Travel is a Privilege: Don't be That Guy

When I started looking into study abroad as a freshman in college, I met a travel evangelist whose name I no longer remember. Let’s call him That Guy. That Guy told me all about these incredible class trips that he got to do in high school, not to mention European adventures with his parents.

His stories had me star-struck. I told him how hopeful I was to do the same, but that I still had to apply for my passport. I’d never left the country before, only been on a plane once.

He was dumbfounded.

What? You’ve never been outside of The United States? Oh but you have to, you have to expand your horizons! Get out of your own little bubble a little bit! I mean, really, it’s so important.”

I wanted to slap him. Did That Guy think that I was walking around with an umbrella while the heavens rained plane tickets?

I didn’t need him to lecture me into travel. I needed the resources to do so. Thankfully, I found those resources, and now I get to live in France. There’s a blog and some travel pieces to prove it.

What’s scaring me is that by writing these pieces, I might have become a travel evangelist myself. Y’all, for the love of Skyscanner, do not let me turn into That Guy.

Meet Julia

Hello friends, it is I, Julia Hamilton. Grandma Julia in some circles, Jules to a few, Babe to one, and JNancyHamilton to a whopping 251 – as of yesterday. If I’m going to say anything about privilege, it’s important that you know where I’m coming from.

I’m a pasty white, straight, cisgender woman from a middle-class family. While I had to earn the scholarships that funded my study abroad, this was thanks to the opportunity to go to college in the first place. Now I support myself in France as an English teaching assistant, but flying over here was only possible because I got to save the money I made working in college. I didn’t have to spend those paychecks on tuition or rent. Plus I’m able-bodied and neurotypical.

Yes hello this is me. Credit: Lily Yuan, @cestdugateaux

Basically, I’m a lucky lady. No matter how much I work for what I have, there’s always going to be other circumstances that help—circumstances which I did nothing to earn. That’s my privilege.

When Shut Up and Go Isn’t That Simple

Granted, travel is cheaper than people make it out to be. There are affordable airbnbs, free CouchSurfing, study abroad scholarships, work away programs, and more. One of the reasons I’m proud to contribute to this website is that if there’s a way for you to make room in your life for adventure, we’ll show you how to make it happen.

So get out there! No excuses, right?

Well. Maybe just a few. The fact is that if you find a flight as cheap as $150 from New York to Paris, you may still need that money for rent, bills, tuition, or whatever financial burden you carry. Even things as small as road trips to neighboring cities might not be possible if you’re having to work seven days a week.

Alternatively, it could be that your physical or mental health just doesn’t make long car trips or plane rides possible. Those lovely cobblestone streets in some of our favorite destinations aren’t entirely handicap accessible, and economy seating on budget airlines is a strain even if you’re able-bodied.

While travel is one great way to open your mind and expand your horizons, it is not the only way. The idea that you can only interact with other cultures by flying around the world is outdated. For those who truly want reach across borders but can’t quite make big travel happen, whether for a reason listed above or something all your own, the internet has what you need.

You may not in a place that allows you to travel right now, but that doesn’t mean your world has to be small if you don’t want it to be. There are online communities and viewpoints galore, plus your own city to explore while you do what you can to make it happen a little farther in the future.

For instance, I had a close friend in college who had to drop her plans to study in Montpellier in order to take care of her brain for a while. Right now, she’s on her second year living and teaching in South Korea. Hang in there, y’all.

Don’t be That Guy

On the other hand, if you’re someone like me, someone who is able to travel, don’t forget all the circumstances that helped to get you where you are. We worked for it, yes, and I’m sure many of y’all hustled harder than I did. Regardless, being able to travel usually involves some degree of privilege which others may not have.

While we spread that Shut Up and Go gospel, we really need to try not to be That Guy. Nobody likes That Guy.

Face it; if the whole world decided to Shut Up and Go all at once for the rest of their lives, society would crumble. As travelers, we depend on the people who process our visas and manufacture cars, airplanes, trains, or walking shoes – everything we use to get from one place to another.

Many work to better their communities in nonprofit jobs that offer few benefits and vacation time. Even the corporate nine-to-five job isn’t a sin, it’s a valid way of life that many choose in order to support their families and have some sense of security in a world that’s wildly insecure.

So if you do stay put, whether by choice or necessity, you’re making sure the world keeps rolling. If you don’t, you’re doing you. I wholly approve of both, as long as one does not scorn the other.

For those who stay put, I hope that you enjoy every piece on this site, and that it never feels like a lecture. I’ll be staying over here, in my little lane, while you keep doing what you’re doing. My world depends on you. It means a lot.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy travels, y’all!

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