This is second in a series, the first part can be found HERE.
Full disclosure: when I started travelling I did feel that I was better for travelling than for buying my make up at Sephora or buying, I don’t know, Lululemons . However as the years and trips have gone by my perspective has changed. I’ve written about community before and that is ultimately the thing that changed my mind. I realised that wherever I-or anyone-goes they try to make a community. That’s why hostel bars are overflowing and tour groups are popular. Why expats band together and Irish bars can be found in every country you go to. Community is the most important thing we can do as humans and that is ultimately why travelling is not better than staying home.
In my previous post I mentioned the idea that anyone can save for travel. Now, saving 600 euros (or whatever amount) for vacation might be doable for those of us in the middle class in the “Western World” but for instance, in Romania the minimum wage is 200 euros/month to say nothing of those who live on less than that globally. I find it hard to imagine someone with that income being able to afford to save enough money to go on a trip, even a budget one, to say nothing of the ability to afford/ask for time off work. Imagine you have your eye on a designer bag (I know I’ve used this example a lot, what can I say, I’d love a designer handbag) but you make an average wage. A celebrity whooshes in and tells you “well I can afford it! Just save up!” It’s ridiculous, it could take someone years (depending on your wage/the bag) and then what? Someone will be telling you that there’s a new “it-bag” that you must purchase the next year. Telling those in poverty or even those on an average wage to just “save up” is just as ridiculous and we have to stop it.
The point of critiquing travel rhetoric is not to say “never travel” but rather to recognise travel as a privilege and not a necessity. The problem I believe lies in our ideas of consumerism. I think most of us recognise when we buy clothes or a new watch or what have you that we are participating in consumerism but when we buy festival tickets or book a hostel we think we are above that. We’ve all been berated with the idea that we should spend money on experiences and not things. But what’s an experience and what’s a thing? These things aren’t as easily separated as it might appear. One might argue that a trip is not a thing, but it is still something you’ve purchased, it’s a luxury. Likewise just as a trip is an experience so is sitting on your couch (which is a thing!) with your friends and having a bottle of wine. Ultimately I do not think travel is bad, but I do think we need to recognise ourselves as consumers and moderate ourselves accordingly. On that note I want to add that mass travel can/is having a negative effect on the earth in numerous ways. There’s the environmental damage, but there’s also damage to communities. Illegal hotels, for example, are causing housing costs to rise in many places and cities like Barcelona have taken measures to deal with masses of tourists that damage the city and drive locals out of their communities. Even though it seems as though I am criticising travel I am not. I think the movement of people, overall is something good. However, I think we need to consider heading to places off the beaten track, to doing more research and generally considering where we stay and what we do while we are abroad.
What do you think? How can we travel better? Let us know in the comments!