There’s things about traveling that I both love and find troubling. Lately, the “NO EXCUSES!” trend has been troubling me more than inspiring me. You know what I’m talking about. The posts that tell people that there are absolutely no excuses at all to not travel. Anyone in any circumstance can find a way to travel if they simply get off their butts and work!
Now don’t get me wrong, I love these posts for inspiring me, and countless other people, to dare to dream about a life we had thought impossible. Whenever my family tells me that I can’t travel indefinitely without being a trust-fund child I direct them to these posts and spread the “you can do it!” attitude.
I also think, however, that there is an underlying problem with this type of “No Excuses” mentality, which is that it focuses on a specific population for whom traveling is actually a possibility. Yes, there are lots of people who come up with excuses and who don’t allow themselves to break the boundaries of the possibilities, but there are also people who just cannot give themselves the luxury of traveling. If you are a single mother working two jobs and barely making ends meet, what are the probabilities that you will have time and money to take a trip to anywhere? Yes, there are people who travel without money, I’ve been able to travel even though I have no money by working, earning scholarships, finding jobs abroad, etc, but the fact that I can save money to travel and that I have an education and a skill set that has helped me get scholarships and jobs is a privilege in itself.
Another thing I find troubling about this trend is that it’s a bit ethnocentric. Everyone claims how traveling around South America and South East Asia is SO cheap! Which is true…if you live in a country with a stronger currency. What about people in South America and SE Asia? Is traveling around their own continents just as cheap? Not to mention the fact that as citizens of the US and Europe we don’t have to worry about visas as much. The grand total I have ever paid for visas is $76 for a student visa to France. I never understood what a priviledge this is until I was helping my best friend plan her family trip to Europe. The visa fees were exhorbitant! They spent around $700 getting both the UK and the Schengen visas for the family…and keep in mind $700 is a LOT of money in Colombia. Then consider having to spend in Euros and Pounds, which are almost four times the value of the Colombian Peso, and you can see how, in some countries, traveling can be limited to the very privileged. I mean, this is a family that lives a few blocks away from President Santos (not the presidential house, his actual house), and they struggled to afford it! What chances does a fruit vendor or a window washer in Colombia have of making their travel dreams come true?
It’s not that it’s impossible. I know people in Colombia who have packed their bags and traveled the continent with just $500.000 COP (~$250 USD) to start out. But these are people who have just graduated from university and have time and no financial or family responsibilities, which means they can live on a budget and take it as it goes.
I’m not saying we should stop pushing people to follow their dreams, or recognize that people break their backs to make these dreams come true. I myself feel very proud for having worked my butt off to be able to travel, and I know many other people who have done it as well. I am saying that we also need to recognize that there are certain circumstances in life that have allowed us to travel, and that people who can’t do that aren’t necessarily making “excuses.” Sometimes life gets in the way. We need a balance between being proud of our hard work and being thankful that we’re privileged enough to see the fruit of that hard work go into our dreams. I think Amile handled this balance perfectly when she said “While I feel incredibly privileged to be able to make this choice (sometimes more than others), I think I’ve earned my stripes as well.”
So let’s keep encouraging people, let’s keep making success stories that feed dreams, let’s keep kicking ass and working hard, but let’s also keep in mind we’re extremely lucky to be able to travel.