Digital nomads and globetrotters usually tend to be white, and I’ve met many who decide not to vote or who simply “forget.” But voting isn’t optional for people of color such as myself, and it’s time that everyone does what they can to exercise their rights and use the lessons they learn in their journeys to make educated decisions about governance.
I’ve met people who do charity fund-raising, began or consulted with fair-trade businesses, and who genuinely care about learning about other cultures. Like anyone else who moves about the world, I’ve seen how digital nomads and expats pick up habits, preferences, and cultural practices of the places they inhabit.
Having been an immigrant this seems obvious, but the places you live in truly change you.
But being an expat or a digital nomad isn’t the same as being an immigrant, refugee, or stateless person. Though I know there are people who travel even though they don’t have some of the most powerful passports, the reality is that most expats and digital nomads, backpackers, and people who can travel for leisure are white and come from rich countries.
I can only speak to my experience being from the U.S.
One of my biggest disappointments as an expat was realizing how many of my friends, digital nomads, and expats from the U.S. don’t vote.
Yes, it can be a hassle to vote outside the country, but it’s necessary. The United States and other powerful countries have a say in the destinies of many other countries around the world—countries we all enjoy visiting. living in, or passing through with a lot of freedom.
Everyone needs to pitch in
It’s true that elections don’t solve every problem. Many digital nomads do their best to stay conscious, but the reality is that our presence facilitates gentrification and often displaces locals.
Economies that run on tourism or catering to expats can become decimated if people suddenly decide to leave. Part of the ways we can contribute is to start these conversations and make lives easier for locals who live with both the consequences of our presence, and the decisions of lawmakers in our countries.
Think about the many travel bans that have been enacted, the rise in hate crimes against immigrants and people of color in the U.S., and the many issues that are prescient for women, minorities, and indigenous groups fighting for climate justice.
Where to vote while you’re abroad
There are other ways to find information. Most world capitals have a U.S. Embassy, and you can look up their website, Twitter handles, or Facebook pages. When I lived in Buenos Aires, the local Embassy had a voting event that was widely promoted on social media, and many expats (including myself) attended and exercised our civic duties.
If you travel and feel that the places you visit have helped you find yourself, then it’s time to pay it forward and help the rest of the world find itself, too.
The Senate and House of Representatives are equally important, and you’ll have to check with FVAP about the possibility of voting state elected officials as well during midterm elections in 2022 as well.
With that being said, if you can plan a hiking trip to a mountain town, take on the logistics of working while abroad and meeting deadlines, and figure out how to get by in a country where you don’t know the language or customs, then you can definitely figure out where, how, and when to vote this year.
Photo: my own, from a trip to Paracas, Perú, 2018.