The U.S. travel ban: How taking away the ability to travel harms America

America’s freshly-implemented ban on people from 6 different countries traveling to the United Starts marks a new era and historic low for America, one where being from certain Muslim-majority nations alone is enough to take away the ability to travel freely to and from the 3rd largest country on the planet.

It matters that people from these countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) may no longer be able to visit the United States. And because travel rights are usually reciprocal, it matters that United States citizens will likely be unable to visit any of these countries.

Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying,

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of people and things cannot be acquired by vegetating on a little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Travel is, at its core, the exchange of people. Although places can’t move, people can, and when they do they bring their experiences, values, worldview, thoughts, and culture. Not only do people themselves grow and change from the experience of travel, but an increase in travelers can change places as well, often (though not always) for the better.

As a gay man, I purposely travel to countries that aren’t tolerant of the LGBTQIA+ community, such as Singapore, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Morocco. Why? Well, I don’t (always) travel to get laid and some of these places have amazing sights, I want to expand my horizons, and I also want people in these countries to know that LGBTQIA+ people are out there and we’re awesome. To the same end, by cutting off our ability to interact with citizens from other countries, we are creating a larger divide between our cultures.

I was especially sad to see Iran on the list of countries subject to the travel ban, as I would love to travel there one day. My Persian friends speak so highly of it, the landscape looks stunning, and I bet the food is amazing. I even follow a few people living there on Instagram, so I can get idea of places to visit. When I tell friends I’d like to visit, they often think I’m crazy; but, in my experience, people are the same almost anywhere you go, and most people you’ll run into actually care very little about what America or Americans do.

By treating citizens from entire nations as harmful, scary, and unworthy of entry into our country, we all lose. The exchange of people, ideas, and experiences is essential to our growth as humans – and while there are people who should be banned from entering America, it should be based on screenings that specifically show that they are a risk to the safety and security of our country.

I don’t believe the ban makes America any safer and, if made permanent, it will seriously hamper the ability for people from those countries and Americans to interact and find common ground with each other.

How I scored a lie-flat bed on American Airlines for $106.20

Did you know that American Airlines uses lie-flat bad in its first class between New York City (JFK) and Miami?

When I was looking at booking a flight between these cities, American Airlines has the best deal, coming in at $106.20 after taxes for June travel. When I went to pick a seat, I noticed that the plane had lie-flat beds (notably, the flight on American leaving later in the day did not), and decided that I would request a 500-mile upgrade for the flight.

For those who don’t know, American Airlines has a unique feature where, once you obtain premier status on the airline, you’re given around 500-mile upgrades to use for future flights (with Gold, I was given 10). For each 500 miles that you fly, you need to use 1 of your 500-miles upgrades. If you want to purchase more upgrades, it costs $40 for each one.

I generally like this system, as it makes it so you only request an upgrade when it’s most beneficial to you – and I’ve found I’m much more likely to get a 500-mile upgrade when I use it, compared to complimentary upgrades on United, where I also have status.

Unfortunately, the flying distance between JFK and MIA is 1,090, meaning it cost 3 500-mile upgrades (if it was just 90 miles less, it would have been 2!). Still, I decided to try for the upgrade because of the flat bed.

The flight was fairly empty, and I got confirmed for my upgrade at check-in. Because I’ve yet to go through all 10 500-mile upgrades (and I’ve upgraded on 3 flights now, including Turks & Caicos to Charlotte), I was able to score a flat bed for cheap!

The flight wasn’t particularly amazing, but, despite the short flight time, I actually used the bed and took a nap. Since I doubt I’ll maintain my American status, the good news is that the flight was around $300 to book directly for the flat bed; which, although not ideal, isn’t totally unreasonable.

 

Traveling to Charleston, South Carolina for the Great American Eclipse of 2017

One of my travel goals of 2017 was to visit Charleston, South Carolina – not only because it was named the Best City in the World by Travel + Leisure in 2016, but because a good friend (and fellow remote worker) lives on Sullivan’s Island, a short ride from downtown Charleston, and he’s been trying to get me to visit.

