With the rise of Instagram, social media, and the ease of an inspirational quote maker, it’s easy to feel less than if you haven’t traveled the world. This post isn’t meant to be negative, it’s meant to provide a different perspective.
And who am I to say this? Because I’m not a bitter person who didn’t travel, it’s because I’m a person who has traveled over 25 countries, across 5 continents in 5 years. While travel is my heart and soul, I recognize that it’s not for everyone. And that’s okay. Everyone has different passions, priorities and life circumstances.
Especially as millennials, I think there’s a lot of pressure to make your life look effortless and easy and a lot of judgement that comes in every direction. I feel that travel has become synonymous with achieving some sort of status in life, like its become (like many things such as school, jobs, etc.) something we compare ourselves with to others. And it’s hard to keep up because there’s a number of myths that have tagged along with the assumption that it’s the ultimate goal to accomplish. But the reality is, most of the world cannot travel freely for a number of reasons. Here a few that I’ve seen why and some myths uncovered:
Myth: Travel is easy, you just have to save up the money.
A part from financial circumstances, which will be touched on later, there are a number of other reasons why someone may not be able to physically travel.
If you are a traveler, particularly from a first world country, than it may seem easy, because it is. But many countries do not have the same immense privilege of having a fluid borders and few visa restrictions. I have a Canadian passport, which is consistently ranked as one of the 5 strongest passports in the world. Many countries need lots of visas and to jump through immense loops with their government just to travel a few countries over.
I’m just going to go into the taboo subject of religion and race. Let’s face it, not every country has the most “understanding” policies of who they let into their country. It’s 2017, there is a lot of anomosity and fear and that deters people from traveling because it can lead to potentially dangerous situations.
This idea particularly struck me when I was couchsurfing in the Philippines. In my room, I met another girl named – Syifa (she does travel vlogs!) and asked if it was okay if she did nightly prayers in the room, if not she could find another room. I said “of course, that’s absolutely fine.” After she did her prayers, she thanked me for being so understanding. To me, it didn’t seem like any issue at all, but then we got into a discussion about traveling as a Muslim. Now this was back in 2015 so the height of Islamophia had reached the level of as it did during 2016 but it was still a time of discrimination. Syfia wears a hijab and she described how hard it was to find couchsurfers willing to host her because of it. Like I mentioned before, it’s also hard for her to apply for visas because although Indonesia does not have the strictest travel policies, it’s still a lot of work. And as a Muslim woman who travels on her own, she also gets a lot of criticism from people of her own faith. Syfia has been one of the kindest and happiest souls I’ve ever met traveling. She perserves through all the negatively and has a positive attitude because she loves travel so much. Honestly if it were me, I don’t know if I could do the same. It’s not easy for everyone.
Myth: Travel makes you a better person.
Not necessarily. I admit, I connect with a lot of travelers because of how open-minded there in comparison but it’s not a straight line equation. There are many people who’ve been to a lot of places but really learn nothing but how to stay in luxury hotels thousands of miles away and take selfies in front of landmarks.
I’ve met incredibly down to earth, kind, open-minded people who have never really left the boundaries of their hometown or province. And I’ve met some really stuck-up, entitled people who have traveled to more countries than one can track. It’s not always one or the other, but that’s the point. Having an open-mind, respect, tolerance, kindness can be taught through travel, but that’s not the only way.
Myth: Anyone can travel, you just have to prioritize it.
Okay wtf no.
Yes, I did, but I never, for one second, don’t realize it’s come from extreme privilege, and I’m not just talking financially.
I paid off my student debt before I graduated because I had a lot of scholarships and bursaries and was working a part-time job. I will be talking more abut that at a later time , but there’s more.
I know travel gives some people anxiety. And whether you see it or not, travel may not be for a person because of a disability.
Unless you actually know that this person is just frivolously spending money on things and you think it would be better used for travel because they will truly enjoy the experience, then don’t pretend you know everything about them.
You never know what someone is going through their personal life. They may be paying off debt, recovering from an abusive relationship, taking care of a sick parent/relative/child at home, sick themselves, the list goes on and on. We all carry very dark secrets, and its even more difficult when people make the assumption that your life is “normal” and so traveling should be “easy.”
Myth: You can only do it when you’re “young.”
I will admit, it is easier when you are younger because you probably have less responsibility, more free time, more disposable income, etc. But just because you didn’t travel when you were 21, does not mean it’s “too late.” It is beneficial when you’re young because the lessons you learn will stick with you for the rest of your life, but your life is not over at 30, 40, 50, or 60+. You’re never too old to have a new dream or go travel a different place. The only caveat is responsibility, like children. However I’ve met really nice 50+ aged travelers who still did the local AirBnB/HelpX/hostel life while they were in retirement and their kids had grown and moved to different cities for school and work. This goes back to the concept of personal choice and challenge. Of course they had more than enough resources to book a nice hotel, but having an open mind isn’t something you can only experience when you’re young.
Why This Is Important To Talk About
This is not meant to be preachy, but I hope it brings to light to travelers the other perspectives that a lot of people forget about. It’s a topic I struggled with writing about because it’s something I’ve always wanted to say, but didn’t want to sound like a hypocrite. I wanted to write about this because having met some of the coolest people abroad (truly the best) I’ve also met people who are kind of “travel snobs” and look down upon people who live the 9-5 life. But if it makes you happy and you’re not hurting anyone what does it matter? The way I see it, if you’re checking off countries just to say you’ve been there, than that’s not different that checking off items on the white picket fence life just because that’s what you think society is telling you to do.
When it comes down to it, even if you haven’t been to every country in the world at 25, as long as you’re constantly challenging yourself, leaving your comfort zone (whatever that means to you!) and are happy, then it is enough. At the end of the day, that’s what everyone is chasing. Travel is a form of education, but it’s not the only path.
I have no doubt travel is the best part of my life. But if having kids is yours, great! If your dreams are to study your butt off and to solve all the world’s problems, than more power to you. I’m a firm believer that the only thing that makes you a better person than another is not the amount of places you’ve been, it’s the way you treat other people and things.
Do you agree or disagree? I love to hear your thoughts below!