“Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel”
July 4, 2015 6:00 AM   Subscribe

This idea that you must travel, as some sort of moral imperative, without worrying about something as trivial as “money.” ... It’s aspirational porn, which serves the dual purpose of tantalizing the viewer with a life they cannot have, while making them feel like some sort of failure for not being able to have it.
Chelsea Fagan explains Why “Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel” Is The Worst Advice Of All Time.
posted by Dip Flash (257 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have never heard this advice given in my life. How could it be? Travel is something that costs money.
posted by xmutex at 6:06 AM on July 4, 2015 [27 favorites]


Ability to travel is absolutely a sign of privilege. I come from a lower middle class family and never got on an airplane until I was 20. I have a friend who comes from a financially troubled family and still hasn't been on an airplane (he's 26). And I have a 12 year old relative who's growing up with very privileged parents who has much more traveling experience than I do.
posted by a strong female character at 6:14 AM on July 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


I don't even have to read the article, thank goodness someone points out the obvious. Thanks for posting.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 6:27 AM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


This was a good article, but I couldn't help thinking throughout, Well, yes, "Don't worry about money, just [INSERT ANYTHING HERE]" is going to be shitty advice from a position of immense privilege. But hey, if it illuminates the concept to a few people, then good on Fagan.
posted by Etrigan at 6:27 AM on July 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Have never heard this advice given in my life. How could it be? Travel is something that costs money.

You're more lucky than I am, then. It feels like every time I've turned around in the past four or five years I hear someone exhorting other young adults to just drop everything and go backpacking in Europe/wander around Brazil/take a temporary job in France/go see Australia/whatever. Or, of course, study abroad. Lack of money is no object! Plane tickets aren't that expensive, and you can stay in youth hostels cheap! The important thing is to get out there and learn to survive on your own and experience a real, authentic foreign country!

Blerch.
posted by sciatrix at 6:27 AM on July 4, 2015 [97 favorites]


Oh this reminds me of my worst interview experience ever. I was working part time for a library in a position that demanded six years post secondary education and three years experience. The part time pay was below LICO (Canada's equivalent to the poverty line) and I had held the position for several years while juggling multiple other jobs, going to school to upgrade my education, and being the only breadwinner for my children. A full-time job (doing the exact same tasks as i was currently doing) became available in the library and I applied.

On paper, I exceeded all the necessary qualifications, I had stellar performance reviews, I had worked for the library for many years etc. I was a shoe-in, right? Except the one question in the interview I failed was the question about my world travel. I've been to a few countries in Europe and Asia but I do not come from a wealthy background. I never got the chance to travel the world for a gap year and had always worked full-time while in school - including over school holidays, in order to support my unemployed parents.

I didn't get the job because I hadn't traveled enough (the job had nothing to do with travel btw, they just thought it made people more "well-rounded" and sensitive to New Canadians if they had experience travelling).
posted by saucysault at 6:29 AM on July 4, 2015 [111 favorites]


I haven't taken a vacation in 10 years. I have close family out west that I haven't seen in at least 15 years, because of the expense.

Traveling, especially from my deeply land-locked US home, is extraordinarily expensive, even just traveling within the US. To travel internationally is something akin to engaging in fantasy. Even something as simple as, say, doing an overnight trip to one of the two regional amusement parks is crazy expensive, once you add-up all the costs.

It's no coincidence that almost all the ads you see showing beautiful families enjoying themselves at various beautiful vacation destinations are from credit card companies.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:31 AM on July 4, 2015 [38 favorites]


The important thing is to get out there and learn to survive on your own and experience a real, authentic foreign country!

But certainly not like a tourist!
posted by thelonius at 6:31 AM on July 4, 2015 [43 favorites]


Have never heard this advice given in my life. How could it be? Travel is something that costs money.

I hear it a lot; it was a common refrain at university when I was there 20 years ago (I studied a few different foreign languages, so). Seconding how much it has to do with privilege. Everyone I've heard it from has been upper-middle-class or higher.

You also tend to hear it often in Europe, but here it has more to do with public transportation – you can hop on a train and be in a different country a few hours later for about a hundred euros round trip. Which is still a hundred euros, but I've made day trips to Switzerland and Italy that way; leave early enough and there's no need for a hotel. It's never occurred to me to give "don't think about money, just travel!" advice to anyone, though. The opposite, definitely. Can't tell you how many young'uns I've crossed with drawn faces and hushed voices asking their friends to share supermarket-bought meals, because isn't backpacking and hostelling supposed to be cheaper than this??

I've been to a few countries in Europe and Asia but I do not come from a wealthy background. I never got the chance to travel the world for a gap year and had always worked full-time while in school...

I was nearly refused my study abroad year in France because I had never travelled outside of the US. Guess who the first kids back home after a month were? The ones from higher-class families who had been coddled on their regular trips to Europe... meanwhile, twenty years later *fraula waves hi from Paris*
posted by fraula at 6:33 AM on July 4, 2015 [87 favorites]


"You should do it now, before you get settled down and have responsibilities like a mortgage!"

-A person who has not paid attention to the college debt situation.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:34 AM on July 4, 2015 [96 favorites]


"Just do it and worry about the cost later" is the carelessly thrown match that ignites the shitty decision bonfire.
posted by dr_dank at 6:39 AM on July 4, 2015 [78 favorites]


We make some sort of travel a priority in my family, even with a toddler and a baby. If you have the means, or can save up like we do, it's created some of our most cherished experiences.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:40 AM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've definitely met these people. Traveled with them, even.

Traveling can be a very very important tool for people. Realizing that things are done a different way somewhere else is something that too many people don't understand in a fundamental way.

But of course, being financially stressed does not lend itself to learning that kind of open-minded lesson. So...
posted by tychotesla at 6:44 AM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am usually interested in signing up for websites referred to here, but I'm guessing that this one, medium.com, "A Medium Corporation," (not kidding) is probably as vapid as this article. Next up on Medium: eating steak too well-done is bad for you; so is eating undercooked meat!
posted by kozad at 6:49 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


The B-52's can be wrong?
posted by lazycomputerkids at 6:50 AM on July 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


Actually, we have conversations about how everyone should just go ahead and travel here on metafilter - they're usually couched as "so many Americans don't even have a passport, what hicks they are, not like me". And since having a passport costs money, and the primary reason to have one is to travel abroad, telling someone that it's hick not to have a passport is basically telling them that it's hick not to expect to travel abroad within the next few years.

I got a bit of a scolding in that thread for saying that I didn't have the money for a trip I'd like to take, or the vacation time. And while I'd still like to take the trip, debt, plumbing emergencies and other stuff have gotten in the way of saving for it, and it's still a couple of years off just like it was last year.

People rarely say "just drop everything and travel", but lots of people will lecture you on how you too could afford to visit Basque country if you only prioritized your savings a bit more.
posted by Frowner at 6:53 AM on July 4, 2015 [121 favorites]


"Hot Destinations Wanted"
posted by clvrmnky at 6:58 AM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't mind people who love to travel, but I very much mind people who think there's something deficient about those that don't. And there seem to be a fair amount of those sorts.
posted by jpe at 6:58 AM on July 4, 2015 [36 favorites]


We're still paying off our vacation from May. It was well worth it, but my husband was laid off along with 15 others three days after we got back, which was a real bummer. If travel wasn't expensive, I would surely travel more.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:03 AM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I can easily ignore this suggestion because I hate to travel. Every summer my Dad plotted out elaborate and detailed routes. When the rolling and cashing of all the loose change they had saved all year began, I knew what was coming. By the time I was 13 years old I had visited all the original 48 states, Canada and Mexico riding in the backseat of a car. This cured me of any romantic notions of wanderlust or wanting to see what lies over the next hill for the rest of my life...
posted by jim in austin at 7:03 AM on July 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


I have a friend who writes this type of advice. She has managed to travel around the world with no money. She works in the u.s. for a while to save, living extremely cheaply while there, then goes to an inexpensive part of the world (like parts of Asia), travels until she can find a job teaching English or working at an English owned shop or bar, then plops down in that country for a while.

So no, it doesn't require a lot of money. But it involves other sacrifices, like having certain careers, spending time with family, having children, possessions, taking care of physical conditions requiring specialized care etc. And this method only works in certain parts of the world where the cost of living is substantially lower than the US. For some people, of course time spent traveling like this would be enormously valuable. i would love to if I didnt enjoy several of my commitmments from the list above. But to say that everyone should do it is taking a tyrannical, extremely privileged position. It's like saying "everyone should run! They would love it if they tried!" (another one I hear a lot) while giving the side eye to their friend on crutches.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:04 AM on July 4, 2015 [74 favorites]


Whatever happened to joining the circus? At least that way you would get to paid to travel and meet interesting freaks and perhaps spend some time with elephants.
posted by fraxil at 7:05 AM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


I am, by any standard, pretty well off. I mean, I'm not rich or anything—but I have all that anyone really needs, and then some.

But, like Thorzdad, I haven't even taken a vacationany kind of vacation—in at least ten years. That would require:

—time off work (by the time I've accounted for sick days, time off for appointments and errands, and individual days off for special events and mental health, there isn't enough left for a vacation)

—actual savings, so I have money to spend on vacation, and not be afraid that an unexpected expense (medical, car repair, etc.) would completely upend my life

—someone to cover for me at work (I'm the sole developer at my company; the logistics of scheduling a week where I'm not needed are next to impossible)

These first two, I think, are big reasons that Americans don't travel more: we famously get far less time off work than folks in Europe, our savings are often nonexistent, and there's always the looming threat that medical expenses will ruin our finances forever. (There's also the fact that America is big and far away from things, so traveling takes more time, money, and planning.)

So, yeah. I'd love to travel more, but shit—how? The only people I know who manage to do it regularly are independently wealthy (trust funds and the like). (Or they travel as part of their jobs, and mostly see the insides of airports, meeting rooms, and hotels.)

I'm Facebook-friends with a couple of people who constantly post photos of their globe-trotting adventures, sometimes in ridiculously nice restaurants and hotels. And I know they're not trying to rub it in my face, but sometimes it's hard not to think "oh, fuck you".
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:10 AM on July 4, 2015 [45 favorites]


PAUL
(Astonished)
They're all the same.

AUGGIE
(Smiling proudly)
That's right. More than four thousand pictures
of the same place. The corner of 3rd Street and
Seventh Avenue at eight o'clock in the morning.
Four thousand straight days in all kinds of
weather.
(Pause)
That's why I can never take a vacation. I've
got to be in my spot every morning. Every
morning in the same spot at the same time.

PAUL
(At a loss. Turns a page,
then another page)
I've never seen anything like it.

AUGGIE
It's my project. What you'd call my life's
work.

PAUL
(Puts down the album and picks up
another. Flips through the pages and
finds more of the same. Shakes his
head in bafflement)
Amazing.
(Trying to be polite)
I'm not sure I get it, though. I mean, how did
you ever come up with the idea to do this ...
this project?

AUGGIE
I don't know, it just came to me. It's my
corner, after all. It's just one little part of
the world, but things happen there, too, just
like everywhere else. It's a record of my
little spot.

PAUL
(Flipping through the album,
still shaking his head)
It's kind of overwhelming.

AUGGIE
(Still smiling)
You'll never get it if you don't slow down,
my friend.

PAUL
What do you mean?

AUGGIE
I mean, you're going too fast. You're hardly
even looking at the pictures.

PAUL
But they're all the same.

AUGGIE
They're all the same, but each one is different
from every other one. You've got your bright
mornings and your dark mornings. You've got
your summer light and your autumn light. You've
got your weekdays and your weekends. You've
got your people in overcoats and galoshes,
and you've got your people in shorts and
T-shirts. Sometimes the same people,
sometimes different ones. And sometimes the
different ones become the same, and the same
ones disappear. The earth revolves around the
sun, and every day the light from the sun hits
the earth at a different angle.

PAUL
(Looks up from the album at AUGGIE)
Slow down, huh?

AUGGIE
Yeah, that's what I'd recommend. You know how
it is. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, time
creeps on its petty pace.

Smoke (1995), Paul Auster
posted by lazycomputerkids at 7:11 AM on July 4, 2015 [56 favorites]


My wife and I left our jobs in 2013 to travel. We went around Europe mostly for around 18 months, mainly because of visa reasons. Both of us have solid middle class backgrounds like Fagan, and neither of us has any debt; we were able to afford it mainly because I had saved a lot of money my first four years of working after grad school. We were both in our early thirties when we left, so rather older than the typical target audience for this type of advice.

Anyway, even for another equally privileged person I'm not sure I would recommend it. I mean, we loved it, but I don't think we changed or grew as people, and looking for jobs after being out of the working world for so long has been pretty rough.

I certainly don't think there's a moral imperative to travel, any more than I think there's a moral imperative to, say, read literature. I know plenty of people who are kind, generous, hard-working, not well-traveled and/or not well-read. I've also met people who have seen the whole world and are kind of dicks.
posted by Peter J. Prufrock at 7:13 AM on July 4, 2015 [43 favorites]


I have an internet acquaintance that I’ve been following on social media for a little over two years now, an all-around nice, smart girl who blogs and does odd jobs and has recently decided to go back and get a Master’s.

And this is where I noped right out of giving this article any kind of good faith reading. I'm all for popular rabble-rousing about economic injustice and privilege, but anyone doing a Master's degree is a woman, not a girl. Scrolling through the article, I think my suspicions are right on the money. This is more about hating on a specific kind of a woman, and she's certainly not shy about trading on stereotype. The problem for the writer isn't actually people who would never in twenty years of working be able to take the "advice" of her acquaintance, it's her own bitterness, or possibly embarrassment, since it sounds like she's actually from a pretty similar background and did similar things. "Solid middle class" is meaningless these days, but it's most often used by rich, privileged people who don't want to admit it.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 7:20 AM on July 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


Sure, it's bad advice. But I'm pretty sure "Invade Russia" is the worst advice.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:21 AM on July 4, 2015 [48 favorites]


Can't tell you how many young'uns I've crossed with drawn faces and hushed voices asking their friends to share supermarket-bought meals, because isn't backpacking and hostelling supposed to be cheaper than this??

It used to be, about (*checks date*) 17 years ago or so. I can say with some authority that hosteling, in Europe at least, started changing from about '99 on, between oneupmanship with amenities, the introduction of the Euro, booking engine wars, less dorms and more private rooms, yadda yadda yadda - all of which lead to changed client expectations.

In short, hosteling's done got gentrified. There's even some corporate branding speak about flashpackers, which is the hosteling portmanteau equivalent of glamping. The former is way more gag inducing IMO, but maybe that's just my closeness to the subject...
posted by romakimmy at 7:23 AM on July 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


So the author is not wrong and I wouldn't hold up advice to travel as the best advice of all time. It is definitely advice that's both to and from people who aren't worried about paying the bills or going hungry.

That said, if you have the means to travel, it's a good thing to do. People can be parochial and tribal and I think travel helps offset that. City kids who get out to farms often are really surprised about how food is made. Rural people should try to find something to like about city life. To say nothing of experiencing the feeling of not being the majority and struggling to speak someone else's language for a change.

But like all advice, this advice makes a lot of assumptions about who you are.
posted by GuyZero at 7:24 AM on July 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


For the first time in my life I am earning at about the level that would allow (with careful saving over time and lots of sacrifices) the kind of hedonistic vacation I have never taken, like two months in a Central American surfing village or trekking in Nepal. But now that I have that income, I have no way to take those months off without quitting my job. It's a normal white collar situation in America, and has been making me look at descriptions of extended travel very differently.

Actually, we have conversations about how everyone should just go ahead and travel here on metafilter - they're usually couched as "so many Americans don't even have a passport, what hicks they are, not like me". And since having a passport costs money, and the primary reason to have one is to travel abroad, telling someone that it's hick not to have a passport is basically telling them that it's hick not to expect to travel abroad within the next few years.

I don't know which post you are referring to specifically, but I am sure that I have made exactly that sort of comment in the past. I very much wish everyone had the opportunity to live in another culture at least once and to travel to distant places as a tourist, but the realities of the world we live make this impossible for most people, even in wealthy developed countries. My family wasn't wealthy at all, but they did provide the social capital and the security of a basic safety net that allowed me to take risks, including living overseas, that continue to pay off today.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:25 AM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Travel is romanticized -- by boomers and people my age who were able to "drop everything" and do it in the 1960s-1980s, especially -- and while I wouldn't say it's overrated, it's most definitely (these days anyway) a marker of ascendancy and privilege. I traveled with my parents all around my home state for a while when I was a kid, but that wasn't because we were rich. It was because my dad was sometimes a vagabond without much of a sense of responsibility but with a lot of wanderlust who romanticized dropping everything and tramping around, consequences be damned. I traveled through parts of Europe as a college kid and was fully aware the whole time I was doing it that I would never have been able to afford it without financial support from the college and without financial aid (that in those days was much less exorbitant and that I was able to pay back within much less than a lifetime without going into permanent debtor status). Like many things, travel is indeed a good thing -- seeing the world, realizing that the US (or wherever you live) isn't the measure of all things, etc. -- but it's also a symbol of days when good things like travel were a lot more democratic and a lot less expensive to undertake for the majority of people. I say a symbol because people who are older and remember travel the way it was are constantly telling younger people that they could afford it if they weren't so self-absorbed, lazy, unmotivated, etc., etc., when it's plain as day that travel, along with most everything else in life that is good or even necessary (like housing), is way more pricey and out-of-reach than it ever was 20, 40, or 50 years ago.
posted by blucevalo at 7:34 AM on July 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


When we were hiring a faculty member one of my colleagues wanted to add "Has traveled" to desirable qualifications. I strongly opposed it using the arguments in this article. I've loved the chance I had to visit Italy and Cuba. It was valuable to me. But I didn't get to do it in my 20s 30s or 40s for the reasons in this story.
posted by cccorlew at 7:35 AM on July 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


I travel extensively through the US for my job and it's been very interesting, but have only been outside the US once (to Canada when I was a child, before a passport was required). I have a lot of friends from college who live with a partner, have no debt, no medical issues, no food allergies, and who make considerably more money than I do. "You're trapped without a passport!" they say to me, shocked. And then they dis me for not having experienced more of the world.

