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Free camping in Europe by bicycle
May 29, 2012 8:03 PM   Subscribe


 
damned hippies.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:19 PM on May 29, 2012


SFO - LHR

Of course. I didn't even have to look.

Actually, I'm quite jealous.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:32 PM on May 29, 2012


It takes a certain kind of privilege to be able to quit your job and fly halfway across the world to live like poor people.

(Maybe I'm just jealous.)
posted by asnider at 8:40 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


It takes a certain kind of privilege to be able to quit your job and fly halfway across the world to live like poor people.

Sure, I guess. But of the millions and millions of people in the US alone who have that level of privilege, how many of them actually take a trip like that? Not a week or two driving a rented car around the UK, and not even Eurorailing during a summer vacation in college, but quitting your job and selling most of your crap and heading out to see how it goes for a while.

Just because it's privileged doesn't mean that it's easy or common.
posted by Forktine at 8:50 PM on May 29, 2012 [21 favorites]


I've been bike touring for a few years and it really is the most interesting way to travel. You are not passing through somewhere in a bubble, you are in it. The weather, hills, and stinky roadkill are unavoidable but so is meeting an impossible breadth of people you would otherwise never cross paths with. It is a true adventure and you are vulnerable in the best way, forced to rely on your willpower and the goodwill of strangers.
posted by bradbane at 9:11 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Perfect embodiment of YOLO in the best sense possible.
posted by astapasta24 at 9:13 PM on May 29, 2012


I love what they did and wish I could do that as well. I've done traveling for extended periods of time, but I'd like to do it more, and going by bike is a great idea, if a bit hardcore.

It takes a certain kind of privilege to be able to quit your job and fly halfway across the world to live like poor people.

I don't begrudge someone who has financial security or, more likely, a backup plan or easy way back into the workforce. But when it's couched in such a self-aggrandizing style ("We just threw caution to the wind! We may starve to death but we're such rebels we can't help it!"), it's more than a little annoying.
posted by zardoz at 9:20 PM on May 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't get that these people are all that privledged. Giving up your freelance job isn't like walking away from a 6 figure salary plus stock options. If you can't do this when you've been out of college for 3 years, when can you?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:34 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


how many of them actually take a trip like that?

It's not at all uncommon. It's just that travellers are pretty invisible to the workaday world.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:42 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


My partner and I are starting to do some bike touring. Short local overnights now, with plans for a longer tour eventually. If only we had some way to maintain even a little income while on the road -- selling everything and bike touring forever seems like a great idea.

If you want to give it a try without going full-on nomad, Bike Overnights is a good resource.
posted by asperity at 9:49 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


privilege

3 comments in, not bad.
posted by MillMan at 9:53 PM on May 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's not at all uncommon. It's just that travelers are pretty invisible to the workaday world.

I am doing something similar by motorcycle starting in 6 weeks, and there is a pretty large community of people who do this stuff.

Also - never, ever tell an immigration officer that you're unemployed, especially when entering a country that thinks it has a big fancy economy.
posted by MillMan at 10:07 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


It takes a certain kind of privilege to be able to quit your job and fly halfway across the world to live like poor people.

It really just takes a bicycle and a plane ticket. So, a few grand? Try it! It's really an enjoyable way to live. There's a lot to be learned by giving up a normal life, where you stay in one area, accumulate wealth and accumulate stuff. Yarbles to that.

Need to sleep? Camp where you can't be seen! Need to eat? Beans and rice! Need some entertainment? Find a busy street corner and start watching! Need to talk to someone? Don't worry, people will come to YOU.

Step one: save up working a job. Step two: GO - you don't even need that plane ticket, start from your front door - run out of land? Find someone to take you to the next continent. Work along the way if you want/need. Strangers are incomparably friendly towards bicycle travelers. And if they aren't, guess what? You got wheels to go down the road. Do grayish legal things to keep going? Do you think you can't still be a privateer on a sailing vessel? Nonsense! Hang out at the docks and look usable and see what happens.

