Travel is a privilege, not a right

I’m obsessed with travel. My Facebook feed is filled with travel pages and people asking for recommendations; my Instagram feed features Colombian cathedrals, Italian villages and Caribbean islands (and cat pictures). I have numerous lists of places I want to visit. If you mention a remote village in the middle of Uzbekistan, there’s a serious chance my eyes will lit up and I will start chatting about some famous bakery I want to visit there or a castle I want to check out. Ask me about any online travel quiz and you bet I’ve done it. I have been incredibly lucky to get the chance to watch the sunset on the top of Burj Khalifa, ride a bike around Bagan and to try crocodile meat in Kenya. Somehow, recently I’m noticing a trend: it seems to me that people are assuming that travel is their right.

Beg packers

Let’s take the surge of articles about beg packers. For those of you who haven’t heard, white people sometimes run out of money in their quests for finding themselves (turns out binge drinking in Thailand will eat up your cash after all). In times of desperation, they turn to… begging. Yes, that’s correct. Let’s sit on the side of the road and ask strangers for money. It is beyond my comprehension why one would think that it’s an appropriate thing to do in a country where most people could never afford the iPhone you just lost. Why would you ask for money of someone who hasn’t eaten a full meal in days? Does nobody think that maybe they could sell the GoPro mummy and daddy bought them for some quick cash? Or get a job and wait tables for a little while? There’s no shame in that and many Westerners do it. Seriously, why would you think that begging on the streets is a better option? Only because you decided to go sky diving and splurge on expensive meals doesn’t mean you should take away from someone who may need these few dollars more than you ever will.

What I have seen today on one of the travel groups I’m in takes the cake. Someone asked if “we have considered sleeping in a homeless shelter to cut cost”. Listen, lady. It may be surprising, but homeless shelters are for… the homeless. Those are people who have no roof over their heads on permanent basis — not because they have decided to relocate to the place you want to visit. Chances are, they are struggling because something terrible has happened to them and they haven’t picked themselves up since. Chances are, they won’t be posting Instagram pictures with #wanderlust. Did that occur to you? You may want to add a new travel activity: checking your white privilege.

It’s beyond me why people think travel is a right. It is not. Travel is a privilege. Millions of people will never leave their village, state, let alone country because they cannot afford to. You know why? Because they struggle to cover the costs of basic needs such as shelter, food, education or medical costs. Things you may be taking for granted. So check your damn privilege and stop considering travel your right.