The lack of a passport is not what traps me.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:37 AM on July 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


I hate to travel. We are going to California in a few weeks and I am already dreading the flight, and being away from home. I went to Europe for a week in high school, and spent the entire time wanting to be Not There. I think I just don't have the wanderlust gene.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:37 AM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


When we were hiring a faculty member one of my colleagues wanted to add "Has traveled" to desirable qualifications. I strongly opposed it using the arguments in this article.

That sort of thing is very much used to keep "not our sort of people, dear" out of contention.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:40 AM on July 4, 2015 [60 favorites]


I totally agree with the "don't post stupid shit that doesn't make sense on Facebook." (Although, to be fair, don't pay attention to stupid shit is probably more practical.) I also find it interesting that the author is a young woman who has created a site that looks like it is geared towards helping young people through the financial challenges their generation is facing, including the emotional impact of living in an era of diminished opportunities.

I do enjoy traveling and I'm lucky to be able to do it quite a bit. I don't think people universally assume travelers are better people, I don't think traveling is just an empty way to spend money, so I find that the article kinda sets up a straw man and comes across as sour grapes in places.

There are loads of people in between too poor to ever travel and so rich they can go wherever they want. I know a lot of people who work at a bar or restaurant six days a week for ten months a year to go traveling for two months. Many people do make sacrifices or life choices to be able to travel (not owning a house, not having kids, switching careers, etc.). I think the article glosses over this by focusing on privilege as the sole travel-enabler.
posted by snofoam at 7:41 AM on July 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


Frowner nailed it and if you are curious whether people actually give this advice you need go no further than Ask MetaFilter.

This refrain is one I heard lots in my teens and early twenties, and I too always thought, "the fuck? Traveling is expensive, I'm not going into debt to do it," and stood by and watched as many peers went into deeper student loan and/or consumer debt so they could travel "while they still could." These days, I travel what I consider a lot, I've even lived abroad, and part of the reason this has been more feasible is because I delayed the gratification of it all.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:44 AM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was able to travel, and even though I paid for my life abroad with my own work, it was still a result of a healthy amount of privilege. I was from a middle-class family who I did not need to support or help financially, I knew that I could always slink back to their couch if things didn’t work out, and I had managed to accrue a bit of savings while living at home for the few months before I left.

Yep, this basically describes how I managed to do my first of two backpacking trips in my early twenties. The safety net of a parents' spare bedroom to come back to cannot be overstated.

I will say, though I have never told someone not to worry about the money (because I'm not an asshole), I have had very frustrating conversations with people from the same economic background and current situation as me who would say they wished they could do what I'd done, but they couldn't afford it. Of course they could have if they'd done what I'd done. Which they didn't want to do, which is fine. Travel is overrated if it's not your thing. But it got a bit tiring to have people who made a lot more than I did telling me they wished they had the money they thought I did. It was just that we had made different choices.

Travel itself can be relatively inexpensive (I've always spent way less on my travels than I would have at home in the US), especially if you travel slowly, eat like locals, etc. What you really need to be able to do extended travel (ie, more than a 2 week vacation) is the confidence that you'll be able to get a job when you get back. You're a lot more likely to have that if you were raised middle or upper class.

I also really don't think travel is necessary to becoming a better person. I learned and grew a lot from my travels, but I have from my jobs, too, or just from the process of growing up and taking on adult responsibilities.
posted by lunasol at 7:55 AM on July 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


The author kinda sounds like a twenty-something who is just starting to come to terms with the amount of privilege she has been blessed with in her life. And/or she has a lot of facebook friends who travel around with selfie sticks.

(An art project tangentially related to the obnoxious-better-than-thou travel blogging, food-picture-posting phenomenon: Woman fakes trip to Southeast Asia via social media)
posted by gemutlichkeit at 7:59 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


The only reason I've been able to travel as much as I have is due to obligations and expectations of work -- and still, at age 40, I have yet to travel internationally. It's a bucket-list sort of thing for me, but not necessarily something I ever expect to be able to afford. I remember in college being told to "travel now, or you'll regret it later!!" -- but I never had even the basic amount of time or money available to go.
posted by Annabelle74 at 8:00 AM on July 4, 2015


1). Earn enough money to buy a van and support yourself minimally for a year -- 6 months to travel and 6 months for unemployment upon return. Your van is your home -- abroad or domestically. 2) Be your own boss and take frequent brief trips to budget destinations in between major assignments. 3) Quit your job, rent out your house and take your family on a six-week camping trip. Travel off season when rates are 50% cheaper. These are some of the ways I've traveled at various stages of my life, in chronological order as life developed. Anyone who lives in Southern Cal has no excuse to never have gone to Tijuana or Rosarita, which is a world away from the U.S., yet a day trip excursion at most. Yet, most people who live in San Diego have never been.

My partner's best friends are his backpack, sleeping bag and tent when he travels.

The desire to travel has more to do with will and desire than means because there are so many ways to get away. Traveling first class may be nice and all but a luxury I have never been able to afford. Adventure through traveling, though, has always been a constant in my life.
posted by zagyzebra at 8:07 AM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


The quotation above from the film script of Smoke (1995) is an interesting contrast. 1000s of photos of the exact same corner vs 1000s of scenes of different corners travelling around the world.

On the one hand a focus on the minutiae of daily localised difference through repetition. What does it reveal? The ultimate singularity of all events? But its is ultimately myopic and conservative I think. The people change, the light changes. But do YOU change? The subject (in both senses) remains the "same". You may get a sense of wonder but very little else.

On the other hand, what do a 1000 different streets reveal? The cultural difference. It de-naturalises the local home environment. It is only through such denaturalisation that one can really take a critical stance on their heritage. Progressive a viewpoint seems to be much more easily obtained through such experience of alternative "ways of life". it reveals ones heritage AS a heritage.
posted by mary8nne at 8:09 AM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ha! The attitude described in this article perfectly encapsulates why I left DC.

DC is a huge hub for 20-something returned Peace Corps volunteers, international NGO workers, current or aspiring foreign service members, and plenty of other careers where extensive international travel comes with the territory. I wound up at a lot of parties over my two years there that ended in people one-upping each other with international travel stories, while I stood there feeling defective and awkward with my mediocre, not-life-changing study abroad and zero money to travel at that moment. These were inevitably the same people who'd make blanket statements about how "DC is transient" and "nobody's really from here."

Meanwhile, I was living in a very poor mostly non-white neighborhood with a bad reputation, where many of my neighbors were DC lifers and my housemates and I were new outliers. For those neighbors, travelling just over the state line to Maryland was a big fucking deal, and traveling across more state lines was even harder. International travel might as well have been space flight.

I was intensely proud of that house, and often invited friends over to come hang out in our vegetable garden. But time after time, the same people who'd regale me with their stories of going off the beaten path in Central America or whatever would get evasive with my invitations and say "but I have no reason to be over there..." To this day, I am extraordinarily grateful to the people who did bother to make the trip.

It's not that I think having the money to travel makes you inherently oblivious and unaware of different kinds of power dynamics. It just felt ironic to me, how people could spend so much time seeking out "authenticity" in international destinations and then shy away learning anything about the oldest communities in their own city.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:11 AM on July 4, 2015 [98 favorites]


.I am usually interested in signing up for websites referred to here, but I'm guessing that this one, medium.com, "A Medium Corporation," (not kidding) is probably as vapid as this article.

Medium is a writing hosting site. Dismissing the whole site for that article is like dismissing all of Metafilter for this thread.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:13 AM on July 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


In my 20s I had very little desire to travel; I was busy building a career and I was having a hell of a lot of fun doing that. In my 30s my daughter was too young to understand or enjoy a lot of travel, so we didn't do a whole lot of it then, either. Here in my 40s people ask me to make appearances all over the world, my kid is old enough to enjoy it when we take her, and when I'm not traveling on someone else's dime, I have the means to afford the trip and enjoy the experience better.

Basically, the "travel while you're young" thing is bunk, in my experience. Travel when you want to. The world will still be there whatever age you are.
posted by jscalzi at 8:14 AM on July 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


In my 30s my daughter was too young to understand or enjoy a lot of travel

I'm always amused by those "what should we do in a different city with an 18 month old?" AskMe questions. What do you think you're going to do? Clean up bodily fluids and try to get your kid to stop crying, eat and sleep.
posted by thelonius at 8:18 AM on July 4, 2015 [35 favorites]


My family was weird because my older half-brother and half-sister's dad was rich and my dad was poor. It made for a lot of inequalities in our family. Once a year, my brother, sister and their dad would go to Germany for a few weeks with side trips to other European countries while I stayed home. Then my sister would force me to sit down to look at all of her stupid fucking pictures of what a great time they had. It was just another thing to rub in my face to show how their lives were better than mine.

She travelled the world for a decade during and after college. Being a polyglot and having deep immersion in other cultures didn't make her any less of a privileged and hateful person. I haven't spoken to her in over a decade because she told me my intellectually disabled son was "defective". So I don't buy into the idea that travel makes you a better or more well-rounded person. It doesn't. It just means you (or your daddy) had enough money for a plane ticket and a place to stay.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:20 AM on July 4, 2015 [25 favorites]


My first trip overseas was in the early nineties, not long after I finished university. Full disclosure: I am not from a rich background. I do not believe any of my grandparents ever even owned a car, and certainly none of them ever drove in my lifetime. My parents bought their house for the equivalent of about $110,000 in 2015 dollars (although real estate being what it is, it would probably sell for three times that now). I took my first airline flight at age 20 or 21, the one-hour hop from Toronto to Montreal. My last job before I quit to go travelling was retail sales, selling consumer electronics for maybe half again above minimum wage plus 4% commission. In short, I do not think I was in a place of dizzying wealth and privilege.

I flew from Canada to England, and then sent the better part of a year wandering Europe, Asia, North Africa. I stopped on the way a few times to work for a bit, I lived close to the ground, I ate like locals and I stayed in hostels. At the end I did a reckoning and worked out that my total cost -- including airfares, insurance, and everything -- had been about $800, or around $1200 in 2015 dollars. I would have spent a lot more than that sitting in a rented room here, reading library books.

Obviously, the cash I made on the way helped stretch my budget further than it would have gone and I changed the date of my return flight home once or twice. Ultimately, though, I moved it up to an earlier date because of a minor but annoying injury. I came home pretty much broke but debt-free. I got on that flight to Heathrow-- the fourth commercial flight I took in my life -- when I was 24 and in retrospect my only regret was that I did not do it sooner.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:26 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe I don't want to go to Tijuana or Rosarita.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:28 AM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah, I forgot the other thing about this type of backpacking ideal, that people tend to forget: good luck trying it without the right kind of passport (American, European, etc.).
posted by Peter J. Prufrock at 8:33 AM on July 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


Hitting the nail on the head. Try dating in the District of Columbia and answering sincerely, "I've never owned a passport," when the travel question comes up on a first date. Good dates have stopped dead cold more than once.

Briefly confuse Vienna and Venice in a bout of first date jitters? Heaven can't save you there.

I had the recent response when my lack of a passport came up as a bit of pillow talk: (aghast) "Oh my God, I'm sleeping with the enemy." This person has a beautiful soul and has made significant sacrifices and compromises to build a career where she can travel with incredible freedom and she uses that freedom to fight the good fight for ending poverty across the globe. I'd say she feared that I would be bitter or jealous of her lifestyle but it is anything but that. She is inspiring.

I spent my 20s pulling my shit together and then growing into a leader in AmeriCorps, working with urban Native American communities to find solutions to the community's poverty. I was privileged to travel in that capacity to unexotic places like Provo, Philadelphia, and the deep suburbs of Chicago and Sacramento.

I get it, changing your space is the easiest way to trigger a growth mindset. My closest lifelong friends are spread across the country because we met at these trainings.

As luck would have it, right this minute I have the privilege, the security and the hard, cold cash to see the world for the first time. I'm doing it -- the tickets are paid and the passport is in the mail. Will I become a more open minded, more beautiful person? Well, no. Will I check off an old fear and fill my cup of resilience with new life affirming stories? I hope so. The social capital doesn't hurt, either. I've already brought this planned trip up in new dating and gotten coos of jealousy from women who are experienced travelers. Go figure.
posted by Skwirl at 8:42 AM on July 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


I don't quite know how to put this, but I... I non-sarxastically enjoyed how open the writer was about how the whole thing was sparked by her one annoying Facebook friend, and how much of it she spent burning her instead of making all of the article about the wider point?
posted by ominous_paws at 8:46 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I always felt left out when people talked of their time travelling. Then I had the opportunity to spend a year studying and travelling abroad, and honestly the biggest thing I took from it was that travelling is just a socially acceptable way to spend months of your time being irresponsible, drinking lots and generally lounging about. If people acted the way they do when travelling when they were living in their parent's house they would be rightfully criticised for being lazy and self indulgent. Somehow when you're doing it in a youth hostel in mexico it's seen as a positive thing.
posted by leo_r at 8:49 AM on July 4, 2015 [29 favorites]


I like to travel. I like going to new places and tasting new things (or tasting things as they do them there), going to old churches, museums, zoos, historical and archaeological sites. But that's me; traveling to see these things was always something I wanted to do.

Back then, on a grad student budget and on a degree that had me travel through China, I was forced to backpack. If I could have afforded a car rental or the soft sleeper on the train then get to stay in a hotel instead of carrying a heavy pack and staying at a sketchy hostel you bet I'd've done it. But I couldn't and so I made do with what I had -- but I still worried about the money. If I didn't have it, I didn't go. I was lucky: grad school paid my tuition so I could use the stipend to eke out something.

I'm still lucky: I have a little school debt left but it doesn't impact my life. I can set aside time to travel and I can stay in nice places. I still pay for coach tickets and I don't like hotels so like to rent from apartment/house owners, but I can spring for a fancy meal and don't have to keep an expense book on my person while enjoying my vacation. That's a privilege and it's just about the one major luxury I give myself every year. But even so, if money got tight again you'd better believe I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.

The thing is I believe that no matter where you go you still take you with you. The same people can go on the exact same trip and have the same experiences and they'll come away with completely different, sometimes opposite, reactions; and some won't change at all. It isn't something you do to find yourself, to make you a more complete person or whatever other mumbo-jumbo "Just Travel" mantras are out there. Do some people change? Sure. But they probably didn't go looking for it. Pushing someone to go abroad is the same sort of peer pressure crap that makes you shotgun a beer in college or dive off the deep end of the pool at the goading of the other kids.

Travel is not a necessity and definite not something for which you should drop everything and go into debt.
posted by linux at 8:57 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Can't tell you how many young'uns I've crossed with drawn faces and hushed voices asking their friends to share supermarket-bought meals, because isn't backpacking and hostelling supposed to be cheaper than this??

November 2014:
"GREEDY backpackers hungry for a free feed are taking meals away from some of Melbourne’s most vulnerable.

Some charity workers say they have stopped visiting homeless hot spots because penny-pinching tourists have been taking advantage of their generosity and, at times, left them foodless."
posted by iviken at 8:58 AM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Most people that say you have to "travel" to be a fully formed person have never even "traveled" in their own backyards.

I went to a state park yesterday, one I had never been to before. It was a beautiful seaside. I scrambled on rocks and poked fingers into tide pools. I ate in a good, cheap restaurant in a city I had never been to before. I met people and took pictures.

I spent about twenty bucks.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:02 AM on July 4, 2015 [41 favorites]


In my 30s my daughter was too young to understand or enjoy a lot of travel, so we didn't do a whole lot of it then, either.

On the aforementioned first trip for me, I met some compatriots of mine in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt. It was a family of four from Canada: husband and wife and their two young daughters. The parents were both teachers on a 4-over-5 program (for those who might be unaware, this is a program for some educators where they work at 80% of their normal wage and are given eery fifth year as a sabbatical with pay). The daughters, aged ten and twelve, were on their third year-long circumnavigation. I do not know what combination of world travel, having parents who were teachers, and innate intelligence produced this, but the daughters were among the most remarkable, articulate, thoughtful young women I have ever met. They would be in their thirties by now and I sometimes wonder how they turned out.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:02 AM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I flew in to Guatemala with 3 hundred bucks and a small (legal) package right before the whole country ran out of petroleum products before the first Gulf War. The speakers were announcing cancellation of all flights out as I went through inbound customs.

So I walked around to where the outbound passengers were stewing and propositioned the calm ones. Needed help if I was going to get this job done with no motorized transit. Two tough sisters from Takoma who had been working at an orphanage and this totally bad-ass guy from Alaska down there for all the wrong reasons. I showed him the address and he said he wanted a gun. The adventure of delivering the package, dodging the patrols, the snotty way the guy in the linen suit told us we were late, etcetera, really bonded us.

So I bought everyone breakfast the next morning and it was suddenly agreed that we were going to see Patagonia. Keep in mind that nobody was fucking. We just wanted to do this together. And we did. That was the most fun I've ever had.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:03 AM on July 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


I had the recent response when my lack of a passport came up as a bit of pillow talk: (aghast) "Oh my God, I'm sleeping with the enemy." This person has a beautiful soul and has made significant sacrifices and compromises to build a career where she can travel with incredible freedom and she uses that freedom to fight the good fight for ending poverty across the globe. I'd say she feared that I would be bitter or jealous of her lifestyle but it is anything but that. She is inspiring.


Yeah, that's a beautiful soul, all right.

It's funny, as a genuinely working class person (I'm a secretary, not a creative or a nonprofit type, my job won't be waiting if I take a long leave and I'm not really allowed to take vacation....and when I was hired into a full time job with benefits to which I could bike commute, I felt like I'd won the lottery) this thread, more than any other so far, has reminded my how rarified metafilter is. I'm sure there are lots of people on here who make the same wage as I do - and I know there's people here who are unemployed or chronically ill and struggling to make ends meet - but the kind of life where you maybe don't make a lot of money but you travel the world fighting [other people's] poverty - that's the kind of job that might as well involve flying to the moon, for me.
posted by Frowner at 9:04 AM on July 4, 2015 [46 favorites]


The government has this program where every year they pay thousands of young people from below the poverty line to travel all over the world!