Take pictures and sell postcards if you need to. Think that won't work? Better not tell Heinz Stücke.

Playing the privilege card with anything involving a bicycle and DIY is a little weak, me thinks. This isn't some rich lawyer taking off a few years from their practice to see the world and hob knob with some dark-skinned people their friends are all scared of.
posted by alex_skazat at 10:34 PM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, there's a whole underworld of people out there which are invisible to the common observer. Traveling from day-hire to day-hire, earning money as they need it, blowing along with the breeze once they have a pocketful. I think it might be less common now than it was 40 years ago, whether in the US or in Europe, but it is possible and it is done. Anyone who doesn't have chains tying them down could do this tomorrow if they wanted. It just takes enough guts to actually go do it and enough resourcefulness to make it work for however long you can keep it up.

Some people ride trains, some people ride bikes, some people hitchhike... One guy I know bought a van and converted it into living space as well as transport and lived basically that lifestyle for 6 years. The important thing for that mindset is that you are experiencing life, are never tied down to a place, and that you move on regularly.

I don't know many who have made it a permanent lifestyle, but I've known more than a few who have done it for, say, longer than just a summer. They've all been fascinating people with a lot more stories to tell than I have, and I think I've lived a pretty interesting life in segments.
posted by hippybear at 10:35 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone who doesn't have chains tying them down could do this tomorrow if they wanted.

I think an amazing revelation in life is realizing that you can do this, regardless of what chains you may have. Or think you may have.

Only thing one has to do is deal with the repercussions. That's a terribly dangerous thought, but a valid one, all the same. When it comes down to it then, every decision - whether it be going for that career, or going 180 degrees away from that lifestyle, sends tremors down your own path of life.
posted by alex_skazat at 10:52 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you want to give it a try without going full-on nomad, Bike Overnights is a good resource.

Great site - thanks!
posted by latkes at 10:58 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't get how people pay for this stuff. I've been saving up a lot of money having been at my job for four years, so... I guess I could go blow it on that? But I figure I couldn't live all that long on what I have saved.

Then again, maybe I could. Shrug.

I'd worry about ending that time without a job and without any savings.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:15 PM on May 29, 2012


Then again, maybe I could. Shrug.

See, that's just it. Anyone could do this; hell, even a family could do this (my friend's family did). It doesn't take any money, aside from the initial three thousand to get the bike and the gear and the ticket. Really, all it takes is the will.

You might not end that time with any savings, but you'll certainly end it richer.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 11:23 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nah, I like my life. It's cool that they did it, but don't tell others you know what they're missing out on.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:26 PM on May 29, 2012


I'd worry about ending that time without a job and without any savings.


Most of the long-term travelers I know live in an entirely different economy. They find decent places to sleep without rent, they beg, dumpster dive, WWOOF. Some of them settle down for a bit and work and rent a place, usually a big group gets a house and it becomes a sort of hostel.

Of course I am generalizing, there are a million ways to do it. But worrying about your savings and future job prospects don't figure into it. Just imagine how it would feel to not worry about that. Although the people that you meet, may be a better source of future opportunities for work, than a nice resume.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:40 PM on May 29, 2012


I did some minor bike touring because I had the opportunity. I was jobless, and it was about as cheap as sitting around, and cheaper than most other nice ways to pass a few days. It was a special kind of privilege that few really envy.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:42 PM on May 29, 2012


I'd worry about ending that time without a job and without any savings.

I used to do shit like this a lot and so did/do all my friends. We ALWAYS ended up with no money, it's no big deal at all. We all worked the same round of seasonal biologist/ ski resort/ boat/ consultant/ surveying gigs and we'd take off to travel or sail or surf or ski then show up in one of several towns where we work months or years later with $14 in our bank accounts, sleep on someone's floor and eat rice and beans until the boat picked us up or we got on a flight or the season started. Work for 3-9 months. Go do it again. If you're smart you can make and save a lot of money in a short time and traveling like this can be done for $10-20/K a year per person easy. Crew on sailboats or WWOOF or have mad skills in some area and you're totally self supporting.

