Dear Travel Bloggers: Check Your Privilege

Dear travel bloggers,

I hear you loud and clear when you say, “there is no excuse to not travel.” And you know what? I have always related to that statement because for me, there is no reason.

I work a lot of survival jobs and some of them (not all) are shitty, thankless ones. I have zero savings because I spend every damn penny on traveling. I have done extensive research on traveling hacking, and with time have become really fucking good at finding sweet deals on flights. I stay in hostels. For months leading up to a trip, I go sober and cook hella rice and beans just so I can spend more money doing things when I’m abroad.

And all of that is worth it to me, because I love traveling. I love adventure. I love meeting new people. I love learning. I’m addicted to fear and adrenaline and the unknown. Moreover, I know that traveling, when planned smartly, can be very inexpensive, easily less than what I spend on day-to-day living at home in New York. (I'm not shitting you, pine nuts are $21 here. How's a bitch supposed to make pesto in this city?)

As well, my parents have prioritized travel my whole life. My mom and dad are both educators and recognize the value of seeing the world, of collecting experiences. My mother didn’t get married until she was 35 (a bit mature back in the 70’s) because she was like YOLO BYE BITCH and off traveling the world/taking janky ass Greyhounds around America and sleeping in all night movie theatres because fuck hotels. After she got married and had kids, we traveled as a family. My parents, even on teacher salaries, made a lot of sacrifices so that each of their children could visit another country at least once before graduating high school. As well, when I first suggested to my parents that I was keen on backpacking Africa right out of college, the first words out of both of their mouths was “Do it.” So I was born into a family of travelers.

But I should also mention that I’m a middle class cis white American. And although I regularly have anxiety attacks over bills and health insurance (screw you, Affinity) because I’m also a freelance artist trying to survive in a God-awful expensive city, I know that I still have the emotional and financial support of my family, if I ever need it. What does the being white part have to do with anything? I don’t want to start whitesplaining anything so I will simply say this: being white has inherently granted me opportunities and social advantages, many of which I am not even fully aware.

So yes, I would consider myself privileged. And I think a lot of travel bloggers who write about “no excuses” are also privileged.

Look, I still believe wholeheartedly that if someone REALLY wants to travel, it is possible to find a way - there are plenty of inspiring stories online about these people - but for many others, traveling is just not feasible.

We, as serial travelers, say, “money isn’t an excuse,” and I know where you’re coming from! There are so many ways to find great deals on flights and use points and miles and stay for free on Couchsurfing! But you know what else? It isn’t our place to push that information when people say they can’t afford to travel. So who are we to guilt someone? How can you say that “money isn't an excuse” when so many people are beginning their adult lives in a deficit? Our generation is doing its best to stay afloat right now. People who are financially independent are slaving away to pay off ASTOUNDING student loan debt and maybe even put something into savings. Why should we shit on someone for being responsible? Our national health care system is a wreck and it’s smart as hell to have something stored away for if/when an emergency arises. Weddings are expensive, DIVORCES are expensive, kids are expensive, homes are expensive. If someone's priorities are elsewhere, that is okay.

One of the worst aspects of the travel blogging culture (besides the know-it-alls and 19-year-olds plaguing Instagram with flower crowns and peace signs at Auschwitz, come the fuck on) is the belittling of people who have not yet travelled. And the thing is- almost all the well-known travel bloggers who have written such essays are middle class cis white people. Privileged people.

So, let’s quell the indignant blog posts shaming people who are genuinely struggling right now. Let's stop writing about how lazy and scared these people are. Instead, let’s check our privilege. Let’s be grateful for where we came from and respect the fact that other people have different priorities and are on their own unique journey. Let’s continue to offer our experiences and travel tips when solicited, but please, let’s stop making those who are just trying to put food on the table feel bad. We are all just trying to do our best.