Is traveling the world a privilege of few?

There is a lot of discussion among travel bloggers and aficionados about the privilege that is being able to travel slow, or even more extremely, travel for a living. The point is extremely valid, to some extent:

YES. You save much faster when you work in a country where the currency is strong. I read only 2 days ago “this guy saved $1.6k working a $9/hour dead-end job”. Well, lucky he’s American an can get dead-end jobs for nine DOLLARS per hour. It’s easier working very hard from Mon-Mon for £8.5/h whilst living with your parents than earning (with the same amount of hard work), in a different country, the equivalent of £1.5/hour and needing to pay your rent. Not to mention the severe lack of access that many people in the world (for instance, the cute daughter of a street food stall owner in SE Asia or Latin America) have, not only to traveling, but to a life with any of the middle class structure and comfort. From this common ground of privilege, being able to lead a traveling lifestyle is no different or any more special than being privileged for having access to expensive universities, or even to school, or to clean water, 2-3 hot meals a day, having parents who own a house, to live in safety and democracy, to have freedom, human rights, etc. And what about the privilege of choosing the husband you want, because you don’t live in a society where you father is the one who chooses who you’re getting married to?

So here is where the “privilege” point reaches its end line: The great majority of people who say “I wish so much I could travel, but I can’t” (including clients who come to me with this dream) is exactly the audience who could totally do it, if only they had a mindset and values aligned with a travel lifestyle, and who deep inside just fancy the idea, but don’t really have it as a concrete priority. These are the most common statements:

“Travelers are just so privileged and lucky, I can’t travel as I have a mortgage”.

I met a girl who always talked about her wish to travel the world, but had signed up for a mortgage because she wanted to prove to her mum that “she had made one adult decision in her life”. Where she got this idea from is unknown (certainly not from her mother), but certainly, for whatever reason, owning a house was her priority. Regardless of what your motivation to buy a house may be, you have an undeniable element of choice. Owning a house was your priority. And a very standard definition of success. Most travelers don’t have a house, be it because they sold it to fund their travels (which you can do as well), or because they never bought it in the first place, as they chose a nomadic life. In any case, the privilege point doesn’t apply here.

“Travelers are just so privileged and lucky, I can’t travel as I have kids”

Go to any online community for travelers with this statement, and be flooded with disagreeing comments from mums (and dads) who happily travel with their babies, or young children (the fact that maybe a 4 month old may be crying during a whole 10 hour flight and disturbing people who chose not to be parents is a completely different discussion…). Again, having children and deciding on the environment where they’ll be raised is also a life choice, and a priority.

“Travelers are just so privileged and lucky, I can’t travel as I have a 9-6 job”.

There are several degrees of need here. But the lower degree falls into the lack of skills/qualifications/education category, again more to do with the “privilege of being middle class” than with “the privilege of travelling”. On the opposite side of the line are the people who chose a career ladder job type (and life), and who need to please their boss and their boss’ boss to be promoted and climb this ladder towards the success they envisioned for themselves. A whole life project in itself. Some of these people are focused on this ascension and enjoy their careers. Others stay out of the sense of security and the money these jobs offer.

The great majority of people who complain about the lack of freedom in their jobs (note: they are actively complaining, they are not being told by any obnoxious traveler that they MUST travel as the only way of being wiser and more enlightened human beings) are exactly those who do it and finish the sentence with “I got too used to the comforts my high-paying wage gives me”. They are the people who “wish so much they could travel” but simply can’t do without living in a fancy loft, a new iPhone, iPad, iPod, several TV and music streaming subscriptions, “treating themselves” to a nice lunches in fancy places, going out and splurging on fancy cocktails in fancy clubs, having a professional manicure and/or visit to the hair salon every week, and so on, and wonder where do travelers get the savings to go away.

The great majority of people who complain they can’t travel because of their jobs are the exact people who would cringe when you don’t do any of these things and stop calling you to hang out, like you shouldn’t belong in their social circle. So, to these people who keep whining about “really wishing they could travel” but judge you when you say you won’t be sharing that cab because you’re going home by bus, the “change your mindset” point is totally valid.

Stop for a minute and self-assess, paying attention if you’re not using the point made by Team Travel Is a Privilege to validate excuses you find yourself to not really do anything about your dream of travelling.

A very common misconception also, that comes from those who think that travel is a special privilege, is to just assume that full-time travelers must be blessed, filthy rich, or funded by their parents.

This group holds the most dangerous judgmental limiting beliefs. Maybe some travelers are indeed just wealthy (as there are wealthy people who choose not to travel), but most digital nomads are everything-but. Especially the ones who actually make it (think of the couple who quit fancy advertising jobs to travel the world and went broke). They work hard on the road to edit videos, write articles, code, translate, proofread, coach clients, optimize SEO, assess consultancy projects, run startups, or whatever it is that they do for a living, just not in an office, or for a boss (some do have bosses too). It’s not all sipping Bellinis by the sunset.

Breaking down the path to successfully support a long-term travel coming from a non-wealthy (or non-specially-privileged) background may involve:

– Having any skill/qualification that would allow you to do any of the things above (maybe the first step before saving to travel would be saving to do course. And then study)

– Having an idea for a business.

– Learning about all the admin it involves.

– Getting some paying clients.

– Organizing yourself to coordinate exploring time with working time, on the road.

It may seem like too hard work and time you don’t have, but there aren’t any shortcuts to anywhere that is worth going. “Wishing” is very different from “Working towards it”, as hard and time-consuming as anything can be.

There are also programs which facilitate the traveling through working abroad experience, such as, WOOF and others. Also, having a privileged background or not, some travelers drop everything to go volunteer or to teach in poorer countries.

Essentially, travelers are not specially privileged any more than people who can go clubbing and shopping every weekend, and what Team Mindset keeps demonstrating is that it actually costs less.

* And attention: “traveling” doesn’t necessarily need to mean “staying at the best hotels, eating at the best restaurants, clubbing at the best clubs, shopping at world-renowned malls, etc.”

If the goal is “traveling”, and not “going to the finest resorts” and living the beautiful life for months”, the possibilities are numerous.

I acknowledge I’m privileged in comparison to many people, just for being born in a middle-class environment. Just like I feel privileged to be able to eating every day where there are children starving in Africa. And I feel extremely grateful. From this ground, “travelling” is a choice like any other, and could be achieved, yes, with the right mindset and focus.

Some of the posts on this blog will talk about **setting goals** to achieve your dream of traveling.

PS: The featured image is a beautiful summer sky in Greenwich, the area in London I fell in love for, and that has been my home for 6 months until hitting the road. One the first steps for me was seeing your own home city from a traveler’s perspective and with a traveler’s mindset (more on that in coming posts).  It was taken by me on June 28th 2015, at 9:41 pm!



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