If you’re under 30, you may not remember that there was a time when travel was hard. A huge part of the world was shut off from the West. It was only 30 years ago that the IRA was still active across the United Kingdom, and you’d likely be followed by spies in Warsaw. Then most of the world opened up, ushering in an unprecedented era of international travel.
Next came a tidal wave of technology. The movement of information was able to show us the world in an instant. We were able to take travel into our own hands for the first time and book airline tickets or rent an apartment all on our laptops (and eventually our phones). The idea of having a government escort in places like Vietnam or Hungary seemed like a relic from a different dimension, not just a few decades back.
Now, in 2017, the relative liberty of the past years seems to be on the decline. We now have travel bans that look like they are specifically targeting Muslims. The U.S. travel economy is reeling. International trade agreements that brought stability and prosperity are being torn asunder for reasons that remain muddied at best. And there’s a demigod dictator in Russia who looks more and more like he just wants to watch the world burn as he reportedly manipulates elections from U.K. to Germany to the United States.
How did we get so far from the carefree, wanderlusting days of just five years ago? And is there any way to stop the tide of isolationism?