Travel with a political button — I don’t leave home without one


As someone who is politically active, I nonetheless understand that Consumer Traveler is not a political blog. This post is not about specific politics, but rather as a frequent traveler in a presidential election year, why I usually wear a button for my candidate.

Now, my number one rule about any button I wear is that I don’t initiate conversations. If someone wants to talk, great. While I’ve found that more often than not conversations are positive, I don’t mind if someone wants to disagree.

In addition, I avoid the buttons that are negative towards a candidate. While they can be amusing, they can also be an invitation to unpleasantness.

I’ve been lucky in not having any really negative encounters. More often than not the buttons have led to fun discussions. Admittedly, it makes sense that most people who comment tend to agree with my candidate, but I still had a very enjoyable chat this summer on a cruise ship with an older gentleman from Florida who was voting for the other guy.

Traveling overseas with a political button marks you as an American. But, since I haven’t been traveling anywhere with a State Department advisory (and I don’t seek out overseas protests and political gatherings), that hasn’t bothered me.

Most of my travel is within the United States anyway. But, even just in another city or state, it’s interesting to hear differing views, or even differing versions of the same basic view. Plus, it makes for a little more than the usual tourist connection with locals and fellow travelers.

I do realize that, as a friend once said, “Some people would rather discuss their sex lives than their political views.” That’s fine. But for those of us who feel otherwise, a button can make travel a little more interesting.

And as an extra bonus, talking politics with strangers is usually less stressful than discussing it with friends or relatives.

Have you ever worn your politics on your button while you travel? What have been some of your experiences?

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons by L. Allen Brewer

  • Anonymous

    Better yet, try wearing a campaign t-shirt with likenesses of the nominees. I have in China and received lots of looks, most of them favorable. Of course, if your candidate happens to bash that country, then you might forget this idea.

  • Anonymous

    We were sitting at an outside table for dinner in Salzburg the other night when someone walked by with an Obama button on. He and his wife ended up coming back and sitting at the table next to us which led to us chatting as the initial comment was about the button, so they can be conversation starters.

  • James

    Sorry, but that’s probably the strangest travel advice I’ve ever read. My goal, traveling anywhere, is to draw as little attention to myself as
    possible, especially overseas.

  • janice

    Understand, and I would be careful in the mid-east and some other places, but around the U.S. and Europe and even Asia it’s never been a problem. (although i avoid political demonstrations.)

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think that I would wear a political button when going through airport security, You may be pulled aside for secondary screening or worse if the TSA person doesn’t agree with your political choice.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think that I would wear a political button when going through airport security, You may be pulled aside for secondary screening or worse if the TSA person doesn’t agree with your political choice.

  • Jonathan_G

    Hi Janice,

    I realize this is an old post, but I’m just getting caught up after some unexpected distractions…

    For starters, I’ve got to give you kudos for staying on-topic with travel columns and not straying into partisanship, not just here but in general. Unlike a certain (unnamed) colleague of yours at Consumer Traveler, I would never have guessed that you were political, let alone what your political affiliation is.

    As for wearing a political button as you travel, that certainly is one way to start conversations. I can’t say I’ve tried it, but I certainly have had some political conversations in my travels. My general sense is that while there are interesting people everywhere, the typical comments made around the US are not surprising – I guess we’re all getting our information from similar sources such as the TV networks and newspapers. While some of these sources may lean left or right, I’m generally aware of the arguments being raised. However, when traveling abroad, that’s when I really start hearing different perspectives. US politics look very different when you get away from sources that are either aligned completely with one partisan faction or are hyper-aware of being neutral and consequently give equal time to each side without pointing out overt misrepresentations, misconceptions, or misleading statements in fear of appearing to take sides.