November 9, 2020
We spent days waiting for the 2020 election results, knowing that the final call would impact the world we live in, and, crucially, how we travel.
At long last, we know that Joseph R. Biden is the president-elect—and Kamala Harris the first female, Black, and Indian-American vice president-elect in U.S. history—a call that sent Americans into the streets in celebration this weekend.
But despite the fact that this changing of the guard has many feeling relieved, our work doesn’t end here. The issues at stake, from racial justice and native rights to the protection of natural spaces and aid for small businesses, will impact travelers. They will also continue to require hard work from each of us.
We asked several dedicated travelers and activists how we can best stay activated and tuned in. Here is a mere handful of the issues they—and we—will be tracking in the days, months, and years to come, in addition to holding President-Elect Biden to his promises (like the 100-Day immigration reform plan and rejoining the Paris Agreement on Climate Change). Plus, we take a look at who to follow for updates, how to get involved, and where to learn more.
Protecting the outdoors
The Trump administration rolled back major protections on natural spaces, including opening the country’s largest forest up to logging and development just this month. It will take organizing and advocacy to undo these decisions, and to push for the protection of natural spaces going forward.
“Our national parks and public lands are meant to be enjoyed by all Americans, and they will always need advocates, regardless of the election results,” says Phil Francis. Francis is the chair of The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, a nonpartisan organization made up of current, former, and retired NPS employees with over 40,000 years of collective experience managing the nation’s natural and cultural resources.
Francis’ team posts frequent updates and calls to action on their social media (@protectnps on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter), as well as on protectnps.org—keep an eye on any of those places to stay in the loop. “We will continue to advocate on overarching policy and actions, [which] includes pushing for an increase in funding for the National Parks Service, a halt to oil and gas lease sales that threaten resources, and ensuring that environmental protections are in place,” says Francis.
Ambika Rajyagor, the founder of Disabled & Outdoors, an online BIPOC-run community focused on representation and accessibility in the outdoors, wants to ensure that these efforts are intersectional, too—especially after nearly four years of policies that worked against Americans with disabilities. “There are a few ways that regular travelers can get involved in fighting for Disabled Rights in outdoor spaces post-election,” says Rajyagor. “For example, by advocating for the conservation of public lands, someone is also advocating for those lands to be accessed by the Disabled community.” You can follow @disablednoutdoors on Instagram, where organizers share updates on the causes they’re activating around, and other community voices worth paying attention to.
Investing in Indigenous communities
Native voters turned out in a big way this election, yet the issues impacting Native communities are rarely front and center on the national stage.
“We are paying attention to our youth and their needs,” says Amy Yeung, the founder of eco-conscious clothing label Orenda Tribe. Native communities like Navajo Nation, where she lives, are among the communities hit hardest by the pandemic. In addition to high case numbers, sources of income have dried up as well.
Orenda Tribe has been organizing throughout the pandemic to support Native Americans—and they make it easy for travelers to learn more about their needs and get involved in their efforts. You can follow @orendatribe on Instagram or text ORENDA to 707070 for updates on their initiatives. Currently, the company is raising money for the ADABI domestic violence shelter for women and children, and for young Diné weavers who have been impacted by COVID-19. Yeung also suggests following @protectthesacred and @navajommdr on Instagram.
As we resume safe travel to national parks and open spaces, being mindful of whose land you are on—and your impact—is also essential. “Be respectful about where you are traveling to and the potential harm you could cause to communities,” says Yeung. “Support us instead of endangering us. Respect land and community.”
Being actively anti-racist as travelers
“I am paying attention to how candidates plan to dismantle systematic racism in our country,” says Katalina Mayorga, the founder of El Camino Travel (Condé Nast Traveler partners with El Camino on our Women Who Travel trips). “We still have so much work to do.
While we can push the new administration on domestic policies that gut historically racist systems, the onus is on every traveler be actively anti-racist at home and abroad, whether we’re traveling or not.
There are many crucial ways be an actively anti-racist traveler—booking trips and experiences led by people of color, being an ally on the road, and supporting the right travel companies. Paula Franklin, a travel expert at Franklin Bailey says, “Supporting more diverse companies and voices is key. We are not giving enough support to the global diversity we all claim to support as travelers—we all need to be much more conscious of where our dollars are going.” She suggests booking travel through locally owned tour companies, like Eat Like a Local in Mexico City, Sebastian Tettey in Ghana, or Nuru Tours in Uganda. “These are all companies owned by local residents so you are already a step ahead from booking through a large operator located in the U.S..”
There are many travelers educating others on anti-racism as well. Mayorga suggests following @travelisbetterincolor (“a coalition of media professionals who are working to dismantle the “white gaze” in travel writing,” says Mayorga; Franklin is one of the founders), and Cherae Robison (@sasyrae), the founder of Tastemakers Africa, who is “completely upending the Western perception of Africa and showing the true ingenuity, creativity, and diversity of the continent” with individual and group trips. Franklin also suggests reading Irin Journal, a Lagos-based print magazine which offers deep dives into African cities, with contributors across the continent.
Supporting small travel businesses impacted by the pandemic
For months, those in the travel industry have had their minds set on a major issue: “How seriously and effective is the leadership fighting the pandemic?” asks Luis Vargas, the Portland-based founder of Modern Adventure. “Lower infection rates and vaccine deployment are the paths to recovery and opening travel once again—and what stimulus package comes next will be of life or death importance to many companies in the travel industry.”
While it’s essential we all do what we can to stop the spread of COVID-19—and push leadership to do the same—there are near-term baby steps to supporting the travel industry, and the small businesses that make travel what it is. Continue to reschedule rather than cancel existing bookings, says Vargas. Consider scooping up merch from your favorite hotels, restaurants, bars, and more, as part of your holiday shopping. If there are brands you deeply love, listen to what they say they need: Following a favorite tour company, or even tour guide, and subscribing to their newsletters if possible, is a quick and easy way to get their takes on the challenges ahead. The smallest brands are often the most vulnerable—and, as we all know from experience, the most irreplaceable.