The persistent belief in the travel community that absolutely EVERYONE can travel — and if they can’t, it’s because they’re not trying hard enough or don’t want it badly enough — raises my ire.
I am a huge advocate for exploring this big, beautiful earth, and sell the whole “living the travel dream” thing both on my blog and social media channels. I mean, I WANT and ENCOURAGE everyone to travel, but realize that there are many situations that preclude people from doing so. This is why the pervasive attitude in some circles that we’re all on equal playing fields in terms of travel access and opportunities annoys me greatly.
Let’s keep it all the way real: there are circumstances, many of a systemic socio-economic or political nature, that keep some people at home while others hopscotch the globe. Travel is not cheap or easy for everyone, though a lot of mainstream travel media, particularly travel blogs, will tell you that all you need to do to be able to travel is change your “mindset”.
However, I find these sorts of posts ridiculously obtuse, off-base, and dripping with privilege. The truth is, those of us who travel extensively are blessed by life circumstances, not just a can-do attitude or “positive mindset”. So when some of us proclaim how easy it is to traverse the world (and then go on to admonish those who don’t do the same because they “aren’t trying hard enough”), we neglect to realize that our wandering is more due to luck than hard work and desire.
For even if you weren’t born in the proverbial spoon in your mouth, you might be lucky enough to hold a passport from a powerful “first-world” country that allows you to travel foot loose and visa free to the vast majority of the world’s treasures (my Canadian passport gives me visa free entry into 174 countries; were I to get my Jamaican one that number would decrease to 77). Or you might be lucky enough to be living in a country whose stable economy and lofty currency allows you the external purchasing power necessary to globetrot without making a huge dent in your savings.
Travel privilege might also come in the form of the two parent, double-income household that helped you to get through university (heck, going to uni is a privilege in and of itself!) without taking on a hefty student loan. I mean, how easy is it to quit your job to travel the world when the Bank of Mom and Dad foot the lion’s share of your tuition bill years prior? And even if you got through school without the assistance of your parents, think of how lucky you are to not have had to assist them (or your siblings) financially — this is a sad reality for many. The savings from your part-time campus job would have dwindled pretty quickly had you had to help them make their rent or pay for repairs on their car, don’t you think?
While we’re on the topic, let’s talk about the ability to save money in the first place. Even with a decently paying gig, an increase in one’s cost of living may make snapping up that $400 USD glitch fare to Milan on a whim wholly impossible.
Health is another aspect of the equation that is often ignored. It goes without saying that able-bodied people who are free of illness have the world at their feet. But what if you have reduced mobility or are afflicted by disease? Hopping on a plane to visit parts unknown is no longer so easy, is it?
I don’t want to belabour the point too excessively, but I do want to illustrate a few of the many factors that keep people from seeing the world. After all, it’s not as easy as foregoing your favourite cuppa at Starbucks or clamping your eyes shut as you repeat the mantra “Yes, I can travel too”. This “common sense” advice simply does not work when you don’t have the money or physical mobility to get the heck out of dodge; it’s even more useless when you can’t get the time off work or are unable to find a sitter for your children.
So I repeat: not everyone can travel. Despite assertions to the contrary, it’s not something everybody can achieve, even if they work really hard to make it happen; even with a will the size of Russia, there is no way. Let’s stop pretending it’s so easy and instead acknowledge how lucky some of us are to fill our passports with stamps, relatively unencumbered by the burdens of life and circumstance.
This article was originally published on Oneika the Traveller and is reposted here with permission.
The internet is filled with motivational quotes painted over stock images of sunsets and beach promenades telling you that the best thing you can do with your life is to stop what you are currently doing and travel. If you’re not travelling, what is the purpose of your existence exactly? If you can’t drop everything and make travel your priority, there must be something that you are doing wrong to prohibit yourself having those experiences, right?
I’m a Travel Blogger, I know. Is there some element of hypocrisy in my argument? I don’t think so. I want to encourage everyone out there to embrace their sense of wanderlust and to realise the options at their feet that can enable them to discover this beautiful world around us but more than that, I want them to realise just how lucky they are to witness and experience every travel moment. To watch every majestic sunset, to hike every mountain, and to cross every country off their bucket list.
Our social media and Instagram feeds may be littered with travel inspiration, but for every glamorous globetrotter, there are many more people sitting at home whose paths in life will never afford them the luxury of travelling the world.