It's called the Department of Defense.
posted by nickggully at 9:11 AM on July 4, 2015 [23 favorites]


I get this constantly from wealthy classmates who haven't come to terms yet with the fact that a) their parents are footing the bill and not them, and b) travel hasn't made them kinder, more cosmopolitan, more worldly. In fact most of my peers who decided to travel instead of get good grades, get a job, pay off debt, etc, have returned with more bigotry and narcissism in their hearts than ever. Now when I hear the old, "don't worry about money, just go!", I go -- far, far away from the people too distant from reality to see what's really going on outside fantasy land.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:12 AM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Most people that say you have to "travel" to be a fully formed person have never even "traveled" in their own backyards.

I have had some interactions with other Americans who have traveled internationally but not much inside the US who are quite willing to disparage parts of the US they haven't ever been to, typically including most of the south and the midwest. I guess only certain destinations count?
posted by bile and syntax at 9:18 AM on July 4, 2015 [46 favorites]


Both my husband and I grew up traveling a lot - our dads were both college professors, and this was back in the 70s and 80s when they could take a whole summer off if they felt like it. Outside of airfare it wasn't crazy expensive - my husband's family had relatives overseas to visit, and we did house exchanges with other families. I only wish we could do the same type of thing with our son, but taking a vacation longer than a week is frowned upon in my husband's line of work.
posted by Daily Alice at 9:21 AM on July 4, 2015


I've been thinking about this all morning, and here's the thing: I don't think that travel makes you a better person, but it is an incredible privilege. Not just in the sense that you can only do it if you're privileged, but in the sense that it can help you experience things that you wouldn't otherwise, and that it can be the source of a sublime kind of freedom.

There is nothing like waking up in a strange country with no one to answer to (not a boss, or even a traveling companion), and no obligations, and thinking "what do I want to do today?" This is why it's hard for me not to recommend to young people that they travel. Not because I think it's a moral obligation, but because I want them to experience that kind of freedom. I do realize that not everyone has the means to experience it, which is a damn shame. And of course, not everyone wants to, but that's a different story.
posted by lunasol at 9:23 AM on July 4, 2015 [19 favorites]



I used to have to travel. Not any more. All my traveling is done from a very comfortable position in front of my 47" monitor screen. Occasionally with a Drambuie nearby.


Just recently I visited Bali. It was not expensive at all.
posted by notreally at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I didn't make myself get out of the country at least once in awhile, most years I'd be spending my holidays in Azeroth or Kalimdor...

I've never recommended that anyone else travel, just like how I would almost never try to convince a person they should join my religion. Without the right context that's just obnoxious, and also glossing over a lot of the complexity around it. Or maybe it's a special kind of paranoia, if I told someone that Kilimanjaro was great and they should do it, and they go there and come back and tell me it sucked... That being said, I like taking travel photos, and I'm sure posting them to social media is a kind of obnoxiousness in itself, it turns into a kind of, say, resume building exercise like you had in school, building up a list of activities to prove to potential employers that you're a well rounded person.
posted by xdvesper at 9:34 AM on July 4, 2015


The only way I got of Canada during the recession of the 90's (10%+ unemployment, much higher for youth back then) was by borrowing money - $3000. Kind of a dumb thing to do, but luckily I was able to pay it back when I got a job about three months after I arrived in Japan... which was also experiencing a recession back then.
posted by Nevin at 9:37 AM on July 4, 2015


Nevermind, sorry, misunderstood.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:37 AM on July 4, 2015


The seas are filled with bobbing white cruise ships filled with Americans and the beaches of Mexico lined with dumb assed all inclusive resorts also filled with Americans, so the claims that travel is too expensive and too time consuming doesn't stand up in light of the facts. Hell, the worlds ultimate shit hole, Las Vegas is crammed with Yanks spending more money than makes sense.

If this trinity of bad vacation destinations weren't spinning off money at a rate that'd make Gates and Buffet blush, everyones points about travel being too expensive/time consuming would hold up, but in light of the facts, they don't.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:38 AM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Chelsea Fagan explains Why “Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel” Is The Worst Advice Of All Time.

See, the phrasing of it that I heard was "Do what you love, and the money will follow." It turns out that this is technically true, but that "money" is actually a typo for "monkey."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:40 AM on July 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


I live less than two hours from the frontier with France, so when I was a kid travelling abroad with the family meant taking the car and driving north, eating ham sandwiches and muffins that we'd taken with us in highway rest stops and sleeping in 140 francs/night Formule 1 hotels (which are as close to motels as we Europeans go).

Then I had the high school trip to Italy, which we did in a coach (we slept in Nice halfway to Italy). The other class group went to Paris and Amsterdam, but I had already gone to Paris, so we had a week of Sienna/ Pisa/ Florence/ Rome/ Venice instead. Nowadays there's a Ryanair flight from my hometown to a low cost airport nearish Milan and Venice, so it would be as cheap a trip but shorter.

Later on I've travelled from Dublin or Lisbon in the west to Prague or Ljubljana in the east plus a 10 month stay in Munich for an Erasmus year and one two-weeks stay in Tirgu Mures, Romania courtesy of an AEGEE summer course, and I don't think I've spent more than two hundred euros in return plane trips ever. My most expensive trips have been the two times I went to Japan in '09 and '11 (400-500€ for the plane, plus 450€ for the J-Rail Pass the second trip), and I stayed in ryokan that were cheaper than Vienna hotel fares and ate 400-yen bento a lot.

(I started travelling a lot after the Romania stay in '04: I ended up planning transportation and lodging for two more people and me, and if I could ask for train tickets in German to the lady behind the counter at the Keleti train station in Budapest I realised I could go anywhere on my own anyway)

I wouldn't recommend to travel abroad in such a blasé way, but mostly because from an European point of view, it doesn't have half the mystique it has for you guys.
posted by sukeban at 9:47 AM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is all about judgmentalism. Traveling doesn't make one a better person. It provides a means to get away from your everyday life.

Many people can afford budget travel. They simply don't have the desire to make it happen. For doing so comes with sacrifice and often putting yourself in arduous circumstances. Most people don't feel the benefits outweigh the costs. And who can blame them? Why be taken out of your comfort zone? We are creatures of habit. Not everyone is motivated to shake it up by injecting themselves into other cultures and adventures.
posted by zagyzebra at 9:50 AM on July 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Travel is fun but I never really learned much about other places until I actually lived in them. You don't get a feel for the curmudgeonly joy of England until you have been stewed in it for a while. You don't really feel the constant psychic burden of white supremacy until you have lived in the States for a while. You don't know French exclusion until they have been rude to you for months. You don't realize how fucking smug and dull a Canadian you are until you have been away for ten years.

But mere travel just doesn't do it these days because you can, as tourist, miss just about everything about a place anyway.

So I guess you need even more privilege to get the important experience of living like a local.
posted by srboisvert at 9:51 AM on July 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


I get the impression the author's burning issue is college debt and the general phoniness of career planning and prospects these days--which are real, critical core issues affecting people. The "boo hoo I can't go anywhere" bit is just a surface manifestation here, and lashing out at people who travel doesn't seem particularly productive.
posted by gimonca at 9:53 AM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I always felt left out when people talked of their time travelling.
Yeah, not all of us have wacky friends who take us along in their blue boxes, DeLoreans, or WABACs.
posted by pernoctalian at 9:56 AM on July 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


The seas are filled with bobbing white cruise ships filled with Americans and the beaches of Mexico lined with dumb assed all inclusive resorts also filled with Americans, so the claims that travel is too expensive and too time consuming doesn't stand up in light of the facts. Hell, the worlds ultimate shit hole, Las Vegas is crammed with Yanks spending more money than makes sense.

I have dinner every few weeks with some people I have known since high school. They are nice folk but they have all had more conventional suburban lives than I and I have learned that they all consider these (cruise ship/all-inclusive resort/Vegas) the only three options for a vacation. A few months back, the conversation turned to travel nightmares: I thought "Here at last is a conversation I might contribute to instead of nodding and smiling politely at discussions of whether $500 to see Shania Twain is a great bargain or the greatest bargain ever." After all, I have long held that the level of comfort on a travel experience is in direct inverse proportion to how good a story it is later. No one ever dined out on, "We stayed at the Ramada and it was okay."

After some back and forth among the other members of the group about being stuck in an activities-and-fun group on a Disney cruise with the wrong type of people, it seemed the winner of most memorable travel experience was when one of our group went to a resort in Cozumel and there were not enough towels in the bathroom. I had held my tongue -- I thought, "Hunh. I have been ordered off an intercity bus at submachine-gun-point in the Gaza Strip. I have shared a hut for three nights with a two-foot-long lizard and her clutch of eggs in Indonesia. I have spent a night sitting on the floor of the Greyhound terminal in Chicago. But towels; yeah, that is something."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:56 AM on July 4, 2015 [41 favorites]


You can travel cheap. Well, its always going to set you back about $1500 including airfare. But that's really not that much money. I did it as a grad student making $15,000 a year, wandering around Berlin for a month living off nutella and 500g packages of schwarzbrot, looking for free Wi-Fi so I could priceline a hostel for as few Euros as possible, not being able to do anything much really because it all cost money, killing time people-watching and doing all the free things until my flight home.

It kinda sucked, but it wasn't super expensive. I have some privilege, I suppose, being white and American, and my family could probably scrounge up $1000 or so if I got into a bind. But not much more than that (and that would set them back enough that it would have to be a real emergency for me to feel like I could ask). But if you want to travel, you can do it. It requires sacrificing other things you might want, but everything is always a balance of this sort.
posted by dis_integration at 9:59 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meh. If you have a stressful job, the thought of sitting by a pool in Mexico while someone brings you drinks is so much better than a great story about lizards or bus stations.
posted by desjardins at 10:00 AM on July 4, 2015 [34 favorites]


Travel as a sign of privilege in the west is a uniquely American phenomenon. Lot's of countries have 4 weeks of paid vacation time, more or less.
posted by durandal at 10:02 AM on July 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


Well, its always going to set you back about $1500 including airfare. But that's really not that much money.

lol

That is a lot of money for a very large swath of the population.

"Bankrate.com reported in 2012 that 28 percent of American families have no savings. Another 20 percent don’t have enough saved to cover even three months’ worth of living expenses, while just 43 percent have enough in savings to cover three months of expenses." source
posted by desjardins at 10:05 AM on July 4, 2015 [49 favorites]


You can travel cheap. Well, its always going to set you back about $1500 including airfare. But that's really not that much money. I did it as a grad student making $15,000 a year, wandering around Berlin for a month living off nutella and 500g packages of schwarzbrot, looking for free Wi-Fi so I could priceline a hostel for as few Euros as possible, not being able to do anything much really because it all cost money, killing time people-watching and doing all the free things until my flight home.

I flew with Easyjet, stayed for 6 nights at a hostel that was a rebuilt 1920s telephone factory in Kreuzberg, and ate currywurst and 1-euro döner kebap. I understand not wanting to do short stays when the air fare is so expensive in comparison, my trips to Japan were 2-3 week stays for that reason.
posted by sukeban at 10:06 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


So I think there is not enough emphasis on the emotional privileges being from a mostly stable, at least middle class family affords. Yes it's correct to say "it's easy to save up enough" or similar. It is not easy emotionally to do that if you grew up poor or with an unstable life. My first priority post-college was to get a job and feel more stable than I did almost my entire time growing up. I also didn't have much vacation time so most of my trips were weekend or road trips relatively close to where I lived. I traveled more (and further) on work trips for the first 7 years after college. My first airplane ride was an employer subsidized flight to find a place to live in the new office location.

I enjoy traveling now but it's still emotionally very difficult for me. "What if everything falls apart back home?" is somehow still in the emotional parts of my brain even though I've a stable job, more time off, a house, etc.

I can't imagine the idea of a gap year post college before I got a job. I had no support back home. My father was a mess - sometimes there, sometimes not. My mom was usually pretty poor and not in a situation to help. If I'd gone on a trip right after college and something went wrong I wouldn't have had any support. No emergency flight home, no health insurance, no credit cards, no place to crash if I did get back home. Sure I could have scraped the money together but emotionally it wouldn't even have been thinkable.
posted by R343L at 10:10 AM on July 4, 2015 [30 favorites]


God, what a sad, closed-minded attitude, Chelsea...it's like, straight out of a little box. On the hillside. All made out of ticky-tacky.
She sounds like someone who's never set foot in a museum.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:10 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


My biggest complaint with "follow your dream" narratives in general, is that they tend to follow fairly bland, well-trodden paths. Most backpacking stories I've heard involve more or less the same elements, with varying degrees of risks and "wild" locals. I like hearing about these adventures from friends or people that seem generally interesting outside of their "stories" but too often travel gets pitched (openly and subtly) as the morally right thing to do. It somehow puts a slightly larger, more valuable notch in your belt of experience. A little bit of social currency you can wave at those lacking as a symbol of your heightened status. Whether it's traveling, eating healthy, working out, or whatever else, warping non moral issues into moral ones is always problematic.

That's not to suggest everybody who travels and tells the tales of their travels is doing this, but it happens often enough to be a thing. A very annoying, tedious to listen to thing. Pushing travel as an experience to help one vaguely "grow" in some way isn't all that different than pushing people to get married and have kids because it's the "right" thing to do. The content is different but the basic ideas are structured in the same way.
posted by AtoBtoA at 10:11 AM on July 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


I do find it a bit funny that the author didn't go into depth about why the target of their class envy was choosing to study abroad. It may have been a junket or it may be that European universities are actually cheaper than American ones, and her frenemy's choice of getting a grad degree in Europe may actually make economic sense compared to choosing to stay in the States.

A lot of the axe-grinding in this thread seems to be about people who resent their treatment by travel snobs; and I think that's all justified, but it's probably important to realize that those who'd sneer at you as not being well traveled are assholes and they'd likely find some other avenue for their assholery. If travel wasn't invested in the proper social prestige, then they'd probably be spending their money on a really pretty house or a really exotic pet.

I've done an extensive amount of travel. Some of it was privileged, tagging along with the parents when I was kid. Some of it was self-funded hostels and backpacks Some of it was about cutting costs by camping for half the trip. Some of it was a self-admitted expensive splurge. None of it was regretful or terrible; and I treasure the memories and lessons from those experiences. But I'm quite aware of the fact that it's a hobby and it's a choice. Some of my colleagues have thousands of dollars of toys or video games or sports cars, and I don't. I have postcards and I love describing how they're important, and encouraging others, and making it all seem less scary than it is, but I won't demand that you do.

At the same time, the love of my life is a struggling adjunct professor who didn't have a current passport when we met. Our combined schedules and finances are going to make it hard for us to keep up the tempo of trips that I used to have; but we both knew that it wasn't something that I was going to give up. We just have to find a new balance with our life together. All the same, I don't think she would've chosen me if I turned up my nose at her for not having a passport, in the same way that I wouldn't have wanted to be with her, if she reacted to any of my stories of going abroad as the sign of some feckless, spoiled, and privileged life foolishly lived.
posted by bl1nk at 10:14 AM on July 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


"Bankrate.com reported in 2012 that 28 percent of American families have no savings."

Meanwhile, the other 72% of 319 million people is not a negligible amount. There is also something to be said for the idea of "people" vs. "families".

fwiw, I'm about to book a transatlantic roundtrip flight for just about $700. If I had done so even earlier, it would have been between $400-500. With a couple of reasonable Airbnbs, I'll spend 9 days abroad for about a grand, and maybe meet some interesting people as well.

(Any amount is a lot of money to a person with nothing.)
posted by those are my balloons at 10:14 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is this the Baudrillard-ish point in the conversation where we point out that people in the U.S. spend washtubs full of cash going to the simulated world travel experiences at Epcot in Orlando instead of going to the real places?
posted by gimonca at 10:17 AM on July 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't particularly like traveling. I mean, I do, in the sense that I like experiencing and learning about new places, but it often exhausts me and I always feel pressured to spend every moment of my trip living life to the fullest and experiencing my surroundings in a highbrow, authentic way, when what I really want to do is putter around eating local snacks and see if there's anything weird in the dollar store. I'd much rather have, say, a nice little backyard where I can hang out and drink coffee every day.

I feel like I'm supposed to love traveling, in the same way I'm supposed to like farmers' markets and hate fast food and read voraciously (but only "literary fiction") and have strong opinions about the Oxford comma. It's as if these are things that sophisticated, intelligent people do and think, and if I'm not in line with that, something's wrong with me.

When I was in my early twenties, I was concerned with what other people my age were doing and what I should do to get on the right track, from huge investments like grad school and buying a home to smaller details like drinking the right wine. Travel, especially the month-of-backpacking-in-Europe type of travel, is definitely one of those things, with the added pressure of "you're young and single and have no obligations so you have to do it now!" It never really appealed to me, though, and I don't think traveling extensively would have made me happier, wiser, or more interesting. It's okay to want to stay put and spend your vacation time in your own home.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:20 AM on July 4, 2015 [36 favorites]


I think of travel snobbery assholism as for many people who engage in it as a type of assholism of opportunity and I don't in fact think that many people who are prone to do it would find other outlets for assholism. In other words, I think that travel snobbery is a sort of unthinking assholism, where people buy so deeply into the belief that travel is essential for a well rounded life that they don't reflect too seriously on why many people don't do it. It is still being an asshole, but I would suggest that it is a form of asshole behavior for a lot of folks and not just a manifestation of their out and out assholish existence.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:21 AM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Meh. If you have a stressful job, the thought of sitting by a pool in Mexico while someone brings you drinks is so much better than a great story about lizards or bus stations.