Just this month two friends showed up from 6 months in central America (they work summers in the northern hemisphere) a whole bunch more got done ski guiding and took off for 8 weeks someplace surfalicious, 2 more quit their consulting jobs to travel for a year or so, and about 15 old buddies are cruising into town for field season. I have people sleeping on the basement floor most years in May and June, never mind the couches.
posted by fshgrl at 12:17 AM on May 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hey fshgrl, you're awesome. That's all.
posted by jaduncan at 4:22 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not at all uncommon. It's just that travelers are pretty invisible to the workaday world.

Numerically, it is really uncommon, relative to the percentage of the population who could afford to. Even being super conservative and saying that anyone in the top 25% could do this (my guess is actually more like top 50%, but let's keep this small and emphasize the privilege), that is about 80 million people in the US alone. Of those, how many do you think sell all their stuff and head out for long term travel? Probably tens of thousands, quite a few orders of magnitude smaller than the people who "could" do this.

I used to do shit like this a lot and so did/do all my friends. We ALWAYS ended up with no money, it's no big deal at all. We all worked the same round of seasonal biologist/ ski resort/ boat/ consultant/ surveying gigs and we'd take off to travel or sail or surf or ski then show up in one of several towns where we work months or years later with $14 in our bank accounts, sleep on someone's floor and eat rice and beans until the boat picked us up or we got on a flight or the season started. Work for 3-9 months.

Yes, exactly. I like knowing that it is an option to go back to a more casual, less stable lifestyle; remembering that my current life is a choice, rather than a constraint, lets me enjoy the good stuff all the more.
posted by Forktine at 6:16 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's just that travelers are pretty invisible to the workaday world.

We live next to a road that seems to have some fairly interesting ones on it. One time I saw this guy walking past while hitch-hiking dressed somewhere between steampunk and Slash. So we hopped in the car and went and picked him up and took him a bit along his way to see what was up with that and where he was going. Turns out he was a journeyman carpenter from Austria, they actually have to travel away from their home town for 3 years and a day, dressed in the garb, and working their way. More info here: http://www.en.charpentiers.culture.fr/thepeople/compagons/thecarpentersguildingermany#.

Then, just a month or so ago, we had this (late) teenage girl from one of them ex-soviet states knock on the door and ask if she could spend the night; she'd essentially started out with about a hundred quid, and from then on been relying on the kindness of strangers.. She was actually around for a couple of weeks before we shuffled her off to friends up in the hills (she came to Scotland for the scenery, and it's better up North :D ).

Privilege, or the opposite, both make it easy to go walkabout. Mostly I guess it's not having to worry about losing your place in the game while you're out of the room. That and not having cats.
posted by titus-g at 7:15 AM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Lovely reminders that there's a whole world out there for the exploring. The only thing that bugs me is she keeps talking about her fear, being scared. She's very honest about her feelings and I credit her for it, it's just such a shame she had that burden. I'm glad she got through it.

The best time in my life was when I was 24, took a summer off before going to grad school and just drove all over the US by myself. With some vague plan and a list of folks to visit, but mostly free in the world. Fantastic experience that I'm very glad to be able to have. I always encourage people to try to carve that time out for themselves when they're young and have relatively few responsibilities weighing them down. I greatly envy the Australian tradition of year+ journeys in the world. Or the Mormons their missionary tradition.
posted by Nelson at 7:29 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know people from a pretty wide-range of class backgrounds who live free-wheeling traveler lifestyles, but I'll acknowledge there are certain privileges that make this easier: race is a big one. Imagine how different the blog would be of two young black kids traveling around, sleeping under trees, especially if they were traveling across the US. Physical ability and youth make this an easier trip too.

