Originally published on Oneika the Traveller and republished here with the author’s permission.
By now, you probably know that I detest travel snobbery with every fibre of my being. However, I wanted to discuss something else that raises my ire: 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. Blech.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What the heck is she going on about? Doesn’t she run a travel blog?”
And ’tis true: as a travel writer and junkie, 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?
Basta. I don’t want to belabor 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 favorite 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.
Oneika Raymond is a high school teacher, polyglot, and travel junkie who has traveled to over 80 countries on 6 continents. Originally from Canada, she is a serial expat who has lived in France, Mexico, Hong Kong, the US, and the UK. She currently calls New York City home. An adventurer who is always in the midst of planning her next trip, Oneika has, amongst other things, trekked in Nepal, sailed in Croatia, and gone on safari in Tanzania. Her travel writing has been featured in number of online publications, including National Geographic Traveler and Conde Nast Traveler. Follow Oneika’s travels around the world at www.oneikathetraveller.com, as well as on Instagram and Twitter.