The story was about how the vacation ruined by there being four towels and not eight. If that is not privilege, I am not sure what is.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:23 AM on July 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Is this the Baudrillard-ish point in the conversation where we point out that people in the U.S. spend washtubs full of cash going to the simulated world travel experiences at Epcot in Orlando instead of going to the real places?


What I always wonder is whether people understand that there are different social classes in the US. Let's lay this out: someone who can spend several thousand dollars traveling to Florida or taking a cruise is not actually the same as someone who has no savings or precarious employment or a job where they don't get vacation. Also, we don't all, like, live in Florida. When I was a little kid, we got a break on a Florida vacation and went there instead of to Wisconsin, and that was the fanciest trip we ever took until I was 21. It was expensive for us, even with a hotel deal via my dad's friend.

My impression is that most people go to Disneyland because it's fun for kids - that certainly was why my family went. All my richer classmates went to Florida every year; my parents wanted to take us once.
posted by Frowner at 10:26 AM on July 4, 2015 [35 favorites]


It all boils down to 'Don't be a judgmental asshole.'
posted by saul wright at 10:32 AM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is this the Baudrillard-ish point in the conversation where we point out that people in the U.S. spend washtubs full of cash going to the simulated world travel experiences at Epcot in Orlando instead of going to the real places?

Only if it's the point where I point out that for millions of people in the southeastern US, Orlando is a driving trip which makes it way cheaper than going overseas. (Disney in itself is expensive, but the rest of the trip can be done pretty darn cheap.)
posted by Daily Alice at 10:35 AM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Add travel to the list of things separating the haves from the have-nots. I'm lucky, my parents paid for my college education. My Dad died while I was in college, and, get this, I got social security payments until the semester I turned 22. That's no longer the case. So I sold the car I'd worked and saved to buy, traveled for 3 months, mostly in the UK. I learned a lot, it did change how I understand the world. I'm so happy I did it, and I still understand that I was very lucky. Given the lack of aid for education in the US, the obscenely low pay for people in starter jobs, minimum-wage jobs, of course kids can't afford to travel.

Really rich and even well-off people can travel, and do. They can fly on ski vacations, visit remote family casually, support the luxury and exotic travel industries. Anybody who's just working class, middle class wannabes, can maybe fly out for a sibling's wedding, or Grandma's funeral. Maybe a camping trip to a national park (recommend), but the idea of sustaining more debt for enrichment through travel is not on the table. It's analogous to letting them eat cake.
posted by theora55 at 10:36 AM on July 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


This thread made me think of my college interview. I was 17, and while my family had taken me on road trips all across the US when I was growing up (which I recognize makes me luckier than many already) I had grown up lower middle class at best and I'd never been outside the US. The interviewer asked about international travel and tsk takes me when I said I had not had the opportunity, even though I'd always dreamed of traveling. (And in fact was interested in th that college because of their strong international component and because my financial aid would cover a study abroad semester.)

Anyway, since then I've managed to finagle my way into multiple long term international trips, going to cheaper places, working where I could and, while I was in college using financial aid and a service scholarship to pave the way. In a lot of ways, I've built the last ten years of my life around traveling-- choosing and staying at a college because it afforded me the chance to travel, working temp jobs, living frugally and spending most of my excess money on travel. Which is certainly not to say that if someone follows my example they can travel too-- I feel really lucky that I've had the opportunities that I've had and I know that they're not within reach of everyone (or something that everyone is wants to do).

I think there's space in between the "leave your job behind and LIVE" eat pray love privileged BS and "travel is only for rich people and is worthless conspicuous consumerism."
posted by geegollygosh at 10:39 AM on July 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I really enjoy travel and have had the good fortune to live in other countries, but I try and remember to check my privilege - threads like this are a good reminder, so thanks, everyone.

On the other hand, I've definitely had people who were super well-off, moreso than myself, make random comments about how they'd love to have joined the Peace Corps or Americorps, but they didn't have their parents to pay for them (uh, neither did I, thanks... I made sacrifices to do so. Not to mention that many of my Peace Corps peers were from working class backgrounds and didn't have any parental support) - or that they'd love to visit Botswana but "don't have $10,000 to do so" (!) since that was what a family member had spent on a luxe safari. Those are the situations when I'm like, look mate, if you don't want to do it, don't feel bad about yourself just because it's arbitrary cultural currency. But if they (the relatively well-off people I'm talking to) want to do it, it is definitely possible to make it happen within their lifestyles.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:44 AM on July 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think I favorited every last one of Frowner's comments in this thread. So many "parochial hicks who don't even own a passport, can you believe it" here in the US are damn poor, pressed for time, or both. A two week's vacation is a luxury for most working people. And no, "be your own boss" or "find a job that includes travel" is not always an option. (Suggestion for new Medium article - why "just get a job that lets you do X" or "Be your own boss! Freedom! Woo hoo entrepreneurship!" is more privileged talk.) Add to that the price of plane tickets, and the necessity for many people to sit on a plane for hours and hours to get anywhere outside the US, and that adds up to foreign travel being out of reach for many (if not most).

This is one area where I get very disappointed with Metafilter - the idea that anyone can travel if they rilly-rilly want to, and only Ugly Americans Who We Are Ashamed Of don't want to travel, does crop up here. I don't think travel makes one a better person, and many sophisticated well traveled people are insufferable assholes - uglier Americans than the ostensibly ugly parochial non-traveled (maybe even *gasp* religious) ones.

I'll add that white, straight, able-bodied men who sing the praises of bare-bones travel really need to - I hate to say this - check their privilege. While western Europe is safer than the US in many ways, women still face dangers that men do not - and straight-presenting men can afford to skimp on safety in a way that women can't. And the US is not the only racist place in the world.

tl;dr: no, it's not possible for "everyone" to drop everything and travel, and not traveling does not mean "ugly American."
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:45 AM on July 4, 2015 [69 favorites]


When I was a little kid, we got a break on a Florida vacation and went there instead of to Wisconsin, and that was the fanciest trip we ever took until I was 21. It was expensive for us, even with a hotel deal via my dad's friend.

Similar story here. After a lot of saving, our once-in-a-lifetime big family trip was getting to see California. (From Oregon) It was a wonderful trip, but look how quick people are to gloss over that sort of thing even in here.

With a couple of reasonable Airbnbs, I'll spend 9 days abroad for about a grand, and maybe meet some interesting people as well.
Don't forget, as mentioned above, the question of vacation time. If you're in the range where you can afford something like that financially, you're probably lucky enough to get two weeks of vacation a year. Subtract out mandatory holidays and you're on thin ice already, but that's workable. Subtract any sick days, though? Not looking as likely, but if you don't get sick for a year, you could make it work. Keep in mind though that your vacation days likely might not roll over from year to year. Also, travelling solo, or do you have a partner or anyone to care for? (children, grandparents, etc)

Sure, you can make it work if you make enough other sacrifices, but by the time you're getting to "literally restructure your life in order to make travel possible at the cost of everything else", that's suddenly not really something you can look down at people for being unable or unwilling to do.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:45 AM on July 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


We were a military family. While living in Germany, Dad would save all his vacation up, for a six week break in the summer. We bought a huge Frnch tent, and camped at the same place Cattolica, on beach in Italy. The same families went there to camp at the same time, year after year. So for two years we had international friends for a chunk of the summer. We and our international cohorts were working class. We went all over Europe while we lived there. It was good, our low profile was altered by the Ford Fairlane, but still it was just folks. Traveling is not out of reach, but the stresses of current day economics, take it out of mind. Right now, I can travel in a forty mile radius, a few times a month. So, I do.

"Tired faces distracted, from distraction, by distraction," TS Eliot. A lot of people don't have room for even an hour of freedom, or uncertainty.

P.S. There are a few passport offices around the US, who offer on the spot passports, one is in Tucson, Arizona.
posted by Oyéah at 10:47 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


What I always wonder is whether people understand that there are different social classes in the US

My sense is that people are very aware of the different social classes but the myth of social mobility is so strong (in the U.S.A. at least) that not moving up the ladder is seen as a moral failing. That's why Travel With No Money And Grow! narratives are a little offensive. The author/speaker tends to be a bit dense and fails to understand that there's a lot more behind "I'd like to but I can't afford it" than just the basic finances of the trip.
posted by AtoBtoA at 10:49 AM on July 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


I'll add that white, straight, able-bodied men who sing the praises of bare-bones travel really need to - I hate to say this - check their privilege. While western Europe is safer than the US in many ways, women still face dangers that men do not - and straight-presenting men can afford to skimp on safety in a way that women can't. And the US is not the only racist place in the world.

You're right that women have to take precautions men don't, and a lot of dudes are really ignorant to that fact, but I feel that comments like this can also have a chilling effect on women travelers. I've done a lot of solo travel as a woman in developing areas, and meant plenty of other solo female travelers, and usually felt safer than I did in my American city. It's always super empowering. I'm glad I didn't listen to the people who were like "it's way too dangerous for you as a woman to undertake this trip you want to do, just stay home, honey" which are usually being shared by people who haven't traveled as women, and are way more common than comments like "you'll probably have to take a few precautions but it's totally possible within that framework! Here's how to do it."
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:50 AM on July 4, 2015 [40 favorites]


Travel is one of those things that seems like it should be more fun than it actually is. I tend to find it stressful and spend most of my time worrying that we're spending too much money worrying about losing my luggage or my wallet, worrying about the house, the cats, my job, etc. I've only ever taken a week's vacation, I'm not sure that I could handle two straight weeks off, I'd be an anxious mess by the end of that.
posted by octothorpe at 10:54 AM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


On the one hand, yes, it is annoying when someone is oblivious like that, and making assumptions and all. I've never personally had the titular advice aimed at me, but I can only imagine it'd piss me off. The author seems to hit on it, though: These are different kinds of 'worrying about,' and the speaker is probably assuming some base level of privilege where they have something or someone to fall back on.

On the other hand, people are enthusiastic about the things they're enthusiastic about. I bet everyone has been annoying and persistent in their support of something they enjoy, to the point that they get insistent that EVERYONE needs to do it. For the most part, they're just trying to share. They just love something so much that they can't imagine anyone else not loving it.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:01 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I also think that domestic travel tends to be devalued in these discussions. I'm also from a working-class family, and our trips as kids consisted almost exclusively of driving to visit our family in other states and stay with them (which was awesome, don't get me wrong), and, later, some long weekends in places like PA Dutch country. But I've taken a lot of opportunities to travel for work, on my own cross-country roadtrip during a summer of when I was a teacher, and for fun on shorter trips. I've visited 42 of the states and hope to get to 50. Some of the people who look down on those of us who haven't backpacked Europe know shockingly little about the US. They profess to be "afraid" of places like the South or Texas or New York City, have never seen the crushing poverty of a border town or some Native reservations, have never hiked into the majesty of the Western mountains, never sat around a campfire in a small-town campground with people they'd never speak to or meet otherwise, learned about the environmental and social challenges of other regions, seen our range of wildlife, explored our history. People forget that America is an enormous, diverse, and fascinating place and that covering thousands of miles of it also qualifies as mind-expanding travel. I know there are special experiences that can really come only from immersing oneself in a culture with more foreigness, but anyone who thinks that someone who's traveled, lived in or otherwise experienced several distinct regions of the US (and of course I do mean outside the business-hotel neighborhoods of major cities) is not qualifying as a traveler is naive.
posted by Miko at 11:01 AM on July 4, 2015 [56 favorites]


You're right that women have to take precautions men don't, and a lot of dudes are really ignorant to that fact, but I feel that comments like this can also have a chilling effect on women travelers. I've done a lot of solo travel as a woman in developing areas, and meant plenty of other solo female travelers, and usually felt safer than I did in my American city. It's always super empowering. I'm glad I didn't listen to the people who were like "it's way too dangerous for you as a woman to undertake this trip you want to do, just stay home, honey" which are usually being shared by people who haven't traveled as women, and are way more common than comments like "you'll probably have to take a few precautions but it's totally possible within that framework! Here's how to do it."

Thank you for this. I've talked about this here before, but when I was in my early twenties and about to go on my Asia backpacking trip, my parents got a bunch of "you're LETTING her do what??" To my parents' credit, their response was "she's an adult, we don't have to let her do anything." But it's mind-boggling how many people said that.

I certainly wouldn't shame any woman for being reluctant to travel for this reason - it's a legitimate response to rape culture. But the fact is, a woman is more likely to be assaulted in her home, by someone she knows, than anywhere else.
posted by lunasol at 11:21 AM on July 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


I only travel to countries where I can use Apple Pay!
posted by oceanjesse at 11:27 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Um, I'm another woman who travels solo. I've never had trouble, but I almost never go around at night or go to bars when I'm travelling. YMMV.
posted by sukeban at 11:32 AM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Is this the Baudrillard-ish point in the conversation where we point out that people in the U.S. spend washtubs full of cash going to the simulated world travel experiences at Epcot in Orlando instead of going to the real places?

A family of 4 can fly from pretty much any major city in the US to Orlando for $1200--1600 around the end of July. If their family truckster gets 25 on the highway, anyone on the eastern seaboard can get their family to Orlando for about $250 in gas and a night at a motel, and anyone south of DC and east of New Orleans can get there in one 12-hour day.

Getting to Rome is more like $6000--8000. Oslo $4000--6000. Prague $5000.

But, sure, it's sort of puzzling if $6000 and $250 look pretty much the same to you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:36 AM on July 4, 2015 [36 favorites]


Is this the Baudrillard-ish point in the conversation where we point out that people in the U.S. spend washtubs full of cash going to the simulated world travel experiences at Epcot in Orlando instead of going to the real places?

Isn't Baudrillard's entire point about Disneyland is that it makes LA seem "real" when it's just as artificial and illusory as Disneyland? If you take that to your point about Epcot, looking at it and viewing it as a discount, plastic experience while thinking of the visiting of China, Japan, and France as more authentic is just as wrong-headed.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:42 AM on July 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Asking a question, not making a point.
posted by gimonca at 11:43 AM on July 4, 2015


Also, yes, remember that many travel experiences far-away charge per person, so while it might make sense for an individual, it makes increasingly less sense with two people or a family. As a converse, road trips get cheaper per person the more you add, so visiting Orlando by car is great for a large family like I came from.

(Note: my family was too poor to visit or go to Disneyland/world while I was a kid. I did go as an adult though.)
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:44 AM on July 4, 2015


This whole issue seems straw man to me. I've had been and have encouraged young folks to travel, but it was never in the sense of "go penniless broke," more like "spend the money you DO have traveling vs. video games, fancy cars, a house at age 21, etc.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:51 AM on July 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


This is just reminding me how utterly I adore Disneyworld/land and everything about the intensely stage managed experience.

It's like, ok, you like Sleep No More? Ok, cool, if that's your thing. But I'm talking 24/7 immersion in total fucking fantasy that you know is fantasy.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:52 AM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Metroid Baby said:
… it often exhausts me and I always feel pressured to spend every moment of my trip living life to the fullest and experiencing my surroundings in a highbrow, authentic way, when what I really want to do is putter around eating local snacks and see if there's anything weird in the dollar store.
The lowbrow, authentic way with local snacks and the dollar store is awesome. I like a luxury hotel, but I'd rather spend just enough for a clean, non-frustrating hotel, and then wander around just like that. The people at the five star hotel we splurged on in Prague last year didn't know what to make of us when we walked up from the nearest tram stop. "You … walked?" We asked them about Mikuláš and they thought we were crazy. "That's just a silly local tradition." "Yes, that's why we want to see it." By the end of our stay they'd caught on and were happy to send us to Tesco to buy the particular Becherovka variant we couldn't find anywhere else.

But anyway. I really enjoy travel and I have gone into debt to do it (more than once), but I've lived in DC for 18 years and never once held a lack of passport against anyone. I've been aware that travel was a huge sign of privilege almost as long as I've been traveling (Europe by age 7? Check! Year abroad in college? Check! Parents paying for all of that? Check! And credit card! And remote deposit!) I'd never advise anybody else to go into debt for it (paying it off is much less fun than the travel is), but if they were already thinking it was a good idea I wouldn't try to stop them. It's fun. If you want to do it, go do it. If you don't, don't.
posted by fedward at 12:05 PM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


This whole issue seems straw man to me. I've had been and have encouraged young folks to travel, but it was never in the sense of "go penniless broke," more like "spend the money you DO have traveling vs. video games, fancy cars, a house at age 21, etc.

This is a good point. The only thing that really irks me about people who don't travel is when I hear complaints like "Oh I would love to travel!" but I see them spend lots of disposable income on things like cable television, cars, bigger newer houses, meals out, etc. Which are all okay ways of spending disposable income, but the reason I have enough money left over to travel is because I prioritize travel and save up for it instead of spending money on other stuff.

I'd have zero problem with someone who said, "You know, I just don't like to travel that much but I really do enjoy a good meal and watching sports and movies on cable, and that's fine with me." I'd also probably wish that person did like to travel, because there are, in my opinion, benefits to exploring other areas that you get only by seeing them in person and that there's probably not as much to be gained by spending money on other consumerism, but it's a little weird to insist that they're less than a complete person if they don't.

For me this issue comes down a lot to feeling annoyed when people claim that they just, you know, can't afford to travel and they're envious of how I can, when in fact it's the product of daily choices and sacrifice to make it happen. But this applies to people who are in circumstances substantially similar to mine. And, honestly, I don't think there are too many times that I've felt this annoyance at people, although I feel like I must have at some point, because it seems like a familiar feeling.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:12 PM on July 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


A family of 4 can fly from pretty much any major city in the US to Orlando for $1200--1600 around the end of July.

Which makes a trip to Orlando out of reach for many, if not most, American families. And, that $1,200-1,600 doesn't include lodging, meals, tickets to whichever park you want to go to, etc.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:12 PM on July 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


You can easily travel if:

You are young.
You are healthy.
If you don't have children.
If you don't have a mortgage.
If you have no significant debt.
If you have savings.
If you have health insurance.
You are relatively sure you can get a job when you get back.