Admittedly, I didn’t know about the 2017 total solar eclipse, which will take place on August 21st, until this morning. As I was delaying getting out of bed, I was reading the news and not only learned about the eclipse, but also about the path of totality – where the sun will be entirely blocked by the moon – which will extend from Oregon to South Carolina.

path of totality.jpg
Map of the path of totality for the 2017 Great American Eclipse

The “path of totality” sounds pretty metal, and I knew immediately I wanted to be in it. After doing some research, I found out that Charleston (particularly north of the city) is on the path, reached out to my friend, and booked my ticket. I also discovered that this is the first total solar eclipse since 1979 and that the next one won’t be until 2024 (going from Texas to Maine). The total time in darkness in Charleston will last around 2 minutes and will take place around 2:47pm local time.

A list of the best places to view the 2017 Great American Eclipse can be found here.

I’m a little nervous about the weather, particularly as it’s hurricane season and will be hot/humid, but I figure even if it’s cloudy/stormy, it will still be pretty awesome to experience darkness in the middle of the day. This seemed like too cool of an opportunity to pass up; if you’re anywhere near the path of totality, you should try and check it out!

San Francisco Trip Deal: $429 round-trip from SFO to Medellín, Colombia on Copa

Copa Airlines, a member of the Star Alliance, is putting flights from San Francisco, California to Medellín, Colombia on sale. Flights start at $429 after taxes, with dates found from August through October.

Medellín is an amazing location for working remotely (as well as one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited).

To find this deal, use Google Flights and search for flights between SFO and MDE.

Taking Uber to the airport in Santiago, Chile

When travelling abroad, I’ll often check to see if Uber is operating in the city I’m visiting. Part of it is curiosity – as a San Francisco resident, I like to see just how much Silicon Valley has infiltrated other towns. But there are also many practical reasons for using Uber, such as knowing how much you’re going to be charged in advance (thus, avoiding possibly being scammed) and being able to enter my destination at the outset, instead of having to give location using a language I barely know.

So, I was very happy when I was in Santiago, Chile and I discovered that Uber was thriving in the city. For the most part during my trip, I used their excellent public transportation system, and the weather was nice enough for a lot of walking. I also used a van service at the airport to take me to my Airbnb in Provedencia.

But when it was time to leave Chile and head back to San Francisco, I decided to try taking an Uber.

Because my location was directly above a metro stop, I decided to walk to a quiet street corner to hail my ride. One thing I wanted to avoid was having a driver call me asking for directions in Spanish, since my speaking skills are no bueno. This worked out well for me, as the driver was able to easily find me.

My driver ended up speaking perfect English, which was especially refreshing because I had gone a few days with barely speaking to anyone in person. He was an environmental engineering student at a university in Santiago, and we spoke a lot about the waste in the city (when you go to a grocery store, you get like 5 plastic bags per items you buy!), and how much I enjoyed the country.

The ride from Provedencia to the international airport was easy, and came in at around $18 for a 25-minute ride in afternoon traffic (I was picked up around 4:30pm on a Thursday).

Interestingly, at the airport, the driver dropped me off around guest parking. Apparently, Uber is not allowed to operate at Santiago’s airport, and my driver let me know if he was caught, they would confiscate his car. The drop off point he selected was fine though, and a 3-minute walk to inside of the terminal.

I would defintely d

Seattle Trip Deal: $164 direct, round-trip from SEA to Anchorage, Alaska on JetBlue

JetBlue is putting direct flights from Seattle, Washington to Anchorage, Alaska on sale. Flights start at $164 after taxes, with dates found in August and September.

Alaska is one of the places I hope to visit in 2017, so I may have to hop on this deal.

To find this deal, use Google Flights and search for flights between SEA and ANC.