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Are There Any Travel as a Political Act Tours?

Are there any travel as a political act tours? I am so inspired by the episode and the guide book. I would like to develop a study abroad opportunity for some of my university students and would prefer not having to plan it all individually.

Posted by
795 posts

I certainly hope not. There is too much politics in every facet of our lives now. Just let travel be free of politics and its ugly division it brings. We should all be free to enjoy the experience of the people, culture and history in any country we choose to visit. Likewise, people should be free to not travel to any country for there own reasons.

Posted by
21204 posts

My experience with universities is that most have international exchange programs of various types and flavors. They are generally well established and part of a pool of programs. If your university does not offer the program then another may do so. For example -- our son attended the U of CO but the study abroad program he was most interested in was offered by Syracuse Univ in Madrid, Spain. So for one semester he was actually enrolled at Syracuse Univ (and paying their tuition rate instead of the U of CO's rate.) The credit transferred back to CO when he finished the semester. It all was fairly seamless. BUT --- there some private companies who offer -- generally summer -- short travel programs under an educational banners. Those you have to be very careful because some are pretty shaky with it comes to the "educational" component.

I could see a program around the various political components of a country and a region. Could be difficult to pull off because of the cooperation need at a fairly high level of government. A few years ago we participated in a Cuban program sponsored by the state department that would have made a great course in comparative systems. Give that it was mostly academics involved, not sure how an undergraduate would have reacted. AND -- it wasn't cheap.

PS -- Threadwear -- politics, political systems, etc., are all a part of the people, the culture, the history. You cannot separate it. But you get to choose how you interact with it.

Posted by
5980 posts

luchara, IMO "Travel as a Political Act" was intended to be taken as an abstract attitude individuals should take towards traveling, not a specific concrete mode of travel or itinerary, as in being taken around Europe and "educated" about other cultures. They do try and insert cultural appreciation (language, food, customs) into all their tours, but the learning is up to you.

Posted by
256 posts

Do you have specific learning objectives or destinations in mind? In the study abroad world, you might look for organizations who label their programs as following the "fair trade learning" model but it's hard to give recommendations not knowing more details on what you're looking for!

Posted by
835 posts

My impression of "traveling as a political act" came about when RS traveled to Iran. I believe his goal was to introduce himself as a US citizen and good guy who is interested in the culture and beauty of Iran not an abstract idea. It seems to me to be more an outward act as opposed to not traveling to a specific country as a political act if that makes sense. I refused to travel to Maldives for political reasons but no one in impacted by that decision except me. As far as a specific tour ... no idea but if you chose a tour in a country like say Iran or Russia where you might do things like have meals with a family I'd consider that traveling as political act.

Posted by
6613 posts

It is Rick Steves’ own phrase, philosophy. So the question is appropriate in his forums.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you for your replies. I happened to catch one of Rick Steves' travel shows on PBS last week that explored parts of Europe and the history and politics associated with those countries. In that particular episode (from 2009 I think), he traveled to Italy, Germany, and Spain and explored the rise of fascism and Nazism. The book, Travel as a Political Act looks really fascinating and I ordered it. I was just speaking with a study abroad rep about developing a tour for my students. Upon further exploration of this site, I noticed there are travel tours. I can just utilize the book and our external resources. Be well!

Posted by
21204 posts

You mentioned something for "your university students." What subject (s) are you teaching? A couple of eons ago I was with a Big Ten school, we had a summer MBA program for a few finance students who essentially toured the financial capitals of Europe. In each we had a day long seminar -- hopefully with the Finance Minister for a couple of hours in each country to discuss their particular approach to finance and government. It was a difficult course to pull together even with years of experience. I can see you doing something similar but started with local universities to provide the educational element. Our issue was always the very limited schedule of a finance minister so often settled for one of his assistants. And often that was an improvement.

Personally I am not excited by "study abroad representatives" who may not be offering much more than dressed up summer tour program. For many years I served on a International Scholarship Foundation that supported students in study abroad programs. Often we would get requests to support students on these independent 4, 6 week summer programs. Often saw basically a summer travel tour program with min educational activity. So I do a negative view of these programs but I apologize since I am sure there are some good programs somewhere.

Posted by
5980 posts

No ruffled feathers lwallace. Its a subject that has come up before and has generated some debate in the past regarding what it means. I've heard Rick deliver his presentation on this theme in person, on TV a couple of times, on video and on paper, and its not exactly what people think it means. I see it as a catchy phrase that its a bit hard to explain. Its not just the Iran trip thing, but more basically like seeing how drug policies work in Amsterdam, might influence your opinion on laws here, or seeing a different perspective on immigration, policing, or health care. I see it as Rick saying don't just go to look at art, architecture and food, but take the time to observe local life and maybe it will inform your perspective.

Posted by
2791 posts

lwallace, if I were planning tours to educate students I would want to explore the rise of Naziism(definitely the Anne Frank House) and Communism, effects of Communism in eastern block countries, and socialism in Scandinavia and possibly why Balkans have had so much conflict throughout history.

Posted by
795 posts

I certainly wasn't ruffled by your post. I think Cala's suggestion is a fantastic one. Understanding history and its impact on the cultures in different counties are ideal.

I have been fortunate to have had some conversations with people in Prague about prior communist rule. I talked to a guy in Croatia that discussed the suppression of radio broadcasts and I had a great conversation on a train to Bayeux with an older French gentleman who couldn't have been more pleased with my journey to the D-Day sights. His sincere gratefulness to the US for his freedom of today in France was overwhelming. I spoke with a desk clerk in Budapest who gave me an earful of his relative's feelings on Germany's open immigration several years ago.

I may have forgotten some things I have seen or done in Europe, but I will never forget those engagements. I sincerely wish every student could have experienced those conversations.

Posted by
1649 posts

Yes. I remember a conversation we had in Torino (in Italian) skirting around political issues, when the woman finally said: "You have to remember that Silvio Berlusconi is not Italy and George Bush is not the United States."

Posted by
12353 posts

Personally, not the least bit interested in traveling as a political act,

However, if you are interested in overseas study programs, check the the Erasmus program. That might interest your students. As I have heard, instruction is given in English due to its international appeal regardless of the country hosting that particular program.

Posted by
350 posts

The closest I have come to recent politics on an RS tour was when I was touring a Eastern European country. We heard a short debate followed by a Q&A session between and English fellow and an Eastern European fellow. The Eastern man thought the EU was the greatest things since sliced bread. The English chap thought it had outlived its usefulness for The UK. It was enlightening to hear the back and forth. Little did I know back then it would help to put events of the last few years into perspective.

Posted by
350 posts

I guess one would have to initiate one's own political acts while traveling. Perhaps something very new and radical like picketing a wine shop on Paris while demanding they carry a better selection of English wines. That will get the French blood pumping.