Still, the privilege discussions here often rub me wrong. This is a community of, I think it's fair to say, primarily middle and upper class, first world white people - probably more men than women. Sitting around the internet is a "privileged" activity. But it's these types of posts in particular, about people who reject the mainstream values of the middle class* that seem to generate ire. I think that's kind of silly. I don't see this privilege critique every time someone posts something about a new gadget or expensive hobby. Let's critique privilege all right, but why only when people who have it reject it? I don't see the poster claiming that she has such a hard life, I don't see her compare herself to homeless people or pretend to be anything she's not.

*(I recognize traveling and temporarily giving up ease are within a middle and upper class tradition.)
posted by latkes at 7:39 AM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


My guess is that the sense of privilege is the sense that these folks are unafraid to fail at anything, that failure and struggle is not in their worldview. Come back from a trip with nothing? Who cares? I can just pick up where I left off. What if you can't pick up? That's impossible, I can always go back. And going back will always return me to where I was before. That IS a certain type of privilege.

That said, there's a privilege in living without a concept of failure ... And there's the freedom of knowing that you're starting from zero, and returning to zero is not a loss. The latter is what I envy; it's something I wish I knew in my 20s.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:42 AM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think that latkes was correct to point out the racial privilege involved. Random, possibly somewhat disheveled Black people with rucksacks knocking on doors and sleeping in woods might be perceived differently.

There's also economic privilege. It's not that you have to be wealthy to live this kind of lifestyle, but in addition to what Cool Papa Bell pointed out about not being afraid of failure, there's the fact that someone who grew up deprived probably doesn't see the charm in sleeping outdoors under the trees in the same way that someone who grew up in a comfortable environment does. I knew people who grew up so poor they had to do their own hunting or pick through garbage and rely on handouts from people, and they don't find the idea of doing it for pleasure, well, pleasurable.

Now, I'm just adding to the conversation, but I'm not suggesting I have any problem with this. I would love to do it myself, in fact, and have plans to do something similar in a few years. I just think it's important to acknowledge our privilege when we have the opportunity, because there aren't many ways to break it down, in reality, and the discussion needs to be had if we're going to make progress at it.

The more that people think about their privilege, the better. The idea that injecting privilege into every conversation gets tiring is part of the point of breaking down privilege. Those with privilege can often avoid discussing it, while those who lack it can rarely avoid being confronted with their lack of privilege. Our privilege envelops in a way that is utterly invisible, if we wish it to be, and most of us do.
posted by PigAlien at 8:27 AM on May 30, 2012


Is this thread like the the "meow" contest in Super Troopers, because if so, PigAlien was two short from winning the thread.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:49 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Come back from a trip with nothing?

Possibly not that failure and struggle aren't part of their world view, per se, just not the protestant work ethic/materialist/capitalist version...

Looked at realistically there's very few of us are actually going to do anything in our lifetime that is beneficially productive to the world or society in any meaningful way. But we live in the lie that if you aren't making your life interminable, 9 to 5, doing something that adds enough digits to your account (and to those of your betters) that you are able to continue chasing the carrot of eventual freedom then you aren't a respectable member of society. You are a wastrel, which 'privileged' is rather a synonym for in this context.

I think travel, particularly the on-the-ground sort (not so much the club 18-30 Ibiza variety), is one of the more sure ways to better the person. And better persons do contribute to it being a better world; often more so than selling more green widgets or farmville memorabilia. In fact, it would be rather great if more of the genuinely privileged did do the king incognito thing.
posted by titus-g at 8:51 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cool Tools just posted a review of a book about working while traveling.

I would totally do this if I didn't have young children. Maybe in a few years...
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:54 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


PigAlien: " I knew people who grew up so poor they had to do their own hunting or pick through garbage and rely on handouts from people, and they don't find the idea of doing it for pleasure, well, pleasurable."

