Greetings from Portugal, where my weather is better than yours.

This is the first our kids have been out of the country.

Technically, they’ve been on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, but that hardly counts. Eating at a Rainforest Cafe doesn’t exactly qualify as an exotic culinary experience. 

This is their official maiden voyage outside of the U.S., the first stamps on their passports, the first leap forward, time-zone speaking. 

I’m a little sad about that, to be honest.

Before we even had kids, I dreamed about them being international citizens. I pictured taking them on ski trips to the Alps, food tours of Northern Italy, museums in Paris. 

But life happens. 

Unforgiving gymnastics schedules, musical performances and camps, vacations visiting grandparents who live daylong drives afar – all of it conspired to keep our girls landlocked. Until now. 

I’ve done my share of foreign travel, mostly for work, a little for fun. Tara has me beat, handily, in frequency and distance of globetrotting. We’re both better for it.

Venturing outside of Uncle Sam’s backyard has the incongruous effect of making you appreciate what makes America special, while simultaneously debunking any delusions of our exceptionalism. No places – or people – are inherently superior to any other. Everyone – and everywhere – is exceptional in its own way. 

I’m super curious to see what Noelle and Maddie take from this experience. My generation and those before it were raised to revel in our patriotic preeminence. I needed global perspective to rein that in. 

Gen Z is more cynical, jaded by the last six-plus years of shameful political theater, more mass shootings than they can count, pernicious inequities, and greed. As much as I want our girls’ eyes to be opened by this adventure, I hope they’ll be grateful to return home.

Of the nearly 400,000 questions in the CivicScience database, few are more correlated with a broad array of attitudes and beliefs than our questions about world travel. Views on immigration, race, gun laws, and even the economy, can be almost unfailingly predicted by how often a respondent has traveled internationally (cruises notwithstanding). It’s nearly as reliable as asking their party affiliation or what cable news network they watch.

Leaving our safe havens – our echo chambers – teaches us empathy and humility. It also helps us to appreciate our luxuries and opportunities – and why we should be eager to share them with all who wish to come. 

Hopefully, this will be the first of many journeys abroad for our kids. 

They have some catching up to do.

Here’s what we’re seeing: 

Consumer confidence had a small uptick over the past two weeks, for no obvious reason. Perhaps we finally hit bottom and there was nowhere to go but up. Our Economic Sentiment Index had a minor (if temporary) period of relief, driven mostly by Americans’ bolstered hope that the economy will improve over the next six months – I guess most of them aren’t on Twitter. Meanwhile, attitudes toward the job market are cooling as more and more companies warn of hiring freezes and layoffs. The next few quarters should be quite a ride.

Meanwhile, comfort levels doing most public activities have reached heights not seen since last year. Despite the recent wave of COVID that ripped through our communities these past couple months, most people are unfazed – though it could be because so many people are now immune. It bodes well for experiential commerce this summer, inflation be damned. Incidentally, one car ride in Europe will make you long for U.S. gas prices. Funny that nobody here blames their federal government (or ours). 

That’s not to say it’s all good news, obviously – as inflation and gas prices are beginning to impact everything from food independence to healthcare. Seventy-six percent of Americans say they have chosen not to purchase an item at the grocery store in the past month because of its exorbitant cost. More concerning are the hard choices people are making about their healthcare. Twenty-seven percent of U.S. adults (a record in the years we’ve been tracking it) say they could not visit a doctor in the past 12 months for financial reasons. Twenty-two percent have opted not to purchase prescription medications. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s hard to be particularly proud of the way we treat LGBTQ+ individuals in this country, even during Pride Month. While most of my similarly-aged non-hetero friends are quick to tell me how much more accepting our culture has become throughout their lives, we still have a woefully long way to go. The emotional well-being of LGBTQ+ Americans – their fears, anxieties, and overall mental health – significantly lag the U.S. Gen Pop as a whole. It’s particularly troublesome among younger Millennials and Gen Zs. We need to do better. 

People plan to cut back on their Father’s Day gifts this year, which is fine by me because I just want to sleep in and watch golf. Ten percent of U.S. adults say they plan to spend MORE on the dads in their lives this year – while 22% say they plan to spend LESS. Watches and personal items are the most popular likely gift, followed by a meal at a restaurant. Speaking on behalf of dads everywhere, save your money. A card is always nice, but otherwise, we just want to relax. Why do you think they play the U.S. Open on Father’s Day weekend every year?

More studies from the brilliant CivicScientists this week:

These were the most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Outdoor by a mile; Relaxation; Air travel; Definitely; Is there any other kind? 

Hoping you’re well.


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