As of lately, there have been quite a few articles that deal with the downsides of life as a travel writer. They address issues such as loneliness, exhaustion, instability, angst and overworking. I think those are very very important points to bring to everyone’s awareness. Even having been out there just once for a relatively short amount of time, I had to deal with some of the issues and did not enjoy coming back and having to explain to people that I did not just return from a five-month wellness trip. But the articles also made me think about some more uncomfortable things. And for the first time in my travel blogging life, I really wanted to rant about some stuff.
The first thing that came to my mind is that these articles serve a very specific function – and that is, they ask for sympathy. I do not think that the main purpose is to inform people who do not know about the issues raised. It is to be reassured by like-minded people that it is okay to sometimes feel bad in this very privileged lifestyle. Why do I think this is the first reason for these articles? Because, if we’re honest, the travel blogosphere is for the most part a self-sustaining microcosm. Especially when it comes to the vast amount of smaller blogs, we write for each other and reproduce the lifestyle we love for one another, justifying our belief system to a crowd of people who support it anyway.
Usually, I do not have a problem with any of that. I am part of this system and I think each of us still has enough wisdom to share that there is a justification for all of our writing. But sometimes I miss the reflective side of it. And while it is important to speak about the downsides of travel and the hard times, I think it is equally as important that we understand what an extremely privileged life it is.
In this context, there are a few myths that persist and that no one touches. One in particular. And this is where my rant starts. Here it is:
Travel does not bring together people from „all kinds of different backgrounds“. It is by and large a community of quite privileged people.
Just like travel blogs are not read by „regular“ people but by a specific travel crowd, the people you meet travelling are not all different from one another. This is nothing but a lie. Travel brings together a very specific clientele of people. And what is more unsettling: Usually they are well-educated and from privileged backgrounds. Think about your couchsurfing hosts, your hostel roommates or the people on that boat trip you booked around the islands of any given country. I would be very surprised if the majority in any of these scenarios was not something we would call privileged.
To me the most significant thing is this: Go to any twitter travel chat and see what people say to the question what inspired them to travel. 95% of them will say that they are from families where travel was valued and that they have been travelling with their families since they were children. How many families with children can afford extensive travel? Even if it’s camping, hitchhiking and couchsurfing! If you talk to people who are actually not privileged at all, they will laugh in your face when you tell them about travel inspite of a low budget, especially with a family. Who will work their two jobs? Who will give them more than a few days in a row off work?
I am not saying that travel cannot be strenuous. By all means I am not saying that professional travel bloggers are not very very hard workers or don’t deserve the life style they have created for themselves by putting in the effort. But as we seek comfort in each other when we feel that it is all too much, let’s remember that to a great number of people those complaints must sound like sheer mockery. Because they never even had the chance to leave the country – even when the next border isn’t far away. They never had a chance to act upon their curiosity for the world and their wanderlust, because they weren’t taught that it might actually be possible and because their finances barely cover the cost of living.
Everyone who grew up travelling or discovered travel as a grown-up and had the means, chances and luck to include it in their life extensively should thank their lucky stars that it all came together for them. I consider myself undeservedly privileged in that sense. I have no idea why I should be one of the chosen ones who can afford travel, but I am, and for this grace of fate I am grateful every day.