Your Country of Birth is a Privilege
As a British Citizen, my passport is one of the strongest in the world. It enables me access to over 170 countries on this earth without any requirement for a visa. Were I African, Indian, or Arabic however, that number would be drastically reduced. For citizens of some nations. not only are visas required for travel to many countries, they are also incredibly difficult to obtain.
Most western travellers don’t realise how lucky they are to breeze through international borders unquestioned, undisturbed, and alerting no suspicion. I am a young, white western female. I never attract concerns that I could be a terrorist or that I may be a danger somehow to people around me. Though it definitely should not, our nationality can impact the way that we are perceived globally.
Your Socioeconomic Status is a Privilege
I hear many a traveller boasting about how “cheap” countries like those in Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe are to travel to and I shudder every. single. time. To you, they may be cheap, oh western, disposable income rich traveller. But to the citizens of those countries the prices there are decidedly not cheap. In fact, not only are they not cheap, to some people they are actually very expensive.
Not everyone can just quit their jobs or cut that one cup of Starbucks coffee out of their daily routine so that they can afford to travel. Across the world, the global median household income is less than $10,000 per year. Think about that.
We take for granted how lucky we are to be able-bodied, fit and healthy. This point doesn’t just relate to travel but in all aspects of our lives. We preoccupy our minds with things that don’t really matter – comparing our Instagram lives to someone else’s, worrying about what other people think of us, and always wanting more than we have. To be in good health and able to get up and go to the other side of the world is indeed a privilege and one that could always be retracted later on in the future.
You may argue with me and tell me that you worked hard to afford your travel experiences. As did I. I grew up in a working-class family in the UK. When I was younger, my parents couldn’t afford to buy us new clothes let alone take us on exotic trips, so I studied hard, graduated university and saved every penny so that I could travel the world. I even taught English in Korea, worked at call centres in Australia and worked in hostels in California for minimum wage to fund my trips. However, I also realise that there are many others who would never be presented with the same opportunities.
I hate the entitled attitude towards travelling that seems to exist in a lot of the travel blogging industry. If you can travel anywhere, you are among a privileged few. I don’t want to berate anyone, but simply to make them realise that we should never be ungrateful for the opportunities we have for travel or to take them for granted.
Errr…. sure, sure. Thanks. Except not really.
I used to feel proud and excited to tell people “I’m a travel blogger”, and quite deservedly really: I ought to be allowed to be proud of myself for everything I’ve achieved. But these days the “so what do you do?” question – so casual, so innocent – fills me with dread and clumsy awkwardness. Because I know my answer will be met by one of the usual reactions – the blank stare of confusion, often followed by something along the lines of “but what do you do for real a job?”, or the enthusiastic fascination and the string of questions (mostly about how I make money). And if we go further down either conversational rabbit hole, people usually conclude (no matter how adamantly I try to explain otherwise) that I “just go on holiday and write about it” for a living. Then they tell me how lucky I am. Which isn’t really fair.
Controversial post today I know, but it’s been building up in me for a while now and l felt like I wanted to say something. Because I constantly hear from everybody – friends, family, dates, doctors, strangers, followers posting comments on my blog – how lucky I am. And that can get a just a tiny bit annoying. Because I don’t really like how easily all my hard work and invested time and talent* can be dismissed as good fortune.
*Yes, talent, because there must be some scrap of skill knocking around in me somewhere for me to have made it this far.
First things first, I already know how lucky I am. In my thirty little years of life I have worked some of the most horrible jobs my lovely country has to offer. I’ve worked in call centres, cleaned caravans, lugged heavy boxes up multiple flights of stairs to shop stock rooms, attempted to sell double glazing via un-welcomed cold calls, sat shivering in an icy garage renting posh cars to (mostly) mean rich snobs, taken complaints calls at a UK gas company call centre, and even briefly completed a hellish stint in the kitchen of a popular cheap pub brand (rhymes with never moons). Having gone through many years of crappy jobs – not to mention seen with my own eyes some of the truly terrible working conditions that exist elsewhere in the world – I’m well aware that I have an AMAZING job today. Believe me, not a day goes by that I don’t recognise that and thank my lucky stars.
But here’s the thing. It ISN’T luck that brought me here. You would’t say that someone like Elon Musk has a bajillion dollars because he was lucky – it’s because he worked really hard and has a brain full of insane cleverness. In the same (but far less clever or well-paid) vein, I am a travel blogger today because of a series of hard work, seized opportunities, sacrifice, and more hard work. I didn’t spin a wheel on the job lottery and get given “travel blogger”. Life doesn’t work like that.