None of those things are particularly class related, but it's easy to run afoul of them with bad luck or if they're low priorities for you. I quit my (mid $30k/yr) job that I hated, sold or got rid of almost everything I owned and spent three months traveling in my 30s after doing and buying basically nothing for two years and dramatically cutting back my expenses and paying off my car loan and credit cards. I spent less than $5000 on the trip, and could have spent maybe 20% less if I made my own food and stayed in hostel dorms more often instead of private rooms. While backpacking, I met my fiancée who was traveling with money left over from her college loans after graduating. I hung out with backpackers from Montreal who worked at a non-profit. I travelled for a few weeks with a couple who worked at a photo store and as a nurse. I met a guy who was living at hostels and worked for about ten hours a week designing websites. I also hung out with a girl who had inherited half a million dollars and was traveling to every country in the world, and the wife of a Manhattan financier who was traveling on his money, and retired american couples, and Israeli kids that just got out of the military.

I guess what I'm saying is that not everyone can travel, and not everyone who does it is broke, and there is an element of luck and timing for it, but if it is something you really want to do, and you aren't destitute, and don't have 'responsibilities', you can make opportunities for yourself to do it.

Incidentally, my new job pays me significantly more than the one I quit, but it's not any easier for me to travel now than it was when I was basically broke. I bought a new car, rented a nicer apartment, have a two year contract on a phone, have a fiancée that can't take vacations when I can, charged a bunch of stuff for the wedding, have to be on call for work, etc, etc. But those are life choices I made, now that travel is less important to me than settling down. One of my friends I met on the road is still basically broke, but quit her job in LA to move to Australia on a whim. She was living in tiny apartment in a bad neighborhood in long beach and ate ramen noodles and such for two years so she could save the money to go.

I don't think travel is for everyone, or that anyone can do it, but I think that a lot of people that want to travel and think that they can't could do it if they actually really prioritized it and made sacrifices to make it happen.

Basically if you take anything away from the thread is that if you want to travel for an extended amount of time, see if you can put together a plan to eliminate all your monthly bills. Go monthly on your phone bill, pay off your credit cards, sell your belongings and car, stop going out to eat. If you can do that, and have good job prospects for when you come back, then extended travel is feasible for you, even if you don't have very much money. If owning basically nothing, having no job and no home sounds like a terrifying prospect (and probably for good reason), then you probably are going to need a lot of money to travel.
posted by red alert at 12:22 PM on July 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm glad I didn't listen to the people who were like "it's way too dangerous for you as a woman to undertake this trip you want to do, just stay home, honey" which are usually being shared by people who haven't traveled as women, and are way more common than comments like "you'll probably have to take a few precautions but it's totally possible within that framework! Here's how to do it."

Only "here's how to do it" almost always amounts to "spend more money." Take a cab or a rental car instead of public transport or walking. Stay in a private room instead of a hostel. That kind of thing. Traveling safely, as a woman, costs even more money than traveling unsafely as a woman or traveling like a man. There's no getting around that. And sure, we can do it, and we don't need anyone to allow it or tell us no, but we're kidding ourselves if we don't factor in extra costs for safety.
posted by witchen at 12:27 PM on July 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


I got to travel extensively for the first ten years of my life and in the most recent five years of line and it's been such a privilege. But I almost never post when I'm travelling on "social media" - because it would make me feel good and honestly, make a lot of my friends feel worse, because a lot of them simply haven't and won't get such opportunities.

(As a footnote, I'll point out my parents travelled with me extensively in the 60s on a BBC radio announcer's salary - that is to say, on not so much money at all. But we scrimped and saved for those holidays, and always went super cheap, resulting in some... interesting experiences. This was a different era...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:28 PM on July 4, 2015


ITT a lot of implicit assumptions about travel meaning vacationing or an indulgent leisurely experience. Which it is, for many people. But let's also recognize that a great many others travel because they basically have no choice; if they stay home they and their families will starve or be trapped in soul-crushing poverty. True, immigrants, migrant workers and refugees aren't normally what we think of as travelers. They're not slumming it out of choice, affectedly donning berets and buying baguettes, dipping toes in the kiddy pool of a managed cultural experience. They are jumping into the deep end and learning how to swim so they don't drown. But they still are exposed to other cultures and getting a wider view of the world. If anything more than the leisure traveler. In a sense, I think leisure travel is often a kind of theme park analog of the reality faced by obligatory travelers. You experience the thrill of being in a foreign land but (hopefully) none of the inherent danger, loneliness and despair.

Many activities of the well-to-do are basically amped-up versions of what non well-off folks do out of necessity.

Commuting/relocating/migration/foraging/visiting etc. -> Executive travel/Vacationing abroad
Eating -> Fine dining
Buying necessities -> Binge shopping
Wearing clothes -> Fashion/Fine jewelry
Basic Medical care -> Elective procedures/Medical tourism
etc.

So no, it doesn't take a lot of money to travel, per se. But it takes money to have a lifestyle filled with carefree leisure, whatever forms that may take.
posted by xigxag at 12:33 PM on July 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


I think a lot of it depends on a family's personal priorities. My parents didn't buy us a lot of stuff growing up. We got fairly humble birthday presents, and maybe something small at the end of the school year, but that's about it (we were brought up Muslim so no Christmas presents to buy). I'm also the youngest of 4, which meant pretty much anything I had was used by at least 2 siblings - clothing, toys, school supplies, etc. No sega, no nintendo, no cable, no new back to school clothes, no "extras." They were frugal immigrants that both grew up poor, and we weren't rolling in cash. But we'd travel every summer - to visit our cousins in Pakistan, or a bungalow beach trip to Aruba, or a cruise. We'd pack a lot of our own food or eat out of grocery stores or local markets. Of course you need money to do anything in life, and necessities like stable food and housing are non-negotiable criticals. But I do think traveling is also about just a different set of priorities and swapping out some life "extras" for others.

I don't think it needs to be some kind of comparison about what people want to do with their disposable income -- different strokes for different folks, and that's fine. But traveling need not be just about luxury resorts and dining at places with dress codes. I'd *much* rather budget travel (often solo as a woman) than have cable, upgrade my tech gadgets, buy a fancy label purse or shoes, and eat out regularly. Nothing wrong with those things - but for a lot of people, traveling can be reasonably affordable if you shift some things around.
posted by raztaj at 12:34 PM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm squarely in the middle here. Of course there is nothing wrong with anyone who chooses not to travel, and if you live in certain parts of the US it is prohibitively costly to go outside the US. It's stupid to be snobby about that. Lots of working class kids get to see the world by joining the army or the navy.

I do like to travel, both within the US and outside, and would like to do it a lot more, but my work gets antsy if I take off more than a week at a time (although I'm toying with the possibility of going somewhere for a month and working remotely). I don't think it makes a crappy person into a good person, but it's pretty amazing to see all the different ways people do the simplest things, even within the US. I live in NYC, and I always say the culture shock going to visit relatives in Tucson, AZ is bigger than any culture shock going to Europe.

I work with someone who has PTSD from growing up in the South Bronx in the 80s, who has managed to single parent a son and is now raising a daughter, who has managed to travel pretty extensively.

I would never advise anyone to go into debt or sacrifice their career to travel, though.
posted by maggiemaggie at 12:35 PM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only thing that really irks me about people who don't travel is when I hear complaints like "Oh I would love to travel!" but I see them spend lots of disposable income on things like cable television, cars, bigger newer houses, meals out, etc.

Yeah, I heard it from coworkers when I told them my honeymoon plans, and they make exactly what I do or more. They have huge entertainment centers in their McMansions, drive SUVs, etc. We live in a one bedroom apartment and drive a compact car and have a crappy TV I bought from Walmart. I'm not going to pretend I'm anything but upper middle class at this point in my life, but I still had to prioritize travel over other stuff to make it happen. And even with more disposable income, we're still staying in hostels and guest houses for the most part to make the money stretch. The main difference that having money makes compared to when I went backpacking is that I can afford to do this while paying a car payment and rent.
posted by red alert at 12:37 PM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wonder how much of the "bleh, travel" sentiment has to do with geography.

I grew up in Malaysia, which is right in the middle of a whole stack of countries that are right there and are pretty cheap to get to (especially with budget air like AirAsia popping up). My family's from Bangladesh, which has one of the worst passports in the world, but there was a strong love and priority for travelling across the board. A lot of family conversations revolved around passports, which citizenships to get, where to go to get better passports. First thing my parents did once we became Malaysian citizens was to travel to all the places that the Bangladesh passport would have made problematic because visas.

And sure, my parents are privileged enough that this becomes an option. But it was also something hardwired in our family, the necessity and importance of travel, especially after dealing with a war-torn country that would have sucked all opportunity. Passports are mandatory; they were your ticket out.

Which is why when I lived in Australia and America, I was extremely flummoxed at how low-priority passports were with the people there (and well here, since I'm in the US now). It made no sense to me. Why wouldn't you want to travel? Why wouldn't you get a passport, such a basic form of ID (and one more accessible to me than driver's licenses since I can't drive)? Whaaaaa?

It seems to me that the fact that the US (and Australia) is HUGE and kinda isolated from a lot of places makes international travel less appealing. Yes, there's a lot of class barriers, but I also think there's a cultural expectation of American exceptionalism that leads to travel being unnecessarily high-cost and not a great deal for folk. It's like food - in Malaysia food is pretty much the core of everyone's life (and the one thing everyone can agree on) so we culturally make it a priority to have good, tasty, healthy, affordable food, because what is life without it? Then I move abroad and food is an inconvenience, a lesser evil, so nobody gives any care to it. Meh, we just need to eat, meh.

This sort of attitude around travel is what leads to situations like me popping by my friend's birthday just because I went to the airport to catch a flight to see my dying grandmother for the last time, a flight my parents paid for because they wanted me to be there and no way was I able to afford it on my own, and my friend snarking at me "must be nice to be able to go anywhere because your parents paid for it". Bloody hell, my grandmother is dying in a country that I have extremely ambivalent feelings over, this is not a fucking vacation.
posted by divabat at 12:38 PM on July 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


I'm sure traveling is a peak experience for a lot of people and is part of what defines their life, but I'm tired of it being seen as the be-all-end-all of everything. And to some extent, it is reflective of privilege. Whether that privilege be money, youth, lack of obligation, or what have you. I think it's seen as something that everybody is supposed to want, to the point where if you haven't done much of it, you're seen as somehow bereft. But not all people are cut out for traveling, and not all people get the same things from their experiences.

I've had a number of different types of traveling experiences. Everything from Western Europe to Japan to Burning Man to concert festivals to Hawaii to rainbow gatherings to visiting my friends in various US cities. And really, I haven't even done all that much traveling. I've had good experiences and bad, but I wouldn't say that just the act of traveling is inherently worthwhile or makes you a better person. For example, I enjoyed Tokyo, and had all the typical "Oh wow this place is different and crazy" impressions, but once I got past that part of it, I was like, "huh, okay, this is a big city full of people working and playing and eating and going home to their families and riding the subway ... okay, not all that different from NYC, where I live."

One thing I really don't relate to is how I'm supposed to see traveling alone as this big liberating experience. I feel like that's one thing I'm really supposed to enjoy that I just don't. It's supposed to be this big fulfilling experience of self. Kinda goes along with how everyone now is supposed to be these perfectly independent individuals, and how that's seen as indicative of some kind of inner strength or virtue. And I think the whole thing is hogwash. Or at very least, I just didn't enjoy traveling alone all that much. I thought it was depressing and lonely. I saw couples traveling together and even dudes traveling with their bros, and was acutely jealous of them. I would dread the inevitable question, "Are you traveling alone?" I hated answering yes. Hated it.

So yeah, people equate travel, particularly traveling alone, with some kind of deep, worthwhile experience that everyone should have, when actually it's really an experience only some people would enjoy, and it's certainly only available to people with certain kinds of privilege. But really, I think you'd see this kind of disconnect any time you pick out one aspect of life and say EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE IT. Same goes for parenting. Same goes for a lot of things.
posted by evil otto at 12:41 PM on July 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


Which makes a trip to Orlando out of reach for many, if not most, American families. And, that $1,200-1,600 doesn't include lodging, meals, tickets to whichever park you want to go to, etc.

The sentences following the one you quoted talked about how the entire eastern seaboard (which, counting the next layer of states landward as well, comprises a large percentage of the US population) is within easy driving distance of Orlando. It's still an expensive trip -- most people I know who have gone went once, and it was a hugely significant family trip that took years to save for (or pay off).

For me this issue comes down a lot to feeling annoyed when people claim that they just, you know, can't afford to travel and they're envious of how I can, when in fact it's the product of daily choices and sacrifice to make it happen.

I think in these discussions it is easy to make it just about the money (such as comparing the average cable bill of $123/month to the cost of a yearly vacation), when in fact it is also about things like availability of time off, cultural capital, and social and family expectations. Most Americans live in the same state where they were born, and a startling high percentage live in the same town for their entire life. Unsurprisingly, education (which is a good proxy for social class) is the real factor, with college educated people moving around and less educated people tending to stay put.

In other words, making the decision of whether or not to travel overseas just about the financial aspects alone misses key factors, and the super simplistic "travel because it is good for you!" that the article is discussing misses even the financial aspects.

Traveling safely, as a woman, costs even more money than traveling unsafely as a woman or traveling like a man.

This is a great point. When I was working and traveling in developing countries, I got away with things that in retrospect were more dangerous than I thought at the time and would have been a bad idea for a woman traveling alone. It was fun and I have some great stories, and it was also crazy cheap -- you can sleep on bus station floors for a long time compared to the cost of a single night in a hotel, for example. I can't remember ever turning down an invitation to stay at a stranger's house or not jumping into a car while hitchhiking at night, either.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:41 PM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


I suppose I like to travel, but I've never done the backpack around thing. I've travelled a bunch for work, but also occasionally just for fun.. e.g. I just got back from Greenland.

Anyhow, I never did the backpack thing, at least partially because my parents are into work-ethic, and when I told them about friends who went traveling in their early 20s, the response was essentially "they're traveling and what, just spending money? what's going to happen when they come back?"

I think at least some of the "hey, just travel, don't worry about the money" comes as pushback to that overly work-ethic focussed attitude. I don't think I've ever given that advice (I'm a natural worrywart about everything, so the idea of telling someone else not to worry is kind of comical)-- but I can see a place for it.

If the other option is "go work a desk job for 40 years and have your 2.5 kids and a picket fence", or "take your holidays at expensive pre-arranged sanitized resorts" -- well, yeah, different choices are possible. Different choices are okay. It's ok that I don't own a television or buy video games or drink much-- I spend my entertainment budget instead on silly things like flying to Greenland.

Anyhow-- I think people giving the advice to travel are trying to tell others in the same economic bracket that they don't have to fulfill the picket fence expectations. Where the privilege comes in is that of course not everyone is in that bracket. Plenty of folk actually can't just pick up and go. (But everyone can choose a different set of priorities-- it's just that "travel" might mean "go to the local national park" rather than "fly to Greenland".)
posted by nat at 12:49 PM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


sacrifice their career to travel, though.

I don't think that a gap in your resume is bad if you spent it traveling, depending on what your career is. If you love your job, you probably shouldn't quit. If you have the sort of job where you're angling to be a high powered executive and the main job qualification is dedication and ambition, taking half a year off to find yourself is probably a bad idea, but if you are just out of school, or are about to get laid off or have a crappy job, and have enough work experience or certifications that you can get a job interview easily, it's easy to explain the time spent travelling when you get back. At the job interview I had when I came back, all they said was that they were jealous and wished they could do it.
posted by red alert at 12:50 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've run my own business for 30 years (just me) and have recently started doing motorcycle road trips to see local-ish sites...but I still have, in the back of my mind, the same fear that has always kept me from enjoying vacations and travel, even when I could: What if no one ever hires me again? It must be interesting to be free of that anxiety.
posted by maxwelton at 12:52 PM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


The problem is that it puts a gap on your résumé that tends to get filtered automatically by HR. I agree that if you can get an interview, explaining it isn't hard, but it can make getting an interview more difficult.
posted by Peter J. Prufrock at 12:53 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Time.

This is a huge barrier to travel for Americans.

I used to think that I went on vacation... I visited family about once a year; I traveled for professional development (on my own vacation time) once a year.

In the US you are lucky if you get two weeks vacation time. Between family emergencies, sick time (that's not covered by your sick time), family obligations, you are lucky to have a couple of days left. That's even if you are making great money.

Europeans travel more, but first and foremost they have actual mandated vacation time. Also, Europe is a pretty dense place, it's relatively cheap to get to another country. I regret the hell out of not travelling every weekend when I was living in Europe.
posted by el io at 12:55 PM on July 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


fraula: I was nearly refused my study abroad year in France because I had never travelled outside of the US. Guess who the first kids back home after a month were? The ones from higher-class families who had been coddled on their regular trips to Europe... meanwhile, twenty years later *fraula waves hi from Paris*

Happy Independence Day, indeed!
posted by Room 641-A at 12:58 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


A lot of Americans don't have passports. However, depending on where they live, those folks can drive (or hike) further than the distance between Helsinki and Tehran or about half of the distance from Paris to Joburg, SA, without needing a passport. If they leave the continental US, they can go further but then you have to allow for flying, which would be pricier than driving.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:00 PM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


For me this issue comes down a lot to feeling annoyed when people claim that they just, you know, can't afford to travel and they're envious of how I can, when in fact it's the product of daily choices and sacrifice to make it happen.

I think in these discussions it is easy to make it just about the money (such as comparing the average cable bill of $123/month to the cost of a yearly vacation), when in fact it is also about things like availability of time off, cultural capital, and social and family expectations.


Totally. My annoyance doesn't extend to situations where people say they don't have the time, or they have family obligations that prevent it, but I have felt annoyed sometimes when similarly situated folks have told me that they just can't afford it.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:04 PM on July 4, 2015


Or at very least, I just didn't enjoy traveling alone all that much. I thought it was depressing and lonely. I saw couples traveling together and even dudes traveling with their bros, and was acutely jealous of them. I would dread the inevitable question, "Are you traveling alone?" I hated answering yes. Hated it.

