of the US. The opportunities for teaching abroad are in abundance and most programs offer enough pay and benefits to live comfortably. Chances are that you know a friend, have heard of someone or you, yourself, have lived abroad. The real question is, will the Trump Era be an impetus for more millennials to take advantage of opportunities to live abroad? If so, how do you think this will impact US domestic and foreign policy if they have a substantial amount of citizens living abroad?

These questions raise yet another more macroscopic question concerning global welfare, does a country’s overall level of education contribute to more informed political decisions and an equitable society? The answer is undoubtedly, yes! Knowledge is power and the more knowledge we collectively have, the better position we are in to make informed decisions about not only who we elect, but on policy decisions themselves - ones that affect us directly domestically or indirectly through relationships with foreign governments. The point is that we need to be aware of events happening all over the world so that we can create bridges of acceptance and solutions rather than gaps of ignorance. To further explore this point let’s consider that most people of various nationalities across the world could tell you who the last three American presidents were. Could you name three current political leaders outside of the US? Outside of North America and Western Europe?

Traveling inherently makes us aware of the bigger picture that lies outside of our usual bubble of knowledge. One reason being that all of a sudden things that happen in this different country can have a direct impact on you. But also, to really understand a country’s culture, history and why they make decisions they do, we need to understand people’s political attitudes: how they view their government, immigrants and current policies. The best way to do this is to read local media and talk to people. There is, of course, a time and place for this. Bringing up dense political topics is not always appropriate, but if an opportunity arises, it doesn’t hurt to inquire.

Those who live as expats or those who travel know that there is an inevitable point in time when the adventure ends. Life happens and typically either our careers or family bring us back to the US. This can be the final challenge. How do we take our new set of knowledge and perspective and communicate it to others without sounding arrogant, pretentious or sanctimonious? I think the best way is to let the information speak for itself. If there is a documentary, book or news publication that you think excels in giving objective information, informed opinions and nuanced perspectives, suggest it to the individual in question and let them digest it and discuss the information with you. One of the best things we can do moving forward is to keep each other accountable and informed both at home and abroad.