We Travel Because We Are Privileged

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We travel because we can. We are lucky. We are privileged.

Whether you’re a long-term backpacker or a once a year holiday-maker, freely travelling to another land is a luxury.

Many of us were born in the ‘right’ country, with a useful passport, no persecuted religion to identify with, no war. Total freedom to roam.

We won the global postcode lottery, doing nothing to earn the privilege of landing on earth in a useful place. Our paths are mapped depending on the geographical location our baby bodies land.

This article isn’t designed to guilt-trip but to provoke some thought. Accept that if you travel you are privileged, embrace it and be grateful for it. Use your life advantage to explore, become more open-minded and culturally tolerant.

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My Journey

Anyone who’s delved into the comments under online travel articles will have seen the author being called privileged. When it happened to me, I wanted to defend myself. Having worked hard for this life, naturally I compared myself to my peers. I’ve chosen a different path and made sacrifices for travel.

But the reality is that the commenters are right. No matter how hard you work to fund your travels, the ability to do so is very much a privilege.

I’m speaking as a white British female, who has had access to an education, which led to a career and therefore an income which funds travel. At first I didn’t identify with the term privilege as of course it’s a spectrum and there are always sectors of society that have more. But eventually the penny dropped.

Putting on a backpack and exploring the world was a revelation. Just by being a native English speaker, I realised I am privileged. The travelling community communicates in English, despite their native tongue. Locals throughout the world strive to learn and improve the language I was lucky enough to be born into.

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Diversity in Travel

Let’s be real, travel is a white-wash. I’m speaking as a hostel-dwelling backpacker and throughout my years of travel, I’ve experienced very little diversity in the travelling community.

Walking into any London travel event, you’ll leave the multi-cultural streets for rooms filled with eager white faces. The adventurous travellers are applauded and we listen to their stories in awe. But the uncomfortable truth is travel isn’t so easy for everyone. Race and religion are barriers for many to care-free comfortable travel.

Having travelled with a few backpackers from other races, I’ve been privy to their challenges of stereotype. The measures they feel like they have to take to overcome these misconceptions. Travelling through parts of Africa and China I’ve dipped my toe into experiencing life as a minority. It’s something everyone should do to gain a little understanding what it’s like to be seen as ‘different’.

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Embrace your privilege

Travel to be curious, search for the reality. This sometimes involves travelling to countries that you don’t share the same values or views as. At times it means exploring lands where you fiercely oppose what is happening there. Why? Because how can you understand anything, and have a valid opinion if you don’t experience a situation.

Meet the people, see how they live, listen and learn. We live in an era where media biases are morphing into fake news. We travel to experience reality.

Travelling is an invitation to learn about religion. It’s often so open, with ceremonies in the street, shrines by the roadside and spirit offerings on the pavement. Observe, listen and ask questions.

You may not agree with individual’s values. Equality (I believe) is a fundamental human right. But, within each religion there are many interpretations. So writing off an entire religion through the actions of a minority is unjust. Travel is a great education.

Travel because the world is changing. Climate change is not an ‘alternative fact’. Our planet is a beautiful place and we should explore every corner of it, appreciate it and value it. We live better when we are harmonious with nature. Denying our impact on the world is blinkered and when you see the impact of deforestation and oceans filled with garbage it changes you.

So yes, if you travel you are privileged. Enjoy it and embrace it. If everyone like you travelled with an open-mind this world would be a better place.

<p><a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.instagram.com/johannaw/" target="_blank">Johanna Whitaker</a></p>

Johanna Whitaker