Recognising Travel Privilege

I love blogging, I love travelling – so the fact that travel blogging exists makes my heart incredibly happy. I’m able to read about adventures from all of the metaphorical corners of the globe, whilst sitting in my blanket with a cup of English Breakfast Tea. I’m able to discover people’s stories and learn about the lives of others they meet. I’m able to see the luxurious and the basic, the extravagant and the minimalist. What I don’t like however, is the notion that you have to quit your job to travel the world, that I keep seeing.

This phrase is, pardon my fake French, such bullshit.

Yet it’s a phrase that I see repeatedly, on blogs, on social media and in tabloids. It’s the aspirational story of those who pack in the 9-5 in order to live a life of nomadic freedom. But it’s also a phrase which is presumptuous and developed by a thought process that is afforded to the affluent.

I’m not discrediting anybody who quits their job to travel the world; you do you, them do them. Heck I’d be straight out there doing the same if that’s what I wanted (it’s not). Travelling the world without a return date sounds incredible. No bosses, no deadlines, no 6am wake up calls – unless it’s to wake up and watch the sun set over a new landscape. We all know that travel is world-altering. We’ve either experienced it for ourselves, or we’ve been told. But this isn’t about that.

This is about the notion that quitting your job to travel the word is a right of passage. Something that must be done or you haven’t lived. I mean, if you don’t defer for a year, visit a remote tribe and see 15 countries in one trip, did you even travel in your twenties?

That sentence makes me come across as bitter, but I’m not. I could listen to stories of people’s adventures for the rest of my life. The way people’s eyes light up when they relive the best and worst of their experiences, hits me straight in the feels. I thrive off of other people’s energy and so when you see somebody reliving the joy and laughter from a trip – it helps recharge my soul. This is not about that. This is about opportunity and unappreciated privilege.

Not sure what I mean?
Let’s flip reverse the amazing opportunity that is travel, shall we.

The remote tribe that so many brag about visiting. How easy is it for them to travel?
How easy would it be for the people, who often live hand to mouth, to afford transport to the city?
How easy would it be to obtain a passport and the funds for a plane ticket?
Where would that passport enable them to go?

Because passports are not created equal.

I was born into a country where my passport enables me to travel to pretty much any country in the world. It was sheer luck. Something I had no control over. I didn’t ask for it and yet here I am.
My very first onset of privilege.

I hate being analysed on looks because I think we should be judged on who we are as people and not what we look like. But that’s my idealistic viewpoint. Let’s be realistic about how this world actually operates. I am a straight, white, thin, able-bodied, blonde woman whose face is the current eras definition of ‘alright to look at’.

Privilege: Round Two.

I do not have the same opportunities as everyone else in this world.
I have more.

Yes; I still work hard, and hustle, and struggle (my word have there been some struggles). Life isn’t easy no matter who you are. But the opportunities I have available to me are completely different to others. Because the opportunities I am presented with are often more generous.

I’ve noticed that privilege is a subject that many shy away from – and I understand why. It becomes competitive. Being told you’re privileged when you’re struggling can feel like a direct kick to the tit. People feel as though you are discrediting their struggle, or simplifying their accomplishments when that’s so far from the truth. People create their own stories. But so many are unable to because of unconscious biases which lean in favour of the privileged.

Here’s a real life example:

When I lived in Bangkok I applied for a teaching job. I didn’t want to be a teacher, I was doing it because it’s one of the few jobs I was allowed to do in the country and I needed a way to earn money. I found a language school which was hiring and during the interview process I discovered that I made it to the shortlist and it was between myself, and another woman.

Candidate One was a qualified teacher whom had been teaching for years.
She had experience, qualifications and an impressive CV.

Candidate two was me.
A British person who’s only experience of using the English language – was speaking it.

Guess who got offered the job?

It was me. Not because I was right for the job. Not because I was skilled, and most definitely not because I had experience (I had none). It was offered to me because I was white and she was Indian. That’s not speculation by the way. It’s fact. The teaching assistant literally told me that “She really good but the parents won’t like her, too dark. But they like you, soooo cuuuuute.”

I walked away from that offer. I was jobless and had £80 in my bank at that point and no idea of when I’d find employment, but I knew I couldn’t work there. I may not be able to control all elements of my life, but that was something that I could.

You see, not everyone has the same opportunities. Not everyone can save for a few months, hop on a plane and land themselves a job teaching in another country. Some people face set backs and discrimination before they even reach the starting gate. But that doesn’t mean that you should feel guilty or enjoy your own journey any less. If you are able to travel, then do so. Just make sure you appreciate how fortunate you are to be able to do so.

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