With the rise of Instagram, social media, and the ease of an inspirational quote maker, it is easy to feel less than if you haven’t traveled the world.
That somehow you’re failing as a millennial because you can’t live up to all those “wanderlust” posts. And who am I to say this? It’s not because I’m bitter I didn’t travel; it’s because I traveled (to over 30 countries, across 5 continents in 5 years).
While I’ve had my own reasons for traveling and don’t regret a second of it, travel is not always easy, luxurious, and does not necessarily make you a better person (as much as Instagram tries to tell you).
I’ve always felt compelled to travel to find parts of myself, experience a challenge, etc. I recognize that it’s 100% not for everyone. And that’s okay. Everyone has different passions, priorities, and life circumstances.
This post isn’t meant to be negative, it’s meant to provide a different perspective.
Full Disclosure: My perspective is also influenced by the fact that I tried to start a travel blog once – until I realized how much I hated telling people what to do or spend money on something that’s not for them. I traveled because I needed to find a part of myself (backpacking through Asia because I am a first generation Canadian) or challenge myself (volunteering in East Africa to explore the policies of grassroots activism having worked in higher level policy for so long).
Especially as millennials, there’s a lot of pressure to make your life look effortless and easy and a lot of judgement that comes in every direction. Travel has become synonymous with achieving some sort of status in life, it’s 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 are 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 are few myths why not “everyone” can travel the world:
Myth 1: Travel is easy; you just have to save up the money.
I personally saved over 50K over 5 years for my solo-travels.
Not everyone can afford travel. Not everyone has that privilege in life because it’s not just the cost of the travels. I paid for 100% of my travels. However, I was living at home at the time and while that didn’t cost me anything, I was lucky enough to have a wonderful family who I could live with, mostly rent-free, with free home-cooked food. I could afford to save most of my paycheque. I was really fortunate.
Most people live paycheque to paycheque. The part that is most frustrating to me about people who talk about saving thousands and thousands to save for travel is the lack of transparency when it comes to personal living situations. If you have time and resources to save a lot of travel, that’s great! But be honest that having back-up funds or resources which include a partner.
Most fortunately in life, I have a back-up plan, a forever emergency plan and that’s my parents. While I saved all my travel money on my own, I knew at any given time, I could call them.
Are my parents super wealthy? Absolutely not. But they are loving and they would never turn me out. Even if I ended up in a desperate situation on the other side of the world, I would have a place to go. Being able to take risks on spend large amounts of money on travel because I know I could come home is a privilege. Living on my own, I now have my own emergency fund and it’s far more difficult to save for travel when at any given time, anything could happen and I am 100% responsible for it.
Not everyone has those privileges or lives under fortunate circumstances. Speaking of circumstances….
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 it’s even more difficult when people make the assumption that your life is “normal” and so traveling should be “easy.”
Myth 2: 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, and kindness can be taught through travel, but that’s not the only way.
Myth 3: Anyone can travel; you just have to prioritize it.
Okay wtf no.
A part from financial and personal responsibilities that were addressed in Myth 1, here are just some other reasons a person may not be able to travel:
I know travel gives some people anxiety. A disability could range from a physical one (a lot of places are not wheel-chair friendly and people may be suffering from And whether you see it or not, travel may not be for a person because of a disability.
If you are a traveler, particularly from a first world country, than it may seem easy, because it is. Many countries do not have the same immense privilege of having 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 animosity 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 hadn’t 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 perseveres 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 4: You can only do it when you’re “young.”
While it is easier when you are younger because you probably have less responsibility, more free time, more disposable income, better health 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!