I’m a blogger because 1) I took a chance and started a blog, then 2) I worked really flipping hard on that blog for YEARS AND YEARS until it took off well enough that I was able to support myself full time. Luck had a lot less to do with it than you might think.
I spent a long time learning, working, and learning some more. I worked damn hard at my blog (still do in fact). I’d sit at my call centre job in between phone calls working on blog posts or reading articles about how to write better blog posts. I’d come home from work and write more blog posts, or edit photos, or do boring behind-the-scenes-y admin work. I often neglected the relationship I was in at the time, in favour of nurturing the very demanding, pixel-and-html baby I’d created on the internet. I invested not only my time but a whole lot of myself into this blog, I poured my heart and soul into it. And I don’t think the fact that it all paid off has much to do with luck. I think it’s skill and hard work and the fact that I tried, kept trying, and tried some more – without ever wavering or giving up. I think it’s insulting to write all of that off as good luck.
The only real luck that comes into it anywhere is perhaps the location of my birth, and who my parents were. I’m lucky I was born in England, where we get free education and fairly decent opportunities. Travelling really has opened my eyes to exactly how grateful I am to be from where I’m from. I’m also lucky that my mum was an enthusiastic writer and encouraged me to work on my own stories. But the fact that I took full advantage of all the opportunities that life threw at me, and didn’t let any of the truly horrendous setbacks it’s also thrown at me hold me back, is not because I am a lucky person. At least, I don’t think it is.
I’m where I am today thanks to a mixture of skill, hard work, self-directed training, some inspirational people, and the encouragement of my close friends and family. And that’s the same story for anyone successful I know (not just bloggers). So to say “you’re so lucky” can actually almost feel like an insult.
What’s funny is that for the longest time I just agreed. Partly because I do feel lucky – I’ve had some amazing opportunities and I recognise that. But more because, especially in England, it’s not exactly cool or even socially accepted to admit to being proud of yourself. To stand up and say “I’ve done well and I’m proud of that” is pretty hard. And I find it far harder to say, out loud to somebody’s face, that I believe I am a good writer. Deep down I believe I am one, but admitting that fact (even here, now) feels uncomfortable and embarrassing. Because it just feels like showing off, and we’re taught from a very young age not to do that. Obviously you shouldn’t just constantly brag, no one likes that – but I think it’s really strange that we’re made to feel as though we shouldn’t celebrate our wins in life. That so many of us struggle to say “I’m good at this, and I’m proud”. Why shouldn’t we shout from the rooftops when we’ve been successful? Why instead do I shrug and say something self deprecating and change the subject? Maybe it’s because our successes are all too frequently cast off as “good luck” and we simply start to believe that.
Getting an award for my blog – literal proof that I’m kinda good at this!
If you have a successful friend and you see them doing well, think twice before you tell them how lucky they are. Maybe instead, you could tell them how proud you are of them, or that you think they truly deserve it. I can guarantee that it’ll make them far happier than being told they’re lucky. Because, more than likely, they already know how lucky they are – but they might not recognise how much of their success came from them, and not good fortune.
What do you think – am I on point or just being a whiny blogger? Scroll down and leave me a little comment! I’d love to hear your thoughts!
In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us had high hopes for the summer: “Maybe by the time the kids are off for summer break, the virus will be under control and we can still go on vacation.” “Maybe the warm weather will drastically slow the spread of COVID-19.”
If only. Nearly five months into the pandemic, the virus is clearly here to stay. Summer, sadly, isn’t a magic bullet. As temperatures rise, COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations are also on the rise in several states. A vaccine is still a hypothetical. Some experts say widespread mask-wearing could slow down infection rates, but the battle over face masks in public has only intensified. It’s all very concerning, to say the least.
Still, those concerns haven’t stopped many Americans from looking for means to escape. Over the weekend, videos posted to social media showed massive crowds gathered in front of the stage at a Chainsmokers concert in the Hamptons in New York. Your timeline and Instagram story section are probably full of people posting pics and videos from their barbecues, vacations, beach days and pool parties.
The travel industry is ready and waiting, pandemic be damned. “We know you #WannaGetAway so book today to take advantage of our low fares,” Southwest Airlines tweeted earlier this month.