This is a good point. I often found it lonely and depressing. But at the same time, being lonely, I think, was good for me, because I'm naturally introverted, and it sort of forced me into making friends (including, as I mentioned above, my fiancée). I think loneliness and sadness is part of what people describe as 'finding yourself', because so much of what defines who we are is cultural and environmental and social. Your relationships with friends and family, as well as the things you do and where you do them, are sort of inextricably tied into your identity and hopping on a plane to a place halfway around the world for an extended length of time severs those ties and forces you to re-evaluate who you are as a person. It can be sort of terrifying to have no idea what you're going to do or who you're going to do it with, but it's also exhilarating. I don't think I'd want to travel alone again, but I'm glad I did it.

Also, I hung out with guys that were traveling with their bros, and couples travelling together and heard many times that they wished they could be travelling by themselves, and a lot of them split up to go their separate ways. There's nothing that will make you hate your friends like travelling with them. I feel pretty lucky that I met my fiancée while traveling because we already know that we enjoy doing that together. I met a few couples who broke up after discovering that they didn't.
posted by red alert at 1:05 PM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


In the US you are lucky if you get two weeks vacation time.

You're also lucky if they let you take it. And often it's combined with allowed sick days so you always need to keep a week in reserve in case you get the flu late in the year.
posted by octothorpe at 1:06 PM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


When I was growing up in a small Midwestern town in the '70s, it seemed that there were different categories of people who travelled: those who could take a 1-2 week vacation every couple of years, those whose jobs required travel (salesmen, truckers, etc.), those who were retired, and ... others. The people who had to travel because of their jobs were pitied, I think, but seen as essentially sacrificing for their families. People who could take Florida vacations and whatnot were envied but seen as being almost ... offensive (unless they were retired -- those folks could do whatever the hell they wanted). And pretty much anybody else who travelled was viewed with suspicion; if they couldn't just stay put somewhere, then it was because they were sketchy in some manner, if not criminal.

I've travelled very little in my life, and I've never been interested in doing so. My college had a junior year abroad program, but it never even occurred to me to do that. I wonder how much of my almost antipathy toward travelling is because of my early indoctrination. I don't think I actually view people who travel the way adults around me did when I was a kid, at least I hope not, but I've really never understood the desire to just get out and explore the world. I would like to understand how society has changed so much in my lifetime, though.
posted by worldswalker at 1:15 PM on July 4, 2015


Growing up in a small sheltered place, my parents felt it was important for me to see that not everyone lives like me nor looks like me. This didn't require a passport, but it did require driving a few hours to nearby cities. I recognize there is a privilege to being able to do such things, but I don't think that it lessens the importance of stepping outside of one's own world.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:21 PM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


I have had very frustrating conversations with people from the same economic background and current situation as me who would say they wished they could do what I'd done, but they couldn't afford it.

I hear this all the time, often coupled with comments about how much my job must pay. And I'll point out that their SUV costs the equivalent of five trips to Paris, and that one monthly of their condo fees would pay for a airfare to Tokyo, and that my front row seats to the opera in Verona costs 1/3 of what they paid for a back-row seat at Madonna.

It's privilege, but it's not necessarily a high-class privilege. I have no kids, a basic but steady salary, and good health. That's the privilege. The rest comes down to personal choice.

I love to travel internationally, and am totally that guy who pushes certain friends and coworkers to go. Especially my government coworkers. I work as an urban planner, and I constantly hear things along the lines of a scoffing "that will never work" (regarding bike routes, pedestrian malls, mass transit, social assistance, nice parks - basic urban amenities to me) - things that I know work in dozens of other cities like mine.

And I push the friends who I know will enjoy it, but who have never taken that first step to travel outside of an organized group, or ever stayed anywhere but a chain hotel. I think, if only I could show you the world.

A lot have joined me, and it's only gone wrong twice. Once it was do to a friends's steadily increasing levels of orthorexy, and the other was with a group of Manhattan who turned out to be more parochial than expected.
posted by kanewai at 1:26 PM on July 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also, it's a pretty good bet that if someone is posting a lot about something on Facebook, their reality is murkier. Especially if they're posting inspirational beautiful images with inspirational sayings.
posted by maggiemaggie at 1:39 PM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


A lot of Americans don't have passports. However, depending on where they live, those folks can drive (or hike) further than the distance between Helsinki and Tehran or about half of the distance from Paris to Joburg, SA, without needing a passport. If they leave the continental US, they can go further but then you have to allow for flying, which would be pricier than driving.

This is true, but the thing is... While there are cultural distinctions within the US (largely by region, certainly by rural/urban), people who have traveled all across the US have only engaged with US culture. Even if you trap yourself in a resort in Mexico (which I highly recommend everyone try at least once) and you only visit the tourist traps... At least you get to meet a ton of tourists from different countries.

I decided I wanted to live outside the US when I was about 17 (it wasn't until I was 30 that I finally did this). My reason was this: I had all of these opinions about my country... And I felt it was like a fish having opinions about the lake he lived in all his life. Maybe those opinions had merit, but maybe I just had opinions about lakes in general. The only way to get some perspective was to live outside my country for a significant period of time.

It's frankly amazing how many Americans will insist that theirs is the greatest country on the planet, while at the same time refusing to see other countries. The arrogance is only surpassed with the ignorance.

(I certainly will acknowledge its harder for Americans to travel, the time off is the killer... The lack of medical insurance contributes to a lack of security... There isn't a cultural norm of travelling... The US if far from many other countries, etc).
posted by el io at 2:18 PM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


While there are cultural distinctions within the US (largely by region, certainly by rural/urban), people who have traveled all across the US have only engaged with US culture.

Unless, of course, they go to a big city and take in a Little Italy or a Chinatown. Or if they see foreign movies at a movie theater, or even at home.

Even if you trap yourself in a resort in Mexico (which I highly recommend everyone try at least once) and you only visit the tourist traps... At least you get to meet a ton of tourists from different countries.

Which you can do in many, many places in the U.S. as well.

Traveling is great, but let's not pretend it's the only way to expose oneself to different cultures in the 21st Century.
posted by Etrigan at 2:47 PM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


This kind of thing annoys me, especially since I have yuppie relatives (yes, they're the last of the yuppies somehow) who travel all over the damn world and then you have to look at the vacation snaps. The one time we went on a vacation with them to Hawaii, they dictated everything because they knew better. I also have a friend who somehow has the money to leave the country (albeit for work reasons frequently) at least once a month. I can't keep track of every damn country she's visited and now she's moved to England. Gah.

I have accepted that I'll never leave the North America area, and that's fine. Hell, I'd be amazed if I could make it into more states. As someone else pointed out, America is huge and relatively isolated and it's a lot of time and money to get out of it. I only have a token passport for the one "international" (Mexico for a day) cruise I took and they didn't even bother to check it. Hah. I also went to Canada in the 80's, and basically, that's gonna be it. I had a dying parent during college and wouldn't have dreamed of asking if I could take six months and a shit ton of money to take courses in a foreign country that had nothing to do with my degree requirements. These days, it's a ton of money. I get annoyed at those with the wanderlust like my relatives or my shrink telling me to sign up for frequent traveler shit to get Great Deals. I don't frequently travel! I might take a flight once every other year! What's the point?! I still can't even afford to visit my friend who moved into a place so small I can't stay over there, because I can't afford the hotel nearest to her (which would also mean I didn't have to rent a car) home even on "off season." The only reason I take any trips at all is if they're small or someone else is floating my ass along for most or all of it. The one time I could have theoretically taken an international trip, I declined because I was possibly at risk of layoffs and wasn't going to blow thousands of dollars that I might need during unemployment.

Also, taking two weeks off at once is hard even if my work doesn't give me too much crap about it and I can usually use that much time. Even if other people are doing your workload for you, you somehow still end up with days of work to catch up on when you return, AND I think it's just hard to be out of the world for that long and you spend a month just trying to catch up--plus I kind of feel like I lose immunity when I'm not in the shit all the time.

"I get it, changing your space is the easiest way to trigger a growth mindset."

I think it would probably be REALLY REALLY good for me to do one of those "transformative travel" experiences. I'm very timid and scared by nature and flip out at the idea of going anywhere where the language isn't English (I suck at languages). But I don't think it's happening in this lifetime as I am now, not without some dag-blamed financial miracle occurring.

" The only thing that really irks me about people who don't travel is when I hear complaints like "Oh I would love to travel!" but I see them spend lots of disposable income on things like cable television, cars, bigger newer houses, meals out, etc. Which are all okay ways of spending disposable income, but the reason I have enough money left over to travel is because I prioritize travel and save up for it instead of spending money on other stuff."

This is true. I don't prioritize saving money for some Big Trip in a year when hey, who knows if that trip might ever happen? I could be unemployed by the time that rolls around. Trips to me aren't real until you arrive there, so it's hard for me to anticipate and dream about something so imaginary and unlikely to happen and give up buying things I like for a fairy tale. Meanwhile, I can buy these books and yarn like, today right now, and enjoy them today right now and for my foreseeable future.

So yeah, my priority isn't travel because it's too damn hard and expensive and unlikely to happen anyway. Some of us birds aren't meant to fly.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:11 PM on July 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


So, when someone tells me "oh, you can travel to Europe for a total of 1500 usd or so", I always wonder if that includes things like the $1200/mo I pay to live in my apartment (*Seattle rent, so ok I could live in a cheaper part of the country and basically only experience city living on holiday), and if that includes paying someone to watch my cats (which I do for free), and the wages I won't be getting (which, ok, I don't get paid in summer anyway, but that money I saved goes to rent and food)...

And I realize that they mean expenses ON TOP OF having a home with electricity and Internet service and living kitties and phone bills and the big grocery trip you have to take when you get home for your empty fridge. Mmhmm. Easy peasy. Add food allergies and medicinal cannabis needs to that, and it doesn't add up to travel internationally like, whenever you want man. Just be free, somehow.
posted by zinful at 3:27 PM on July 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


I would dearly love to travel. I really would. But I make less than $40K a year, live in an expensive city, and only earn 1.2 days of PTO every month. And like many people, my PTO has to be used for both sick time and vacation time.

I got to go on my first real vacation in over a decade this year, to New Mexico, and even though I got cheap airfare and cheap motel rooms (except for a couple of nights in Abiquiu -- $100/night hotel room, but it was the only option out there and fuck it, it was a nice treat) and ate cheaply thanks to Trader Joe's, in-room fridges and microwaves, and that one miraculous rotisserie chicken from a Wal-Mart in Espanola that kept me alive for two days in the desert, I'm still paying it off. I want to go to Ohio this fall to see my best friend, who moved back there in February, but that means I won't be able to take any time off between now and then if I want to have enough PTO banked so that I'll get paid for the time I'm away from work. And while I'll save money on lodging since I'm staying with friends, the airfare to get there isn't cheap.

Changing jobs to one that pays me more and gives me more time off would be an obvious solution, and someday I'll do that. But I'm working on an undergraduate degree, and my employer reimburses me for tuition. If I leave, depending on timing, I have to pay a large amount of that money back. That doesn't sound like something I want to do, so I have to stay where I am for as long as I can. Moving to a cheaper apartment might help at least free up some money to budget for travel, but I'm locked into my lease for another 12 months and the cheapest apartments around aren't really any cheaper than my current one. (And Seattleites will attest that the rental market here is fuuuuuuucked.) I could get a roommate, but... that has never worked out well in the past, and it's pretty worth it to me to keep living alone.

Basically the only travel I can manage for the next few years with time and budget constraints is domestic travel, maybe two small trips a year if I'm incredibly lucky and I don't get sick and use up all my PTO or have big expenses like a new bed (oops, I need one of those pretty badly) or a new laptop (oops, desperately need one of those) or an upcoming move (oops, remember that lease expiring in a year?)...

It sucks that people will judge me for not being more well-traveled, or not going deep into debt to go on the life-changing trips they think I should have had already by my age, or whatever. But fuck 'em. Life's too short to worry about what judgmental assholes think.
posted by palomar at 3:41 PM on July 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


zinful, you sublet your apt and have that person look after your cat. Not a simple thing, but that's how you do it.
posted by saul wright at 3:44 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


You guys seem to think you're saying that you can't travel, but how someone like me might interpret it those last few posts as 'I can but I don't want to', or 'I want to, but I don't know how'. And that's how you get the annoying Facebook posts that the original post was complaining about. For example, I made quite a bit less than 40k a year and was living downtown in a reasonably expensive city and saved up enough in two years to travel for three months, without going into any debt. But you have to be willing to do stuff like quit your job and put all your shit in storage and move out. I totally understand why you say you can't, but the truth is that you can, but it's not worth the price you'd have to pay for it, and that's totally fine.
posted by red alert at 3:58 PM on July 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


You can easily travel if:

You are young.
You are healthy.
If you don't have children.
If you don't have a mortgage.
If you have no significant debt.
If you have savings.
If you have health insurance.
You are relatively sure you can get a job when you get back.

None of those things are particularly class related


You're kidding right? The only one that your chances of being\having isn't seriously effected by class is "young".
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:58 PM on July 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


Well I mean if you're just straight up in poverty, travel is probably not going to be a priority for you. but it's very possible to not live beyond your means and make very little money, especially if you don't have kids. Like I said, I travelled with people who had retail sales jobs back home. Though they also didn't have health insurance. But yeah, when I said 'class' up there, I was basically assuming we were talking about lower-middle and above.
posted by red alert at 4:06 PM on July 4, 2015


You're kidding right? The only one that your chances of being\having isn't seriously effected by class is "young".

If you're young you're usually:
1) Healthy
2) Don't have a mortgage
3) Don't have significant debt
4) Have affordable health insurance via Obamacare
5) Have much better chances of getting a job upon return, particularly if not picky about kind of work.

The only thing seriously effected by class in this list is "savings." And even "savings" needed is much less when you don't have many demands to begin with, which is usually the case when you're young.
posted by zagyzebra at 4:07 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you're young you're usually:
1) Healthy
2) Don't have a mortgage
3) Don't have significant debt

Uh I mean if by young you mean "an actual child"...or have you not heard about this new student loan fad?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:28 PM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


(I have had to grow the thickest imaginable skin for this sort of Facebook travel nonsense, as I am a poor kid who went to a rich school, and therefore know 14 people --that's fourteen-- who went to Europe for 2+ weeks THIS YEAR ALONE. And one of them returned home from Italy only to immediately buy a 2million dollar house. So, you know. My sad ass with its spotty freelance income has had to learn to feel OK with an occasional short trip somewhere cool followed by a return to an ordinary person life.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:33 PM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have travelled, but I have also been travelled upon. In the 80s it turned out that I had Australian cousins on the wife's side. Two of them turned up one autumn, took over our spare room, and spent six months in the City writing Excel macros for silly amounts of money. Then they borrowed our camper van for the summer.

They did return the van. They then stayed for two nights and vanished towards - it transpired - LA. We discovered:

1. The van was shagged. It had been driven to Yugoslavia and back, but not with too much oil or maintenance. On the other hand, the cassette player had a completely irremovable tape of Tubular Bells welded in place.

2. From time to time, notes came in from the traffic police of various nations describing things that had offended them and in which said van had played an identifiable part.

3. After a while, the Inland Revenue informed us that a company had been registered at our address, and used to invoice said City firms for said Excel macros. In consequence, there was quite a lot of tax outstanding. Could we help them in this matter?

I'm glad to say that mostly, all we had to do was employ the defence of "Australian relatives" and the problem went away. The camper van, alas, never recovered.

In conclusion: if you're prepared to leave a major trail of shit behind you, then travelling can be both cheap and consequence-free.
posted by Devonian at 4:43 PM on July 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


But you have to be willing to do stuff like quit your job and put all your shit in storage and move out.

And quit going to school, rehome my elderly cat, figure out how to start paying off that student loan debt right away plus find several thousand dollars to give back to my employer for a contractual obligation I didn't fulfill because I quit to travel because some sanctimonious stranger on the internet said I could totally pull all this off if I wanted to, so I must not want to bad enough.

I mean, really? Can we please stop with the fucking "oh well I did it so if you can't do it you're just not trying hard enough" bullshit?
posted by palomar at 4:45 PM on July 4, 2015 [34 favorites]


But going to school on your employers dime was a choice you made that closed the door on travel. It was probably a good choice! I'm not at all telling you that you did the wrong thing.

You're not going to travel any time in the immediate future. That fine. But five years from now? Maybe less? You can start planning now to free yourself from those kinds of obligations. If you want to. And maybe you don't. But it's not because you can't. It's because you prioritized other stuff over travel, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
posted by red alert at 4:53 PM on July 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I guess you missed the part where I said I'm going to Ohio this fall. Or that I went to New Mexico this spring. But I guess domestic travel doesn't count? Not glamorous enough?

If you're not telling me I did the wrong thing, why the insistence that it's sooooo easy to do if you're just willing to make the right kind of sacrifices? After all the people posting in this thread about how they feel judged for not having traveled yet, enough, to the right places, that sucked to see.
posted by palomar at 5:03 PM on July 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


Where did I say it was easy? You absolutely need to give up a lot of important stuff to do long term travel (I assumed we weren't talking about week long vacations here). I specifically said there is nothing wrong with not doing it. I was mostly just trying to inartfully point out that it's mostly a communication problem. You said you would dearly love to travel more but you can't. I probably shouldn't have called you out directly (I just picked your post because we were in a similar financial situation), but the truth is that you can, eventually. What you really mean is that you'd dearly love to travel more, but other things are more important to you. Which again, is totally fine, and I didn't at all intend to make you feel judged about it.
posted by red alert at 5:14 PM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I belong to a travel writers' group on Facebook, and we discussed the there too - and I eventually had to nope out of the thread after we got too many people saying "but it IS TOO easy to travel, this article is wrong, you don't need money you can just (insert impossible thing here)". Kind of like the "just get someone to sublet your apartment/quit your job and camp with your whole family/blah blah blah fish cakes" I've seen in here.