Yeah, the people I'm thinking of weren't as badly off as that, but they did sort of live through two revolutions and they are both similarly unimpressed with the whole nomadic clothes-on-my-back thing. One had family members shipped off into uninhabited deserts as first-wave settlers. I think the other was deliberately sent away by his parents to distant relatives in some only-marginally-less-remote place, largely because the Communists were making his hometown inhospitable. I'm guessing here because neither of them will say anything except in accidental comments and shared looks. They both love the idea of a boring, middle-class life, just a white picket fence and 2.5 children and coming home every day to complain about office politics and watch television.

Me, I'm a city boy raised in American suburbia who's lived under a single government his entire life, and I think it'd be rather exciting to ride off into the corn fields for a bit. I've been getting into longer rides, and I might start doing overnights next year. My parents think this is pretty much the dumbest idea I've had since that time I thought the medicine cabinet was full of candy, super secret special candy that only adults got to eat.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:05 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am often quite tempted by the digital nomad lifestyle.

What I do I can do from anywhere: the last time I met a client in real life was probably over a decade ago, there's one at least I've been doing work for, for that and half again that I've never met at all.

The main thing keeping me from it is the non-human cohabitants, and that I couldn't really keep the rental place I have...
posted by titus-g at 9:08 AM on May 30, 2012


I would totally do this if I didn't have young children. Maybe in a few years... Mine are 8 & 5. Maybe when they are 13 & 10...

Reading the comments, I have two thoughts:

1) Sure, you can drop everything and travel forever, sleeping wherever, and doing whatever to get your rice and beans. You can if you are healthy enough, and that's a big 'IF'.

2) I think that the phrase that many are grasping for (especially titus-g) is this "Most men live lives of quiet desperation..." I try to deny that I am, that having sprogs, and making sure that they are healthy, fed, clothed, housed, and stable is more important than me going exploring... but I will admit only to myself that I missed the window for the road trip on bike or foot or whatever. And I will try and make up for that when they are able to spend 2-3 hours on a bike and sleep in a field somewhere. Here's hoping...
posted by dfm500 at 9:11 AM on May 30, 2012


I nearly added a proviso to the above about child rearing, it does seem to be a really fulfilling activity (for most), and essentially it is our innate purpose. So imagine a "* May not apply to those with children" on the comment above.

There's quite a few windows out there, my mum walked the Camino de Santiago when she was in her seventies (possibly a couple of times, and once as a way-house person) [which is a bit odd for someone who's a self-described witch, which I suspect is more just having an open source approach to religion: a wee bit of this, a wee bit of that, and Vishnu's your uncle].

Not that I've been particularly adept at following in her wellysteps, I didn't even get round to getting my Transalp MOT'd last year, never mind getting it to the Mongolian Steppe (or indeed the Mongolian two-Steppe).

Wonder if the Floyd track (which is now irrevocably stuck in my bonce) descended from the Thoreau* quote...
posted by titus-g at 9:53 AM on May 30, 2012


It's okay to enjoy a meal even if someone else is starving in the world, particularly if you do your best to make life better for those around you in some way.

It's especially okay to enjoy your own wild-harvested or even dumpster-dived food if someone else is starving in the world. The real problem isn't with you.

Trying to "adjectify" somebody with "privilege!" -- on the Internet for fuck's sake -- is just ridiculously hypocritical.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:54 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


That * after Thoreau was going to be a Hub from "Secondhand Lions" digression.
posted by titus-g at 9:56 AM on May 30, 2012


Perhaps it's time to drop the 'p' word from this thread?

