One of my 2018 goals is to be more active in the blogging world, part of which is spending more time reading and commenting on other blogs. I love seeing people’s adventures as well as their struggles. It makes me feel normal and part of a community. But also, it’s been an opportunity to roll my eyes about a million times a day because the internet is a petri dish of opinions.
After scrolling through post after post, I’m wondering how all of this comes across to those who aren’t dying to travel. From a different perspective, those wanderlust-y memes can send passive-aggressive messages that if you don’t drop everything to travel, you must not care about having an open mind or understanding the world. Some blogs are more blatant with their “this is the only way to live” snobbery or worse, perpetuate ideas about travel that are exclusive and elitist.
I’ve always been vocal about how much I love living abroad and now that I think about it, if I swap life abroad for travel, I’m certain I’ve stepped on toes in the past. If that’s the case I need to say I’m sorry, full stop. Because whether it’s wandering the globe for a year or camping close to home, there’s room for everyone to do as they please.
I love traveling but today, after being crazy frustrated with every blog saying how great travel is and the million reasons why we all have to do it, I want to talk about the ridiculousness of some of these travel myths.
Myth #1: Tourists are not travelers
Listen, I’m guilty of using the word tourist as if it were something to be ashamed of. But really, I can’t throw stones here because I love Rick Steves and his dorky self-guided walking tours. By definition, we’re all tourists—a tourist is a person who travels for pleasure. So let’s quit snickering at people following a little orange flag and counting off outside their bus. Tours are able to get people outside their comfort zone and introduce them to a different culture just as it’s possible for backpackers to seek comfort in groups and rotate between two bars for the few days they’re in a country. It’s all about the mindset you bring.
Myth #2: Travel makes you humble
Umm, not necessarily. Seeing other ways of life, definitions of success or what people live without can absolutely give you a different perspective and show you the tiny place you occupy in the world. But travel also turns people into crazy braggers. Every time I see a blog that lists how many countries a person has visited, I think oh puh-lease. Worse is meeting this person in the flesh and hearing them tick off the places they’ve been or one-up people with their stories. The other day I saw an article about how to collect more passport stamps as a way to make your friends jealous of how “well-traveled” you are. I don’t think that’s the point.
Myth #3: Travel must be difficult
In some corners of the travel community, there’s this idea that true travel must be arduous. One must live off pennies a day and go without showers and laundry. I’ve been pretty honest about how I thought I hated traveling or was a bad traveler because I like a private room over a hostel dorm and planning things instead of just seeing what happens. Then I realized that there really isn’t a problem with how I do things, it was my definition that was skewed. The style in which you travel doesn’t make you a better or more “authentic” traveler. The point of travel is to escape everyday life and explore something new. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it via an overnight bus or the 45-minute plane ride.
Myth #4: Travel is some kind of humanitarian act
I love the philosophy that it’s better to spend money on experiences and not things. But either way, you’re still spending money. Whether you’re sleeping in a stinky hammock or a luxury resort, travel is simply a different form of consumerism. If you support the mom and pop shop, great. But along the way, you likely also support major airlines, chain hotels, or restaurants. Think about the carbon footprint of plane rides, laundry at your accommodation, and the strain of your water and electricity usage on the local infrastructure. There are many similarities in the travel industry and others like fast fashion, so don’t act like what you’re doing is an altruistic choice.
Myth #5: Travel is a responsibility
Nope. It’s a privilege. One thing that gets under my skin the most about the idea that you must travel to become a well-rounded person is that travel isn’t easily accessible to everyone. Sure, there are ways to scrimp and save money, but what if you don’t have a privileged passport? It’s a thought that doesn’t register for most of those from the EU, UK, US, or Australia but bureaucratic hoops and denied visas are a reality for a lot of other people.
Also, a lot of travelers face different forms of racism and may not feel as welcomed as the bloggers (many of whom are blonde and white) who tout the myriad benefits of exploring the world. There are too many stories of travelers who have been abused, profiled, or looked at as curiosities because of the shade of their skin. Let’s all realize the factors at play before we decide it’s an obligatory part of being a good global citizen.
A thick passport isn’t the only way to become cultured and visiting far-flung destinations is not the only way to experience the world. And also, it’s ok if you want to hire a tour guide or eat McDonald’s a week into your trip. Life lessons are everywhere, so don’t let an Instagram page make you feel like you’re not getting the most out of life if travel isn’t your jam.
Do you see the points on both sides? I’m curious what you think, so speak up in the comments below!