I was 19 years old when I first left home after saving for only 4 months, booking a round the world ticket and quitting my job. Over that first year I went to very developed countries like New Zealand, Australia and America. When someone tried to tell me that travelling was a privilege I would get mad about it.
Why is it a privilege that I worked 3 jobs, lived at home and bailed on nights out to save every penny? I earned that money, I worked hard and saved harder, I deserved that first round the world trip and I didn’t have my parents pay for it all, that’s all privilege is, right? Having someone else pay for you?
It wasn’t until I spent two months in Bangladesh that I had my first experience of a developing country and I started to realise that, for some people, there’s so much more to travel than just ‘quitting your job and leaving’. I had it easy, with my supportive parents and the ease of walking into any hospo job I wanted. I realised how privilege can show in many forms, and how it affects people in different ways.
Think about where you were born. I don’t think it’s a privilege that your mother gave birth to you in a certain country, it’s something you had no control over, but your home country can change your options drastically. If you’re from places like the UK or the US then it’s easy to get a passport and very rare that your visa will be denied for any country, if you even need one in the first place.
Now if you’re from other country you might not even be able to get a passport, let alone visa free entry. An online friend of mine has been denied her UK visa multiple times purely for the fact that she comes from Bangladesh. So if you have a powerful passport and you can afford to get it, then that’s a privilege many do not have.
Think about your last job. Did it pay well? Were you able to pay your rent, buy food and still have a little left over for something nice? Did you save anything each month? If someone asked me these questions the answer to all of them would be ‘yes, of course’. I’ve always had more than one job at a time that pays above minimum wage and has enabled me to save hundreds of pounds or dollars a month.
What about the folk living in other countries, people who earn in a month what you earn in a week? Do you think they can answer yes to all of those questions? Of course some of them could… but I bet many can’t. And if they saved the same amount as you, their currency might not go as far thanks to the exchange rates from one country to the next. So if your job allows you to save enough to jet off for the weekend, then that’s a privilege many don’t have either.
Think about your home life. If you’re anything like me you don’t have a care in the world. You’re pretty healthy, you have skills that allow you to work anywhere in the world, no one relying on you, a family that supports you and parents who will help you out in a crisis. Do you realise how privileged you are to have all of that?
That’s not the case with a lot of people. For some there are serious health complications, they might have a family to take care of, or maybe they can only just make ends meet. Any one of these reasons can change your life and affect the way you travel. If you’re as lucky as me, or you can still travel without letting these things hold you back, then that’s also a privilege many don’t have.
So the next time someone tells you that travel isn’t about privilege, think about these things. It’s not just luck and hard work. It’s all of these factors, and many more, that help you leave home and travel the world. The next time you hear someone say “just quit your job and go” (and I’m as guilty as anyone for saying this so often) then remind them that if they’re in a position to do that, then that is a privilege.
Do you have any thoughts on privilege while travelling? Maybe you agree with me, or think I’m full of it. Either way, let me know in the comments below!