It's not really the most interesting aspect to explore, even though it is the most tempting.
posted by titus-g at 9:59 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


All this talk of "privilege" is pretty ill informed as it relates to the adventuring life. It has nothing to do with being upper class white American. That's actually a huge disadvantage for economic reasons. Privilege is having your home base in a country with free or cheap healthcare, and ease of getting contract work, being raised bilingual or trilingual, having a good passport that let's you work like a commonwealth or EU one, having a good trade, skill or education you were able to acquire young at a reasonable cost, low or no student loans etc. If you don't think there are plenty of young people of all ethnicities, genders, orientations and races out there climbing, skiing, biking and generally being dirtbags you are crazy. It's a big wide world and there are cool, outdoorsy travelers in every bit of it doing their thing.
posted by fshgrl at 10:07 AM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Honestly, I wouldn't have brought the topic of privilege into this thread myself. However, once it was, I always think it's important to at least address the issue because part of the power of privilege is to deny itself -- "The first rule of fight club: do not talk about fight club."

fshgrl, I don't think anyone here was implying that upper class white people are the only ones who travel, so no one's crazy. You made the point yourself about privilege, in fact, that was spot on.

Question is, is there anything to gain in this particular conversation by talking about privilege, or do we just acknowledge it and move on? I'm pretty satisfied to just acknowledge it, myself. I think there's power in simply admitting it. The only reason there's really a discussion going on is because people want to deny or dismiss it.

I think the more we can make people stop and take a moment to think about privilege, the more we can help slowly take the system apart. There's a saying, "If you repeat a lie enough, it becomes the truth." Well, what happens when you repeat the truth enough?

People who talk about privilege are trying to change the world. They're talking about the forest when other people are talking about the trees. But someone has to be talking about the forest.
posted by PigAlien at 11:00 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kids do not get in the way of travel. I have done short inter-country trips with my spawn as a single mother, the awesome Theodora does it pretty permanently with her son (if you have any interest in travel at all, check out her blog). She's currently tripping around the Middle East with her young son.
And kids don't get in the way of long cycle touring either:just ask the Sathre-Vogel family.
Single mothers without a huge stash of cash can do it, you can do it if you want to.
posted by Megami at 11:29 AM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's always the health thing that gets to me. You have to be pretty healthy to sleep in fields and bike everywhere. What happens if one of them gets sick? Do they have health insurance? Most people could probably live on very little, that is until they get cancer. I know statistically it's unlikely. But whenever I think about taking even 6 months off to travel, I always chicken out because of thoughts like this. I wish I were braver like the OPP.
posted by bluefly at 11:31 AM on May 30, 2012


PigAlien: it is important to address it, but I suspect at round about now it's probably less of an issue as those who think that left long ago after scoring THAT POINT! (yay!).

Now is the time for happy go hopefull(?) quotes from Rebecca Solnit:
Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That's where the most important thing come from, where yourself came, and where you will go. Three years ago I was giving a workshop in the Rockies. A student came in bearing a quote from what she said was the pre-Socratic philosopher Meno. It read: "how will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?". I copied it down, and it has stayed iwth me since. The student made big transparent photographs of swimmers underwater and hung them from the ceiling with the light shining through them, so that to walk among them was to have the shadows of swimmers travel across your body in a space that itself came to seem aquatic and mysterious .

The question she carried struck me as the basic tactical question of in life. The things we want are transformative, and we don't know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love,wisdom, grace, inspiration--how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?

Certainly for artists of all stripes, the unknown, the idea or the form or the tale that has not yet arrived, is what must be found. It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in philosophies, the unknown the unfamiliar; it's where their work comes from, although its arrival signals the beginning of the long disciplined process of making it theri own. Scientists too, as J. Robert Oppenheimer once remarked, "live always at the 'edge of mystery'--the boundary of the unknown." But they transform the unknown into the known, haul it in like fishermen; artists get you out into that dark sea.


All typos and grammer errors due to the Chianti, and probably not in the original.
posted by titus-g at 12:10 PM on May 30, 2012


What happens if one of them gets sick? Do they have health insurance? Most people could probably live on very little, that is until they get cancer

If you get cancer pretty much anywhere in the developed or semi-developed world that's not America, you get it treated and carry on. No bankruptcy required. Nationalized or low cost health care is a kind of freedom that enhances peoples lives in so many ways that you can't even understand.
posted by fshgrl at 12:32 PM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Besides which we're all gonna get cancer in the end anyways. Might as well enjoy life up to that point.
posted by fshgrl at 2:13 PM on May 30, 2012


Still, the privilege discussions here often rub me wrong.

