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On The Ethics Of Visiting Countries With Oppressive Regimes

Ed Ronco
Visitors to Cuba can tour the mausoleum holding the remains of Che Guevara.

Previously on our Going Places segment, we've discussed visiting places like Russia, North Korea and Cuba. In fact, we talk about Cuba a lot, in part because it's changing so quickly.

All three countries have varying levels of tension with the United States. And travelers often wonder: Am I doing the right thing by visiting? 

88.5's travel expert, Matthew Brumley, says we are.

We encourage you to listen to the above audio for our full conversation. But here are a few of the reasons Brumley thinks travel to places with challenging or hostile governments is important.

1. Your money does more to help individuals, not the government. When you tip a waiter, shop at a crafts market, or take a cab ride, the money is very often going to people who can really use it. 

2. You're building connections with other people. You present a version of the Western world to them that might run contrary to what they hear from their government. And they're presenting a version of their country -- and certainly its people -- that might be different than what you envision by watching the news. Brumley encourages people to build email addresses, and keep the conversation going after the trip ends.

3. You can bring that knowledge home. One visit will not make you an expert on anything, but you have a perspective now you can add to conversations, especially about places in the news.

All of this said, safety is paramount. Do your research before heading anywhere.


"Going Places" is 88.5's weekly exploration of travel. Matthew Brumley is the co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small-group travel for clients including knkx.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.
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