Updated: 2/1/2021 | February 1, 2021
It’s no secret that travel is a privilege. Privilege is defined as a special right or advantage granted or available only to a person or group. I certainly don’t fit the realm of privilege in all aspects, but my Canadian passport has me covered when it comes to travel.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to 31 countries. I want to get one thing straight – I am by no means wealthy.
I’ve actually been traveling with student loans all these years because the agony that came with sitting put wasn’t something I could stomach.
However, I have the capacity to recognize that not everyone has the same views or circumstances, and I’ve hunkered down on 5 reasons travel is, in fact, a privilege.
1. Traveling is Expensive
Well, yes and no. I traveled with debt for most of my worldly adventures, which meant you could catch me drooling outside of a 5-star hotel but not necessarily staying in one. I was on a strict travel budget, and I share my secret to traveling often along with a travel budget worksheet to those of you that need a little nudge in the flight direction.
However, it would be crude of me to downplay that in my home country of Canada, 11% live below the poverty line. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic wand we can wave to help them out of this situation.
Therein lies the privilege. Not everyone can afford to travel. Financial circumstances are a big outlier for many folks.
2. Passport Privilege
I’ve seen this in action. I have family in Sri-lanka that get denied time and time again when they have the opportunity to travel abroad (often with the hopeful opportunity to attend a wedding or family event). The application process is tedious, paid out of pocket, and even if everything is completed to the nines – you’ll get denied.
Another entity controls your travels – you could live your whole life, unable to up and leave the place you are taught to call home.
Brutal. 21st century and we still have ways to go.
There has never been an instance I was denied entry into a country. I’ve certainly been looked at and questioned with suspicion. I may have passport privilege, but I most certainly do not have skin color privilege.
3. Healthy and Non-Disabled
I’ve cycled on dirt roads, rolled around in desert sands, and trekked through rainforests. Sadly, none of it is disablity-accessible. I’ve been on cobblestone streets with no ramps to enter shops or restaurants, and I’ve stayed in 5 story hotels without elevator access.
The sheer fact that you have access to the vast lands across the globe to walk, run or hop through without giving it a second thought is a privilege.
4. Family Circumstances
When I was in Puerto Rico, I met someone that was taking care of his sick grandmother. He couldn’t leave Puerto Rico even if he had the funds to travel because of family commitments.
Over the years, I’ve realized that even if you can book a flight, there might be something else holding you back. It most certainly is a privilege to be able to pick up and leave when you please.
In fact, my Puerto Rico trip was planned a week before takeoff because I didn’t have to prioritize taking care of anyone else.
Even if you have access to travel, your inability to travel will anchor you down.
5. Career Situation
Leaving your life behind for a few days, weeks, or months at a time to enjoy chai in India, inhale tapas in Spain, or consume tacos in Mexico is a privilege.
Speaking from experience, my first job out of university was not a well paid corporate salary gig, as I had imagined for my 22-year-old self. I snapped into reality real quick as I was trying to support my financially dependent family, pay my phone bills and work 40+ hours with no sick or vacation pay.
Anytime I took off work for myself went unpaid, which meant I was frugal by all means necessary.
Mind you, my manager was a terror, and she was displeased that I was going on vacation for the first time in two years for all of 5 days. It sucked.
I was battling my first adult crisis and coming to terms with the reality of adulting when all I really wanted to do was hop on a plane and leave everything else behind.
Gratefully, I’m no longer in that position, and I’ve surpassed my twenties crisis (opened my door to thirties crisis).
However, this isn’t the case for many folks. Many people still have to accept unpaid time off, tolerate inconsiderate management and work long hours to make ends meet. This reality is so deeply rooted in privilege. I once belonged to this reality.
Whether you view travel as a privilege or not… it is your call to make. We may have differences of opinion, which I’m always welcome to hearing. I believe that we are fortunate to have this privilege, and we are guilty of taking it for granted now and again.
It’s important to find gratitude for our privileges and make an effort to understand that not everybody has access to these opportunities. It’s important to give back when possible. It’s important to look beyond yourself and into the realm of others.
Since the only traveling, I did in 2020 was local – I spent some of the money that I would have used on traveling to help others. I donated to multiple countries worldwide – first and foremost, the home I never got to know (Jaffna), Black Lives Matter initiatives and multiple relief efforts.
Believe it or not, I was once living on the poverty line, which has led me to see the reality of privilege. I’ve come a long way to the other side of things, and in doing so, I never take my privilege for granted and hope neither do you.
What are your thoughts on the privilege of travel? Let me Know in the comments below.