Republicans Buy Gift Cards, Too

“Let’s stick to travel hacking, please,” requested Wes when I shared an opinion piece and radio program by London-based entrepreneur Tyler Brûlé that London may follow the decline of Montréal. The piece is a provocative historical analogy to a contemporary event that has no direct parallel. Posting it attracted the typical angries expected on a complicated, controversial subject where many will benefit and many will not. Some of the commenters may have even read the piece before commenting.

When I editorialize or post topics intended to cause thinking, a Wes tells me to stick to my knitting. Wes has decided my blog should be travel hacking in a vacuum. To be another deals repost blog that scours email inboxes and online forums to share deals and hacks in a concise format. Plenty of those exist and their authors provide a service of utility. I cannot better them even if I had the interest. I cannot spend all day on FlyerTalk, Reddit and Slickdeals.

Travel is Political and So is this Blog

Rick Steves argues that travel is a political act. We the fortunate to travel have a duty to engage with the world at home and abroad.

When I visit what former-President Bush termed the ‘Axis of Evil’ countries or countries that President Obama’s drones patrol the skies, it is a political act. I cannot self-deceive that I am just a casual tourist. I may be the first, and possibly only, American, a number of people will meet in their lives. I can confirm or contradict their stereotypes, positive and negative.

Even if you never leave the airport lounge, life-flat flight seat, and hotel lounge, your travel is political, too. I do not like the serial complainer segment of this hobby. The people who set about to find fault with every flight and hotel stay to rake in compensation.

When I had a migraine in Gabon and a meltdown in Congo I was ashamed at loosing my cool with kind people to whom electricity, running water, and wifi may be unimaginable luxuries. Sure, a luxury hotel should uphold the standards that it proclaims and prices. Staff on the receiving end of a tirade draw their own conclusions and it is not about their hotel management.

Travel Hacking is Political

Those gift card liquidation trips to Walmart bump up against what Bloomberg reports as a crime wave at Walmart sapping police department resources around the country.

The flight fuel we burn has environmental costs. Remember the Nordstorm ship and return frenzy when the miles weren’t clawed back? How many said it was incredibly environmentally wasteful (and costly to a company guilty only of generous customer service)?

Our activities in this hobby have real world consequences that we cannot wish out of existence. Some are great, some are now. Have any of us not graciously used miles to help family, friends, and colleagues in an emergency? All of this says something about us and ripples through the world.

If I Hide Who I Am, This Blog Will be Pointless

The only value I can offer as a blogger is my expertise.

I lived in China for 8 years, speak Mandarin, and have traveled every province of the country. When I recommend a Chinese destination you can know that it draws on experience. I have not been to Greece so my advice there will be little different from any armchair traveler or hack journalist.

There are blogs that focus on the ‘can do it.’ A deal or a hack exists. On paper it looks like you can do it. Have at it.

I focus on the why and the did. Why do something? What is the context? The alternatives? How have I done it (or not) and how do it go in practice?

The difference is a general post listing airlines that offer transit hotels (on paper) and a Guide to Ethiopian Airline Transit and Transit Hotels based on many first-hand experiences. The other airlines I have not written such a guide because I don’t have the same expertise as with Ethiopian.

Both approaches have value. Some blogs provide useful info with no author byline. Some blog authors with valuable content are only free to publish under pseudonym.

With this blog, you get me. My name is on the byline. I take it as my duty to you to be honest about who I am and provide the best content that my experience, skills and resources can produce.

Michael Jordan May (or May Not) Have Said It

The famous line attributed to Michael Jordan when questioned about not taking a particular public advocacy stance is “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

I take my duties as a citizen seriously. My aspirations for myself are higher than I have achieved. I have not served in the military or in public service. I have not made big sacrifices to help others. I try to be pleasant person and I set a goal of giving 5% of income to charity. I should do more.

The Founding Fathers conceived of citizenry as much more than a birthright to posses 21st-century weaponry.

As a citizen I have a duty to learn, to challenge my beliefs and biases, to engage in debate with others. The guiding star is The Economist’s editorial stance from its 1843 founding, to “take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.”

This blog is political and will stay political.

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30 Comments on "Republicans Buy Gift Cards, Too"

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Stefan, the fact that you have an intelligent, individual perspective on such a wide variety of worldly themes is what sets (and always has) you apart from the other cookie-cutter blogs on Boardingarea.

It’s bewildering how so many of our fellow travel enthusiasts consider politics to be the equivalent of an ‘F-bomb.’