But before I did, I saw a great question from the woman who originally posted the link: "guys, why do you consider it an insult to be told you are privileged? Yes, travel is a choice some of you made, but you still had the opportunity to make that choice in the first place, and not everyone does, and this article is just asking you to acknowledge that. That's it."

So, yes, you technically could choose to make travel a priority for yourself - if you have the ability to make that choice. In some cases you don't (like, someone up thread disparaged people with SUVs - how do you know they didn't get that SUV second hand because it was the only car on the lot big enough for all four of their kids?).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:18 PM on July 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


Long-term travel requires a combination of sacrifice and privilege. You think you're telling everyone about the former but they're mostly picking up on the latter.
posted by Peter J. Prufrock at 5:29 PM on July 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


Carpe Diem.

As I get older I regret the roads not traveled far more than the occasional bad one I did journey down.
posted by twidget at 5:29 PM on July 4, 2015


Twidget - to carry on that metaphor, would you also tell someone without legs that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:31 PM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think some of the people who say that they'd like to travel despite having enough discretionary income to do so don't actually mean it - it's just seen as an expected interest among people of a certain educational level & class background, and people may want to identify with what they perceive as their own tribe, even if they strongly prefer hobbies and pastimes more readily associated with "outsiders".
posted by Selena777 at 5:31 PM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


I grew up dirt poor on a farm in North Dakota. The idea of traveling anywhere - let alone overseas - well, I might as well dream of visiting the moon.

I took my first trip abroad (to France) in 2008 at the age of 29. Travel is now a priority for me. Last year I went to Iceland. Next year I will go to Peru. I make an ok salary, but what I get that really affords me to be able to travel is 4 weeks (starting next year, 5) of paid vacation. I don't own a home, I don't own a car, I am in decent health and am afforded really good benefits by my company. I'm married, but no children. This is how I live a life where travel is one of the highest priorities.

Every single time I step off the plane and into a new country, the dirt-poor country girl in me shrieks at the UNBELIEVABILITY that here I am! Me! On the other end of the world! It never gets old nd I hope it never does.
posted by Windigo at 5:55 PM on July 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


Travel was a huge priority for my parents, both smaller summer trips within the US and long term overseas working/living. Now that I am a grownup with a job and bills, I can see how much they sacrificed to be able to do so, including a lot of sacrifices that most people would think of as unacceptably difficult or constraining. They did it on very little income and with a household full of kids, but massive amounts of social capital, which gets exactly to the privilege discussion above.

I benefited enormously from those sacrifices, much more so than if they had lived more conventional lives with nicer cars and bigger houses. People who reduce travel, especially long-term and unconventional travel, to just the dollars and cents are missing the other aspects that go into making that possible (or simply possible to conceive of as an option).
posted by Dip Flash at 6:03 PM on July 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


True story: before I married a Canadian and moved to Canada, the farthest north I'd ever been in my own country was Washington, DC. Before that? Winston-Salem, NC. The furthest west I've ever been is Denver, CO. I lived most of my adult life working shitty retail for minimum wage, trying to live as bare bones as I could, dreaming and yearning to see other countries. I have managed to go to the UK a handful of times, but that didn't start happening until after I married someone who makes a lot more money than I do. And even then? It costs us a lot. We got insanely lucky because one trip was due to a small inheritance, another because an acquaintance needed a housesitter for a week, the others by scrimping and saving the rest of the year. We are solidly middle-class, no kids, a new mortgage, no car, a decent savings. But we don't get to do near enough traveling--overseas travel can happen every few years if we're lucky again--and our income is pretty decent. It is too expensive, it is hard to do, and I really hate it when people continue to do the whole "Oh but your priorities are different, if you just changed them you could totes backpack across the Andes for a handful of dollars". I would love to do that, I get terrified that there is so much of the world I won't get to see, but dammit, it's not for lack of trying and not for lack of forgoing these "luxuries" people seem to think I just need to drop if I want to have an enjoyable life.
posted by Kitteh at 6:07 PM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.
Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry.
Jack Kerouac

I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.
Henry Miller

Henry and Jack knew.
posted by JohnR at 6:11 PM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


On the Road; or, Deadbeat Dads Waste the Child Support
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:18 PM on July 4, 2015 [30 favorites]


>would you also tell someone without legs that?<

Yes, even more so. I think our reach should always exceed our grasp.
The journey may not be easy...
posted by twidget at 6:35 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really hate it when people continue to do the whole "Oh but your priorities are different, if you just changed them you could totes backpack across the Andes for a handful of dollars". I would love to do that, I get terrified that there is so much of the world I won't get to see, but dammit, it's not for lack of trying and not for lack of forgoing these "luxuries" people seem to think I just need to drop if I want to have an enjoyable life.

But you understand they are genuinely trying to help you do something that you said you want to do, right?

If you tell someone who travels that you want to travel but can't afford it, or it's too hard, there is a pretty good chance that they are going to tell you that you can and its not, especially if they're in a similar financial situation as you. They'll do this because they wish someone had told them that sooner, or had given them advice when they were thinking of travelling. I took my extended backpacking trip because of almost exactly that kind of conversation with a friend, in fact.

Then you are going to list all the reasons you can't, and the natural next step in the conversation is to tell you that you can make different choices to free up time and money, and at this point you get offended at them picking apart your life choices. It's very easy to not go down that path by just saying that you'd rather do other things besides travelling. If it's the truth, then neither one of you should get upset at each other.
posted by red alert at 6:38 PM on July 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


The only thing seriously effected by class in this list is "savings." And even "savings" needed is much less when you don't have many demands to begin with, which is usually the case when you're young.

So, I had this answer typed out where I went through your list and explained how everything was linked to class and then I realized something: that list is using mortgage and debt as the only circumstances that could prevent you from having extra income to save for travel. That assumes that with all the things that can (and do) go wrong in a young person's life, there's enough support from outside sources that they don't suffer any long term lasting consequences. If you don't see how that's largely a function of class, I really don't know how I could convince you.

At some point any stories people give about how easy it was to travel boils down to: Have the same circumstances that I did.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:19 PM on July 4, 2015 [26 favorites]


People rarely say "just drop everything and travel", but lots of people will lecture you on how you too could afford to visit Basque country if you only prioritized your savings a bit more.

Ha, literally in some cases. (Were we in the same university class?) I was in my second year of my MA studies in Germany (so was already travelling! I'm from New Zealand!) I was on a scholarship that was meant to have paid for one semester and by hoarding every euro, I was making it stretch for the four until I graduated, so I had 100 euro a month left from that. I had three part time jobs that in total paid another 100 Euro a month. I was renting a room that was officially actually a large cupboard in a village so far out of town it had only been connected to the train line for a couple of years, at 100 Euro a month. I was eating nothing but lentils and toast, which I could do for less than 10 Euro a week. My contribution to the household electricity, phone, etc came to another 50 a month, which left me less than 20 Euro a month for anything unexpected like medication that wasn't covered by my (thankfully free) insurance.

We were sitting in a class about the Basque language, and our lecturer said he had arranged the most fabulous deal for us to go on home stays in the Basque Country for the whole summer, for only 500 Euro! Hands up who wanted to go. My hand stayed down, and he asked me why. Embarrassed, I said I couldn't afford it. He said something like, "I don't think you understand what a good deal this is. Usually you'd pay thousands for this." I said I realised that but I still didn't have 500 euro. He said, "well there's still six months til summer. You only have to save 80 euro a month. Just cut some expenses." I told him I could cut my entire food bill between now and then and still wouldn't save enough. "Just don't go to the movies, stop buying your lunch, and don't buy any new clothes, and you'll see how fast the savings add up," he answered.

I recall this incredible cluelessness every time I interact with one of my students now who mysteriously hasn't bought the textbook or excuses themselves from a class excursion that "only" costs a small train fare.
posted by lollusc at 7:35 PM on July 4, 2015 [52 favorites]


I actually do love traveling—and I don't even need to do fancy things when I do. I don't give a shit about monuments and tourist attractions. I love going somewhere and just soaking up everyday life and/or relaxing and/or taking photos of sunsets and buildings.

But I also can't stay in hostels or super-cheap motels when I travel, because I have a sick family member who needs space to themselves—that is, if they're even well enough to travel. I genuinely can't travel a lot at this point in my life, because I have close family members who are sick and/or in nursing homes and/or whose houses I am trying to sell. It's all well and good to say just pick up your things and go, but as we talked about previously, and as I haven't really seen mentioned in this thread yet, the burden of caregiving is one that disproportionately falls upon women, and I am one of those women. Just trying to travel for work requires contortions to ensure sick family members are adequately cared for and have fallback plans in case of emergency.

Anyone who says my "can't" is just a matter of life choices needs to spend an afternoon trying to understand my family member who can only whisper and can't walk or listening to my family member who vomits repeatedly make all of those lovely sounds. Like...there's never a good time to talk about caregiving, and no one ever wants to hear about it, but this absolutely seems like one of those times when it's relevant. I'm not the one who's sick, and I'm not asking for anyone's pity, but understanding is cool. Not everyone can pick up and travel on a whim, and fuck anyone who thinks they can.
posted by limeonaire at 7:38 PM on July 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


I have two dogs and a cat. So not really going on any extended trips.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:38 PM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


P.S. Caregiving is just one of the reasons is why Richard Bach's oft-quoted line, "Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they're yours" is bullshit. It's super easy to say "Go and be free," and not at all easy to stay and make things work within limitations.
posted by limeonaire at 7:41 PM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's kind of amazing how often the reply to "This thing is only 'easy' for some people because of privilege" is "But you don't understand how easy it is...".
posted by Etrigan at 7:51 PM on July 4, 2015 [32 favorites]


It's kind of amazing how often the reply to "This thing is only 'easy' for some people because of privilege" is "But you don't understand how easy it is...".

Ugh, yes, and it's all over this thread. "Prioritize!" "It's easy! No really - easy peasy!" "I can do it, therefore, everyone can!" "Stop buying lattes!" "If it's good enough for Jack Kerouac, it's good enough for you!"

What seems to be going over some people's heads is that not traveling is not a matter of bad priorities or grabby materialism. Sometimes (often) the disposable income, time, or both, is just not there. And no amount of inspirational quotes or lecturing about priorities is going to make that time or money appear from the ethers.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:58 PM on July 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Only "here's how to do it" almost always amounts to "spend more money." Take a cab or a rental car instead of public transport or walking. Stay in a private room instead of a hostel. That kind of thing. Traveling safely, as a woman, costs even more money than traveling unsafely as a woman or traveling like a man. There's no getting around that. And sure, we can do it, and we don't need anyone to allow it or tell us no, but we're kidding ourselves if we don't factor in extra costs for safety.

I don't disagree with your broad point, but a lot of this is simply not true and serves to make women afraid of travel. I'm a young woman who has been extremely fortunate to travel extensively, often in regions that are popularly considered unsafe for women. I generally don't take cabs. I've hitchhiked. I always stay in hostels, camp, or couchsurf. Honestly, I've saved money compared to some men because I can find couchsurfing situations with women who wouldn't take in men.

None of these actions have been in a context of extreme risk. I was lucky enough to have women to teach me how to do these things, and how to travel wisely but affordably, and how to take advantage of the female space which I can gain access to. I want to promise other women that travel doesn't need to be a male-only space. But often when I share this information my voice is drowned out by people who encourage fear.

I have a big problem with the way the majority of people talk to and about young women who travel alone. I know you're calling out male privilege, which is important, but please consider the impact that kind of talk has on young women interested in traveling, and leave space for those of us who know how to travel inexpensively yet safely to share our knowledge, so that other women who want to do so don't encounter a brick wall of "it's simply impossible for you to travel there, wait until you have a guy who can go with you." (Real "conventional wisdom" I got from many people upon going to Morocco. I was like "fuck that", found women who had gone there without men, learned from their thoughts, and had an awesome time.)

When I say "a framework to work in" I mean practical ideas like: "Did you know there are tons of female-specific spaces you can seek out? Here's how to find female-only overnight transport in Tanzania. Here's what to do when sharing public transport in Tunisia with men. Here are tips for responding to catcalling in a way that will make the dudes go away. Here's how to stick up for yourself in sketchy situations. In South African buses, always find the grandmotherly-type figure to sit next to, she'll have your back. Here's how to make friends in hostels in Thailand so you can go out and sing karaoke!"

My first solo trip was one of the most powerful experiences of my life, as was my Peace Corps service. I want every woman who has the means and is interested to be able to do it, and not get turned away because people tell her the carefree backpacking lifestyle simply is inaccessible to women. Despite all the voices claiming it's too dangerous, there are thousands of young women every year going out there and making it happen and returning home perfectly safe. Fuck yeah to that.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:16 PM on July 4, 2015 [36 favorites]


It's nice to spell out how to organize life so you can travel (or escape poverty, avoid sexual harassment, secure basic human rights for yourself--so many solvable "ills"). Folks whose reality is shaped by "living inside" an "issue"--disturbingly--seem to never consider the obvious.

To see the scale fall from their eyes, to hear their heartfelt thanks, to beat back the darkness of ignorance with a quick logical analysis--payment enough.
posted by maxwelton at 8:19 PM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hey, cool, a you-should-travel thread!

Tell ya what, let's have all the pro-travel folks donate $1000 each to the can't-travel crew.

No? Not gonna do it? Don't want to part with all that cash for no reason?

Yeah. Color me surprised.
posted by aramaic at 8:20 PM on July 4, 2015 [26 favorites]


I've been suffering some nausea this evening, which I put down to the heat, but in retrospect I'm probably just reacting to (essentially) telling someone without legs to "walk it off" because we should strive...ye gods.
posted by maxwelton at 8:23 PM on July 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'd like to add the point that, besides the intra-first-world-country haves/have-nots situation, there's a strong first world/third world divide. This kind of aimless, gringo trail, round the world thing is very much a first world, post-colonial (or just plain current-colonial) country's youth thing. You'll meet the occasional Argentinian or Chilean university student, but they'll probably be fairly well off to be able to afford it at all.
So, to sum up, while checking your privilege it's useful to have a world map handy.
posted by signal at 8:49 PM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hey, cool, a you-should-travel thread!

Tell ya what, let's have all the pro-travel folks donate $1000 each to the can't-travel crew.

No? Not gonna do it? Don't want to part with all that cash for no reason?

Yeah. Color me surprised.


Would you make the same kind of comment in a thread about houses? Because I'd like to own a house one day, and I'd have the money for a down payment on one if I hadn't spent so much money travelling or got a second job. I don't think I'd get offended if someone told me I should skip a few vacations and buy a house. Nor would I get offended if someone told me it was easier to buy a house than I think, nor would I get offended if someone told me that my life would be better if I owned my own property. People who think people should own houses are pretty well meaning, and are probably full of advice about how to get a mortgage and so on.

Everyone should travel at some point in their life and every one should own a house, those are things that people should aspire to, and both are in reach of a lot of people, including people who don't think they are or don't know how to get there. There's nothing wrong with encouraging people to do something you think is valuable and giving advice about how to do it.

But yes, let's be realistic, not everyone can travel or do lots of things that they want to do. I don't understand why travel is being singled out as a uniquely terrible thing to suggest that people sacrifice their time and money to do.
posted by red alert at 8:56 PM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why travel is being singled out as a uniquely terrible thing to suggest that people sacrifice their time and money to do.

Literally no one is doing this. They're just pushing back against your insistence that travel is easy and accessible for everyone because it was for you.
posted by palomar at 9:00 PM on July 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


Everyone should travel at some point in their life and every one should own a house, those are things that people should aspire to...

Really? Everyone? What if they don't aspire to these touchstones of personhood?
posted by Etrigan at 9:00 PM on July 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


Lots of people don't want to own a house, either. There's no "should" in life. Insisting that everyone should do these things without realizing the staggering amount of privilege that goes into a statement like that is... wow, dude. Serious question, how old are you?
posted by palomar at 9:01 PM on July 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


Insisting that everyone should do these things without realizing the staggering amount of privilege that goes into a statement like that...

Especially given that home ownership is one of those things that makes it more difficult to travel, unless you're at or above a particular socioeconomic level.
posted by Etrigan at 9:10 PM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


It wasn't easy for me, though. I didn't even say that everyone could do it. My very first post said you have to be young and healthy and have no responsibilities or debt for it to be an easy thing to do. I left the country owning nothing but a ten year old car, a backpack and two years worth of savings. I have literally never said it was easy, only that it's possible for more people than think they can do it, if they save money and don't have responsibilities.
posted by red alert at 9:13 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Especially given that home ownership is one of those things that makes it more difficult to travel, unless you're at or above a particular socioeconomic level.


Did you not read the exact post you just quoted where I said I can't afford a house because I traveled instead?
posted by red alert at 9:14 PM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


And yet, you're still comfortable saying that everyone should aspire to both. Physician, heal thyself.
posted by Etrigan at 9:16 PM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Fifteen years ago I found myself briefly working-but-homeless, sleeping at a friend's production company after hours, and showering at a YMCA, until I was able to set aside enough cash to rent a room in a shared house.

That's as close as I like to get to "roughing it", so the whole "hey, drop everything & backpack across Europe/Asia!!!" thing holds zero appeal - I've already been broke and uncomfortable in my HOME country, so the thought of paying money to do so on another CONTINENT sounds like madness to me...
posted by tantrumthecat at 9:21 PM on July 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Well, here's where I am. I am a freelancer so I can pick up and travel any time I want, but I still have to do my work remotely when I get there, so it's not really time off. I pay health insurance costs out-of-pocket. I have no job security -- supposedly the work is plentiful right now at this new gig I just picked up, but they themselves admit there will be lean periods. Every gig I've picked up over the last two and a half years has been as an independent contractor -- no paid time off, no benefits, no retirement plan, no guarantees of anything including getting paid on time. And my rent just went up. And my pet insurance denies all the claims the vet submits for my sick cat. I have traveled domestically three times over the past year -- alone two of those times because it would have been completely unfeasible for my guy to come with me. The third time was work-related and I got a travel credit; the other two I can probably get away with calling a work-related tax write-off.

