Travel is a Privilege


A traveler walking down a beach in the beautiful BVIs
Updated: 1/16/2020 | January 16, 2020

Let’s face it: not everyone is going to able to travel. Whether it’s money, family obligations, or circumstance, travel is out of reach for a large percentage of the world’s population.

In the “quit your job to travel the world” cheerleading that happens so often on travel websites (including this one), we often forget that it’s not so easy for everyone.

Yes, years on the road have shown me that, for many of us, our inability to travel is partly a mindset issue (since we believe travel is expensive, we don’t look for ways to make it cheaper) and partly a spending issue (we spend money on things we don’t need).

Our culture says travel is expensive and — without a frame of reference to know that that is wrong — people just assume it’s right. And yes, people that have decent-paying jobs but go shopping often or spend a lot on avocado toast (or whatever it is they spend money on) are more often than not prioritizing travel.

But there are those for whom no mindset change, spending cuts, or budget tips will help them travel — those who are too sick, have parents or children to care for, face great debt, or work three jobs just to pay their rent.

After all, 2.8 billion people — nearly 40% of the world’s population — survive on less than $2 USD a day!

In my home country of the United States, 14% of the population is below the poverty line, 46 million people are on food stamps, many have to work two jobs to get by, and we have a trillion dollars in student debt dragging people down.

No tips on any website will magically make travel a reality for those people.

Those of us who do travel are a privileged few.

Whether we quit our jobs to travel the world, spend two months in Europe, or take our kids on a short vacation to Disney World, we get to experience something most people in the world will never get a chance to do.

We overlook that fact too often. We overlook how lucky we are. As I’ve started building FLYTE — a foundation to help high schools take economically disadvantaged students on educational trips overseas — I’ve thought a lot about privilege.

I grew up in a predominately white, middle-class town with parents who paid my college tuition. I had a job after college that allowed me to live on my own, take vacations, and still save for my first trip around the world. And because I speak English, I easily found work teaching English in Thailand, where I could save to extend my travels.

That’s not to say that hard work doesn’t count. But hard work doesn’t exist in a bubble, and the circumstances that create the opportunities for hard work to bear fruit are often more important.

I’ve met people of all ages, incomes, abilities, and nationalities on the road. Folks like Don and Alison, who are backpacking the world at 70; Michael, who worked 60-hour weeks at a minimum-wage job; Cory, who travels the world in a wheelchair; Ishwinder, who didn’t let visa restrictions stop him; and countless others.

But even they had circumstances that allowed them to travel: support from family and friends, jobs that allowed for overtime, or other skills. They weren’t barely getting by or on social assistance. They didn’t wonder if they could afford their next meal.

I worked hard to get where I am. I’m sure you’ve worked hard too. One’s work isn’t less because of opportunity. But I think it’s important to remember that the circumstances around you make it easier for your work to bear fruit than for others. It’s easier to succeed when you don’t have to worry about housing or your next meal. It’s easier to succeed if you’re educated or can get a full night’s sleep in a safe community.

We are some of the lucky ones.

We get to do something that others will never be able to do.

We are privileged.

Even if you’ve hitchhiked around the world with no money, worked overseas, cut costs to travel around the world on $10 USD a day, or travel-hacked your way to a first-class ticket, you have the opportunity to do something most people go to sleep only dreaming about. You have the freedom and choice to move about the world in a way most people don’t.

That’s a form of privilege.

As we go into this new year, I think it’s important that we never forget or be ungrateful for the opportunity we have. Let’s not take it for granted. Let’s be humble. Let’s be more respectful. Let’s give back.

And let’s not squander the opportunity.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld, as it has the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels. I use both all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money – and they will save you time and money too!

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