I for one look forward to continuing to support your writing in whatever manner possible. I hope your other readers, some of continue to miss the point you tried to make in this post, will consider doing the same.


I have to agree with Wes this time. Please not too much political talk….


[…] Republicans Buy Gift Cards, Too – Travel hacking is political and we all have an impact. […]

Andrew C

Baffled at the arguments against your expressing your views on your own blog. Keep it up, always appreciate your perspective. (But bring back Chai Digest!!!)


Wes, agree with you a 100%.

Thanks for the shout-out. It took guts to come straight out and boldly proclaim this to be a political blog. Most would prefer to advance their ideology while portending a guise of neutrality. I salute you for showing backbone, even if I disagree with your positions. That said, my question to you is, “When did this become a political blog?” To the date and time of this comment (if it gets through moderation), your “about” page mentions absolutely nothing about political commentary being a cornerstone of this blog. In fact, it essentially summarizes your blog as another “travel often and… Read more »

Any blogger can repost deals. I come here for Stefan’s unique perspective, which can only come from someone who has traveled to more countries than I can name. I am grateful to hear his unique voice in this community.


Stefan – Please keep sharing your viewpoint, and those of others you find interesting. I’ve been reading for five years now and while I don’t agree with everything, you offer a fascinating and valuable perspective.


Stefan – I read a number of blogs to get information. I read yours to get your story. I aspire to get to even a few of the less-traveled places you’ve been, but in the meantime I’m pleased to experience the journey vicariously.

Your blog reflects the person I’ve met a few times at FTUs. I love the perspective, and the cultural, economic and political links you share. I’m tempted to say “ignore the ignorant”, but just as your travel is political, so too is your blogging political, and I’m glad you engage the ‘other side(s)’ occasionally.


Darth Chocolate

Very few businesses can survive for long if they intentionally piss off half of their potential customer base. For example, you may have a very good review of some new product that you will earn a fee for a referral. If I like the review, I might just visit another site that has a referral link and use it just to make a point.




I personally love your posts. They aire refreshingly different from other travel blogs I read. Pleased don’t change anything.


@Jig I am also one of the fans to keep asking RTC to bring back of our fav column ” Chain Digest”!

Sorry, I might agree with your political views, but I have to also agree with your reader Wes – “stick to travel hacking”. If any of us wanted political commentary – we most likely would not be here. I had to snicker a little, but I am actually glad your brought up Rick Steves. Anyone who used one of his guides has to agree – those guides are good and precise when it comes to “…from this yellow door turn right, then make 15 steps to the left where you would see a blue arch; once you pass under the… Read more »
Truly an impressive expression of substance and willingness to take on sometimes inconvenient responsibilities of being an engaged citizen. For those who still want Stefan to remain ‘balanced’ or ‘stick to his knitting’, I ask why not engage in reasoned debate instead of asking for silence on topics of the day? Can we not reason with each other and perhaps even change our minds based on new perspective and knowledge? And even if we continue to disagree, is it not better to try to understand the differing opinion’s origins? The inability to disagree constructively is the root of many of… Read more »
I didn’t see you act like this before, even though there were much more strong opnions or way much more harsh words torward you than Wes. Remeber those flooding strong comments toward you regarding to Indonesia and holocaust? In my observations, your style is always to be more lukewarm, balanced and somehow vague in political or other sensitive issues so some readers were so shocked and couldn’t take it very well. Can we agree even a micro media has it own social responsibility? Or blog is an exception ? (from the editor: since those references can be take out of… Read more »

Right on, Stefan. Keep on doing what you do. Your roots are showing through. I have benefited from clicking on many a non-travel related link in your posts. Broadened my horizons. We are all ambassadors of our country when we travel and it behooves us to remember that.

You won’t make all people happy all the time. For example I love Rick Steve’s and his travel podcast, books, etc. but I hate that he seems to look down on people like me who are tourist, will stick out like a tourist and will stay in chain hotels. Just like him you won’t make people happy and if you want to blog about politics that’s cool but understand that people will disagree with you no matter what you have to post. I disagree with you on Brexit and your post about this on Montreal but it didn’t keep me… Read more »

An excellent post and an excellent point!


Bravo Bravo – looking forward to reading more 🙂

Daniel K

Keep on writing!

Rich T.

Amen Brother! Oops….. now religion’s in the mix too….


Well said. You offer an unique perspective to Boarding Area. I look forward to your posts. Thank you.