There's a norm in this culture that says if you are cared for materially, you are forbidden from considering emotional or spiritual aspects of your life - "I have a roof over my head, I can't complain," even if you are living a "quiet life of desperation." I think when the travel topic comes up in particular this comes into play, and the word privilege serves as an easy attack word attempting to enforce this norm. It comes under the guise of it's standard definition (referencing middle class white people) and it's true enough (despite being fatally reductive) for it to not look completely silly.
posted by MillMan at 2:38 PM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's always the health thing that gets to me. You have to be pretty healthy to sleep in fields and bike everywhere. What happens if one of them gets sick? Do they have health insurance? Most people could probably live on very little, that is until they get cancer. I know statistically it's unlikely. But whenever I think about taking even 6 months off to travel, I always chicken out because of thoughts like this. I wish I were braver like the OPP.

Well, why cancer? When you get older, your vulnerability to health problems explodes. For example, heart attack rates are rare before 50. What if you are older than 50, and happily bicycling in France? It could be like this:

Prominent television production executive James Paratore, 58, died Tuesday after suffering a heart attack while cycling in France.

Wealth and privilege is no protection against the ravages of age and unexpected health setbacks. You can look at statistics and conclude that it's rare enough to not stop you from enjoying such adventures, but it's also indisputably true that you're better prepared to undertake such when you're young and hale.

It's just as easy to be glib about risk as it is to be overly cautious. Instead of dismissing the risks, put yourself mentally in that situation.

You're bicycling happily, passing through beautiful landscapes, happy as can be, the birds are singing, you can hear the grasshoppers along the ditch, the sky is intensely blue, you're looking forward to a fantastic picnic, thinking of that wine and cheese in your backpack - you should stop soon, otherwise the cheese will melt, it's been pretty warm, there's a dirt road coming up, take it to... what's this?! A hideous cramp in your chest, so powerful you can't pedal anymore, you're in shock, you brake abruptly, take a spill and you're on the ground, everything is spinning, the grasshopper sounds like it's right next to your ear, you're half way in the ditch, you can't feel your legs, there's a crushing weight on your chest, you're foaming at the mouth, tunnel vision, everything is getting dark, you're thinking of the melting cheese, the wine from the broken bottle forms a puddle around you, it smells so nice, and then it's over.

Cancer is something that's diagnosed over time and usually you've got some time to approach it as a problem. What about a massive coronary? Don't let it stop you, but don't deny that it's one of the many risks you face as you get older - an older person on a bicycle, pedaling away.
posted by VikingSword at 3:48 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Travelling like this is part of the basic European "bildung" concept. And while we do tons of things wrong, I thing this is respected across nations here, even if the traveler is Asian or Black. Obviously, there can be a period of understanding the relevant code, but isn't a big deal. Europe is far more xenophobic than the US, but if you get the code, it is also very easy to travel here. It's not a material thing. It is not about being upper or middle class. But there is an attitude to be understood and respected.
Europe is generally a lot safer than the US. Most places, you can sleep in the streets. It's still a bad idea, but for reasons entirely different from in the states.
So more xenophobic, but a lot safer. And please don't challenge our beliefs....
posted by mumimor at 3:50 PM on May 30, 2012


If you get cancer pretty much anywhere in the developed or semi-developed world that's not America, you get it treated and carry on. No bankruptcy required.

Yeah, I'm definitely viewing this from an American perspective (I think the travelers in the post are also American). I picked cancer as that's a common one, though you do usually have advanced notice, but really I meant any big illness. The US does suck for the naturally anxious. I'll start looking for a job in Europe for the better healthcare, and then plan my world travel! (only semi-joking about that last one).
posted by bluefly at 7:58 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


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