Walt Disney World in Florida, a coronavirus hotspot, reopened this month with strict policies in place for visitors (face masks, temperature screenings). Videos on social media show cast members making the rounds in the park, dressed up as Belle and Ariel and other Disney princesses, sans mask. Even in the Florida heat, donning a full Mickey or Mr. Incredible suit seems preferable.
If you’ve been sheltering in place, more or less, seeing people living it up this summer can be a little crazy-making. A recent tweet from journalist Louis Peitzman pointed out the incongruity of seeing people treating this summer just like any other while COVID-19 cases surge.
“If you do break social distancing, consider not posting photos of your group hang or your mask-free beach day,” Pietzman said. “Not because you’ll get dragged — though you might! — but because of the effect it has on your followers.”
It’s weird to see people partying it up, going to Florida’s Walt Disney World or New York’s Fire Island in the middle of a pandemic. But as Peitzman said in his Twitter thread, what’s weirder is forcing yourself to square those images with your own begrudged acceptance of reality. What pandemic are they living in? Because it’s certainly not everyone’s.
“My reaction to these photos is often anger, but buried under that’s a seed of doubt,” Peitzman wrote. “I spend all day reading studies and tracking the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations and deaths, and STILL, I see enough maskless pics and think, maybe I’m the crazy one. It wears you down.”
My reaction to these photos is often anger, but buried under that's a seed of doubt. I spend all day reading studies and tracking the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations and deaths, and STILL, I see enough maskless pics and think, maybe I'm the crazy one. It wears you down.
— Louis Peitzman (@LouisPeitzman) July 21, 2020
In spite of warnings from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people clearly have very different takes on what is safe to do and what’s too risky. That’s especially true of younger generations. The belief up until now has generally been that younger people were less likely to have severe consequences from exposure to the coronavirus, which has led some to behave as if they’re invincible. That’s a dangerous gambit, as the first wave of the virus begins to resurge, the average age of U.S. coronavirus patients is actually shifting lower.
It’s hard for young people to accept this, though, said Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author of “The Book of No: 365 Ways to Say It and Mean It ― and Stop People-Pleasing Forever.”
“Unlike older adults, it is patently clear that it doesn’t make scientific sense for vibrant, healthy young people to have to worry about getting it,” she told HuffPost. “But this virus is insidious and cares not how old you are, that you are ‘over it all’ and want to take a much-needed break or go about business as usual.”
Quarantine fatigue has many of us subscribing to a kind of magical thinking.
“The problem is, indulging yourself in a fun or relaxing pastime will not solve what is a rampant crisis,” Newman said. “The hours or vacation week you spend away from being more or less confined to your home may feel wonderful, but in the long run it could be foolish.”
It’s foolish for several reasons. You may have put your faith in “herd immunity” and say, “If I get it, I get it, I can’t stop living my life anymore.” But what about your family? Newman asked.
“When you take a ‘break’ that ignores social distancing and mask wearing, you risk bringing COVID-19 home to those you live with or see regularly even if you have no symptoms,” she said. “Is that worth a brief timeout?”
Plus, she noted, if you’re traveling any distance, do you really want to be sick in a far-off city, away from the comforts of home and possibly stranded for the indeterminate future?
Of course, the potential harm extends beyond your family: Let’s say you take that trip to Cabo you planned earlier this year. You and your family may have a wonderful, rejuvenating time, but what about the people who are serving you? What about the flight staff that had to come into work because you created a demand?
What about the hotel staff who may have elderly or immunocompromised family at home? What about the restaurant workers whose bosses demand they go in or lose their job? What about the hospital workers whose medical centers are stretched thin and aren’t prepared to handle another outbreak?
The truth is, we all want a vacation, but this virus requires us to take a more holistic view of our personal choices and a less individualistic one.
“U.S. culture is known for individualism,” said Melissa Wesner, a counselor and owner of LifeSpring Counseling Services in Towson, Maryland. “We think about ourselves and our personal wants, needs and goals. One of the issues that is coming up at this time is our ability to demonstrate care, concern and understanding for others.”
Countries that are more collectivist may have a leg up with combating the coronavirus since they tend to prioritize the group over the self.
“More collective communities focus on what is beneficial to others or to the community at large,” Wesner said. “This relates to something as simple as deciding to wear a face mask. Deciding not to wear a face mask, despite the recommendations shows that I’m thinking about my own wants and needs and that I’m not demonstrating care or concern for others or how my decisions will impact others.”
