Sometimes, a vacation is just a vacation. You pack your things, catch a flight, land, and spend the rest of your time maxing and relaxing free of the usual anxieties that plague your soul-crushing domestic existence.
Not so much if you visit these countries.
Some destinations have implications far beyond your vacation aspirations: and by this, I mean politically. Especially as Americans, journeys to certain countries can constitute a kind of political statement, indicating support, refutation, or implicit endorsement of certain social or political ideologies.
Here are five examples (so you don’t get caught with your pants down):
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It’s been years since Burma was fun for anybody. Though recent efforts have been made to promote the country as a tourist destination, its multi-decade military dictatorship has basically made life a living hell for citizens, embroiling them in a brutal web of physical violence and free speech repression. If you ever decide to go, keep this in mind.
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Photo Credit: Wikimedia
Ever since Fidel Castro swagged out and took over the country via popular Marxist revolution, the U.S. has considered Cuba an enemy member of the Soviet communist bloc. And even once the U.S.S.R. fell in the late 1980s, hostility between the two countries continued. As Americans, our government has historically made visiting the small Caribbean nation a royal pain in the ass (such travel was outlawed until recently), but now it’s not so bad. Regardless, many of the historical connotations remain, and it’ll take time for the old grudges to be completely mended.
Photo Credit: Boston
Photo Credit: Boston
The central government in the northern city of Khartoum did such a terrible job taking care of its citizens that a bunch of southerners just said "fuck it" and started their own country. In 2011, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation, largely in response to years of civil war punctuated by a government-backed genocide in the Darfur region. A trip to Sudan is basically a big middle finger to the South Sudanese, so don’t be an asshole: avoid it if you can.
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It’s troubling that a country holding such profound personal and religious connotations for so many has made it policy to routinely oppress and occupy the people of Palestine. But alas, this has become the case. A trip to Israel can widely be taken as an implicit endorsement of the nation’s tyrannical treatment of its smaller Arab neighbor, so don’t play yourself: know your history, and conduct yourself accordingly.
5. North Korea:
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Photo Credit: The Daily Sheeple
I’ll start by saying you probably don’t have to worry about this one, because they won’t let you in. But here’s the rundown just in case: since the mid-twentieth century, the East Asian nation has been ruled by a brutal dictatorship that routinely starves, imprisons, and brain-washes its citizens. And the worst part? Nobody gets to leave! It’s like a nightmare you can never wake up from, or a Two and a Half Men episode perpetually on loop. Do the world a favor and don’t support this government in any way. Take a trip south of the DMZ instead.