This isn’t about vacation-shaming. Five months into stay-at-home orders in many parts of the country, we’re all at our wits’ end. We’ve never needed a break so badly: We’re working without respite ― or if we were laid off earlier in the pandemic, we’re exhaustively looking for work. To add insult to injury, we’re seeing other countries that have had a better handle on the virus start to reopen with few hiccups. “Why can’t that be us?” we think.
“A little bit of distraction ― or perhaps some denial ― can be helpful at times, but ultimately we grow and thrive when we face those things that are difficult.”
Given all that stress, breaks and personal time need to be taken. Go on a short, safe local road trip. Go on a hike or have a socially distanced picnic with your family.
But recognize that summer 2020 may not be the best time to go big or go home with your vacation plans. Living your best life on a boat or on a tropical island or gathering three generations of your family for a week at the lake isn’t responsible.
As New York City psychologist and anxiety specialist Amelia Aldao told us, no amount of denial or extensive vacation plans will make the current situation easier to swallow.
“There are many situations in life that are so difficult, stressful or traumatic that going to a place in which we pretend problems aren’t there or things aren’t as bad can be helpful psychologically,” she said. “We need hope, we need a sense of belonging. And sometimes the facts don’t give us that.”
But denial also means we underestimate risk, which can end up creating a more dangerous situation, Aldao said. When we crave escapism, it’s really about finding a healthy balance between escape and reality.
“A little bit of distraction ― or perhaps some denial ― can be helpful at times, but ultimately, we grow and thrive when we face those things that are difficult,” Aldao said.
“In the case of COVID, understanding the risks we take and being OK with that . is a more balanced, psychologically healthy approach than pretending the risk is zero,” she explained.
Owning up to our actions is difficult but ultimately extremely empowering.
The first step to grappling with a pandemic summer is accepting that it is a pandemic summer. Normalize doing nothing (or next to nothing) and instead start envisioning your big blowout trip for when it’s safe. Take a long view of your vacation goals (and goals in general).
Remember that if you have vacation days, you should still use them. Take some time off work, even if you have nowhere to go and no plans to speak of.
“Step away from work, turn off your cellphone and computer for a few days,” Newman said. “Challenge yourself to longer walks or jogs, paint a room or finish a project you never have time for. You will be surprised how refreshing meeting a self-determined goal or sprucing up your apartment or home can be.”
Obviously, turning your bedroom or living room into your own personal sanctuary isn’t the same as being sprawled out on the sand in the sun, margarita in hand, but it will lift your spirits and keep you safe.
When the hankering to travel or to go to a friend’s place gets really bad, ask yourself what’s driving that feeling, Aldao said. What emotional need will that trip or wine night fulfill? Then ask yourself: Are there less-risky versions of that activity (for you and others) that fulfill the same need?
“For example, if you’re itching to go to a house party with friends because you miss laughing with them, can you instead grab a drink or coffee with one or two of them in an open, outdoor space while wearing a mask and practicing social distance?” she said.
In times like these, when there are so many restrictions and evolving mandates on what’s safe and not safe to do, it’s incredibly important to connect with our emotional drivers: why we’re doing what we’re doing, Aldao said.
Newman agreed. That’s a far healthier long-term approach to living with the coronavirus than simply denying it exists.
“Going out and about as if life were as it was before the pandemic is a dangerous form of denial,” she said. “We have to shift our mindset to accept that the pandemic won’t go on forever. You can resume dining out with friends or take that weekend break or vacation later. There’s going to be so many restaurant dinners and parties with friends down the road.”
A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus
Are you taking too much? Or not enough? Or just the right amount?
Everyone wants to travel light. Almost nobody actually does. We all know someone who regularly goes on two-week long haul trips carrying only a small backpack. Do you aspire to that? Or wonder how they cope? It’s more typical to see passengers hauling incredible amounts of luggage around airports as if they’re going on some kind of 18th-century expedition into the wilderness. For anyone who regularly travels light, it’s a shocking sight.
Taking things you don’t need across the world and back is absurd. It massively restricts your mobility, is a pain to shepherd around airports, and there’s a climate change kicker, every gram you take onto an airplane increases your carbon footprint and accelerates global warming.
However, it’s no good pretending that everyone can travel with just a spare pair of underwear and a credit card. How much luggage you need to take depends on where you’re going and what you plan to do.
Have you ever come back from a trip away with clothes you didn’t wear? If so, this is for you. Here are six things to ponder before deciding to travel light or travel heavy.