One of those solo trips, though? I lost several hundred dollars because I had to change a flight reservation by one day, and when it turned out that my plans changed last-minute when I was on my trip because of something out of my control, I had to pay another fee to change the reservation back to the original date and I had to eat the hotel reservation I had booked for the extra night. (I don't like couch-surfing or hosteling -- the experience of traveling is stressful enough for me that I really relish being able to close the hotel room door and collapse and not talk to anyone until I'm ready to emerge again.)

I have traveled abroad, but not alone, and I probably wouldn't unless I had a trusted support network who lived near where I was staying -- if you end up in deep trouble in a foreign country, you want to have a relative or friend nearby who can do the heavy lifting to get you out. And it takes money to get someone else to come with you when you travel, so unless it's been with a group of students who had rich parents and/or money specifically set aside, I have not spent much time outside North America. I'm a woman and I hear what other women here are saying about not living in fear, but judging from the bad experiences I've had on my home turf when it comes to men's harassment, infringement on my space, sense of entitlement to my attention and other things, and occasional frightening stalkerishness, I don't personally want to put myself in an unfamiliar situation where I'll feel even less at ease. And I can't afford to take the kinds of precautions people recommend solo-traveler women take, even when I "prioritize" travel. (No SUV here, no kids, no fancy house, no cable TV.)

I will say this: I have read several times in this thread that "having children" is this inevitable thing that's in no way a personal choice, and yeah, no. And for some people, not having kids is not a "sacrifice" -- we just don't want them! This is totally an option! I can't afford the kind of travel experiences I'd love to have, but I couldn't afford kids even if I wanted them. And, you know, life goes on. Maybe not the "circle of life" in that warm-fuzzy Elton John sense, but my life goes on.
posted by mirepoix at 10:27 PM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hoooooo boy, do I not want to buy a house. Every time I have to sit around listening to someone who's in the process of buying a house* I end up thinking that doing that process would only make me want to stab myself in the head a lot. Buying a house is even less of an option for me than travel, but at least I don't actually want to do that one.

* for example, guess what I get to do tomorrow
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:14 PM on July 4, 2015


divabat: Which is why when I lived in Australia and America, I was extremely flummoxed at how low-priority passports were with the people there (and well here, since I'm in the US now). It made no sense to me. Why wouldn't you want to travel? Why wouldn't you get a passport, such a basic form of ID (and one more accessible to me than driver's licenses since I can't drive)? Whaaaaa?


This hasn't been my experience in Australia. Especially in Western Australia where international travel (to Bali) is cheaper than domestic travel.

Admittedly my own anecdotal sample population may be skewed - I'm an immigrant and like many immigrants (and there really is a sizable immigrant population in Australia, including many from the UK) see it as almost a necessity to go back to my birth country from time to time so that not having a passport would be unthinkable.

Obviously I don't know the circumstances of all Australians and I do understand that international travel is simply out of the question for some. But I would still say that going overseas is a pretty mainstream ambition for Aussies in general and not some high falutin thing that only rich people do.
posted by pianissimo at 12:29 AM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I live in London, and as you may know, no fucker can afford to buy a place to live here. Many younger people are earning enough, but because rents are high, just can't save enough for a deposit, not unless they're un/lucky enough to have a wealthy relative die. This is something that people who bought in the early 2000s and earlier seem not to understand, and so we have a plethora of articles on how if the Young People Of Today didn't have mobile phones and takeaways and flat screen TVs, they'd easily be able to save up £20k whilst paying the same in rent yearly for a flat big enough for a couple and a baby.

Earlier in the week I was reading about how it's those who feel they will never be able to make large purchases - those which bring a measure of freedom or security - who will spend their money on small non-essentials, as a kind of compensation. I think that's why a lot of people I know in their twenties, thirties and forties travel a lot. You'll never save up that deposit, so what are you going to do with any spare money? Go somewhere.

Those who took a gap year, or have travelled a lot as younguns, usually don't have to make this decision, as the same privileges that allow someone to get well travelled are the same that mean they will sit in the pub and suggest to me that I should 'get in there and buy somewhere!'.

I'm off to Japan in November, and as I work in a really middle class industry, I feel like I'm the only person who hasn't 'done Asia' - our last holiday was in a declining Seaside resort near us(which was ace) I afforded it through making a stupid financial decision in my teens that banks are now compensating for, as I took out a missold credit card. That, and a lot of time hunting out flights for half the price they are normally (which adds about four hours to our flight time) and being more than happy to stay in the cheapest hotel we can find and both fit into.
posted by mippy at 2:19 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also! My mum wants to go to New York when she's 70, if she can afford to do so. I was reading an article earlier in the week about things one ought to do after hitting their mid-twenties, and the author said he'd always wanted to go to New York, and why the hell didn't he, as it would cost '£1500 max'.

The thing is, even if I do my best to pay the costs for my mother (she will refuse and insist she pays for herself), travel insurance for an elderly woman with health problems is high. She'll need a new passport, which at the moment is £80. She'll need to get to the airport - if she comes to London, that's a cheap fares of £50 or so, and then another £20 to the airport. Even if I book us a package deal, and force her into letting me pay for stuff there, there's a lot of incidental expenses going on.
posted by mippy at 3:09 AM on July 5, 2015


Someone up thread quoted Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac and how having "no money and no obligations" made them happy, and said "those two knew".

I'd like them to go,talk to the guys panhandling in their community, who also have "no money and no obligations" and see how happy they are. Maybe you could quote Miller and Kerouac at them, too.

And as for the comment that "people are just trying to help" - I don't recall anyone having asked them for their advice. Most likely, in fact, they are suggesting things we have already considered doing, and rejected as untenable.

In closing - I do prioritize travel, but I also prioritize not having a job that makes me hate myself. And I also prioritize having an apartment to come home to, and in a city that is my favorite in the world. This means that while I do get to travel, for now I can only afford to do so infrequently and domestically. I have accepted that, but at times I do still wish my circumstances were different, but it's the same kind of wishing as it is when I wish I was dating John Cusack or something. And the expression of that wishing is NOT an invitation for advice, and I imagine the others in here are not inviting advice either, so - I am standing on the porch of my AirBnB cabin in the Adirondacks and mooning you advice givers.

Signing off for the drive home.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:04 AM on July 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


But I would still say that going overseas is a pretty mainstream ambition for Aussies in general and not some high falutin thing that only rich people do.

I was wondering if any Aussies would contribute to this thread because it does seem like they do prioritize travel.

I have to say that I am very grateful for the people in my life who showed me that traveling could be done and wasn't some high falutin thing only rich people do.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:21 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I get frustrated by the hierarchy people have in their heads when it comes to travelling. For example, I've been living in Europe for the last 3 years as an American. But I've been mostly doing freelance work, because it's hard to get a visa for a 9-5 normal job, because that gives you more rights and privileges. So I haven't exactly felt like I've had lots of cash to throw around, even though London and Rome, etc, are now about an hour's flight away. But still, as a kid from a mostly working class family, I'm pretty proud of being here in Europe at all.

And still I meet people who tell me, basically, that my traveling doesn't count, because I've never traveled to a third world country, and I've never been to Paris. And of course the fact that I've driven all over the Western U.S. and spent a couple of weeks every summer for 10 years volunteering on various American Indian reservations doesn't seem count to those people either as traveling or as any kind of cross-cultural experience.

For example, I was talking to a European friend who just came back from India recently, and we were sitting in a cafe in his home country, where we are both living, and we were talking about traveling. And it became some kind of one-upmanship contest before I realized what was happening, and he said to me, "Yeah, but have you ever just picked up and moved to a foreign country with just a backpack and nothing more?"

I said, "Yes, I have. I moved here like that, and I'm living here right now."

And he said, "Yeah, but now you've got more stuff, so---" Apparently moving across an ocean no longer counts once you've acquired a comforter, a pillow, and more books than can fit in a single suitcase.
posted by colfax at 5:46 AM on July 5, 2015 [17 favorites]


There is an assumption here I don't understand, help me please? "If you have a situation that allows you to travel a lot you are privileged. Because you are privileged you should really be doing or not be doing _____." What goes in the blank, I can't figure it out.
posted by Xurando at 5:54 AM on July 5, 2015


"You really should not be telling other people how they can/ought to reconfigure their lives to travel a lot, and that if they don't do it then they don't actually want to travel."
posted by jeather at 6:34 AM on July 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


jeather's is good, but I would question the premise and just say that instead of "Because you are privileged you should really be doing or not be doing _____", you should simply recognize that privilege and that not everyone has it. That in and of itself (and not in that "The concierge can't get me tickets to 'The Book of Mormon' until Thursday! #FirstWorldProblems!" kind of way) will go a long way toward making you less of a douchebag.

Using the plural "you" there, Xurando, not saying you are a douchebag for asking.
posted by Etrigan at 6:42 AM on July 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Then you are going to list all the reasons you can't, and the natural next step in the conversation is to tell you that you can make different choices to free up time and money, and at this point you get offended at them picking apart your life choices. It's very easy to not go down that path by just saying that you'd rather do other things besides travelling. If it's the truth, then neither one of you should get upset at each other.

Well, great, I'll just send you a list of all these "choices" I'm making with our income and you can tell me what I don't need so I can be just as awesome a global traveler you are, deal?
posted by Kitteh at 6:42 AM on July 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


colfax: I get frustrated by the hierarchy people have in their heads when it comes to travelling. [...]

Yeah, this also relates to what xigxag wrote above about immigrants, migrant works, and refugees. It also reminds me a little of a recent post about expats vs. immigrants, although that's a different topic than what we're discussing here (but it gives me the opportunity to link to this).

I also find it a little weird when I hear people extol the virtues of traveling in third-world countries for cheap. It's not that I think they shouldn't, just that it would be good if maybe they asked themselves why it is that they can do it, whereas, say, all the friendly locals they meet over there have basically no chance of visiting a Western country in the same way.
posted by Peter J. Prufrock at 6:46 AM on July 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


I actually posted an Ask Me a few years back to see where me and MrMippy should go on holiday, for a budget of £something between us. One of the commenters, despite the posted budget, told us to go to Asia - even though a flight to 'Asia' alone would cost double our budget per person.

I would like to go to Thailand, but all the annoying gap year kids who went to basically do all the same things they could do in Cornwall or Chelsea, except with more bartering, put me off.
posted by mippy at 6:56 AM on July 5, 2015


One of the things MeFi has taught me when it comes to boot-strappy things like this is if you're wondering why someone doesn't "just" do something there's probably a damn good reason.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:00 AM on July 5, 2015 [24 favorites]


Hm. I have a few opinions on this. First is that there is a decent contingent of middle class people who spend their money on boats and other big ticket consumer items because they prioritize those things rather than travel. I think that is Poor decision making for both you and your family.

That said, travel is expensive for people. I do pretty well economically, and it's not like I have a lot of money to spare. I can imagine the situation is far worse for those without my economic resources.

Furthermore, and this is something people don't talk about, travel can be lonely. I have had a lot of great travel experiences, but many of those experiences have been punctuated with long stretches of time alone where I don't know anyone and didn't meet anyone. I can imagine for some people like might be anxiety inducing and sad.
posted by deanc at 7:10 AM on July 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


If "just find a subletter!" was an easy thing to do, there wouldn't be questions on the green wondering what to do about skeevy subletters/housesitters who steal change, hit the dog, or try to extort money for alleged "deep cleaning" charges. I'm sure there are people who know oodles of trustworthy people willing to sublet or house-sit, but it's not always easy to find a trustworthy person, especially if one has pets.

"Anyone can travel if they really want to!" bootstraps are still bootstraps.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:15 AM on July 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


The funny thing is, both Miller and Kerouac led lives that I would view as unhappy in significant ways - and Kerouac met a grotesque, tragic end in his late forties as a direct result of his drinkin' smokin' fightin' life. Both were famous for being no good for women, and IIRC Ginsberg had some pretty uncomfortable things to say about Kerouac. (Not that Ginsberg turned out to be any prize either, sadly.) It's not that you can generally judge a writer's work by that writer's life, but since both are so routinely held up as free spirits and defiers of convention, it might be worth considering just how their particular brands of free-spiritedness shaped their lives.

I went to Boston earlier this year - many years, I travel for an annual work event which requires an admin to run it, so I get free airfare and one night in a hotel. It was a lot of fun, even though it rained horrible icy rain the entire time. It was a bit expensive, partly because when I'm in a place, I like to eat some nice food - nothing super expensive, but I could have gotten grocery store bread and peanut butter and instead bought deli sandwiches and one surprisingly tasty lunch at the MFA; I also bought some books. And of course, I spent something like seventy dollars in museum admissions. Again, I could just have taken the T and walked around looking at buildings and parks instead of going to museums, and I could have window-shopped instead of buying books. (Some of this might have made more sense in Europe - more interesting free architecture and even foreign grocery stores have some interest.) But I admit, I like a bit of comfort when I travel - hostels are fine, but I like to be able to pay to see some sights, and I like to be able to try local food at least a bit. I don't think I would have bothered taking an extra day in Boston if I couldn't have afforded the museums, for example.
posted by Frowner at 7:40 AM on July 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I happen to think travel is incredibly important for a person to be able to do. Extremely. In my personal experience, being able to expose your brain to new experiences, new stimuli, new ideas, new people is tremendously healthy.

But to me, travel doesn't have to mean "going to Europe" or "going to Disney World" like so many people seem to think in this thread (or seem to think generally).

Travel can even mean just going to a new part of your state. Or even going to a new part of your city. Taking a half-hour trip to the next town over. Even going for a walk or a short bike ride in a new direction or taking a new way to get home after work or school.

It's just about exploring somewhere new and different, even if it's not all that far away. I think that can be a very helpful and healthy thing for people to prioritize if they are able, and I think most are able. For those that truly can't, I wish we had more ways of opening that kind of experience up to everyone, and it's something society should prioritize helping people have the mobility to do.

The false dichotomy in this thread's discussion is disappointing, but par for the course.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:04 AM on July 5, 2015 [21 favorites]


I'm a little sad at the false dichotomy too. I value travel more than a lot of other things, and it shows - in my limited wardrobe, my lack of home ownership, my old car - and would never run it down. If you enjoy it, it's one of life's most rewarding experiences, and I also strongly believe that one of the most powerful ways to open people's minds to difference and diversity is to go where you're a stranger and the culture is different (even if it's moving from the US south to north, or a city to a rural area, etc). I recognize that my ability to do even a little travel, to make choices between things like cars and clothes and travel, is a form of wealth.

I think what is being critiqued here is not travel itself, but the blithe ease of saying "I did it - you can do it! No, you should do it!" It's oddly similar to the discussion going on in the weight loss MeTa right now. Context matters. It's one thing if someone says "I'd really love to travel, but I haven't got the money to spend on it. What are my options?" You can then offer them your own examples, thousands of resources for budget travel and free travel, handy tips, etc. But it's when they haven't asked, or their answers continue to be "those are great ideas but they still won't work for me because of my particular matrix of commitments/resources," and folks continue to push - or set up exclusive structures like that shudder-inducing job requirement of "has traveled" - then it is legitimate to note that this can be a form of class exclusion. Generalizing one's own experience to the experience of others whose lives are differently structured, and overtly judging them if they fail to live like you, is not a great thing to do even if travel, or fitness or whatever, is still a great thing in itself.

Most people who advocate and evangelize for travel are coming from a good place, wanting to share things that made travel possible for them. In AskMe I have loved shared how I managed a 6-week cross-country road trip on something like $1100. But if I'm trying to promote this to someone who has neither six weeks, a car, a travel buddy, or $1100, and is just saying gee they wish they had some of that stuff so they could do a trip like that, I'm going to come off as obliviously insensitive.

It doesn't mean travel is bad or worthless. This discussion isn't really that much about the worth of travel itself (though there are undisputedly homebodies and people who like to avoid discomfort) but about the kinds of communication we do with one another about our opportunities, and how those can inadvertently reinforce differences in access to resources.

Also, yeah, it's another place where we're arguing with one another instead of looking a lot harder at a US socioeconomic system that does not provide much leave, much vacation time, or much of a safety net if you opt out of working for a while, and/or a job market that does not favor people with employment gaps, especially past entry levels. Systemic issues - so many of our personal woes, like this one, would benefit by being recast as systemic issues with our economic structure.
posted by Miko at 8:22 AM on July 5, 2015 [23 favorites]


Privilege isn't a yes or no thing, and it's not a hierarchy. Lots of things can be a privilege in one sense and a disadvantage in another, and everyone has their own unique and intertwined set of privileges that don't have a clear position on an aggregate privilege spectrum.

In a case like this, the ability to drop everything and travel is a function of a lot of things, not just financial security. Yes, some young first world types can drop everything and travel because they have security, but refugees drop everything and travel usually because they don't. And probably a lot of people fall somewhere in the middle. There's a balance of how much you have to lose and how much you have to gain, and your personal priorities set your tipping point.

I have not traveled much. In one sense, that's because I lack certain privileges, but in another sense, it's because I have a different set of privileges, and I've never had or prioritized the set of circumstances (financial security, lack of obligations at home) that would allow me to do something like that. Yes, I probably could have if I chose to. I could probably do it now, if I were willing to drop the responsibilities I have here at home. But if I were to leave, it would mean abandoning a lot of obligations that I've committed to. As someone astutely pointed out upthread, Jack Kerouac was an absentee deadbeat dad, and his attitudes reflect that mentality.

Maybe, in these middle cases, where technically you could drum up a backpack and money for travel and some living expenses, it'd be more useful to think of things as circumstances rather than framing it as privilege across the board.

And what would always be useful is for everyone to make an effort not to project their circumstances and their mindsets onto others. There are very few universals, so something that is wonderful and fulfilling for you isn't going to work for everyone. Be enthusiastic about your enthusiasms, but understand that your experiences and preferences are not universal. At the same time, understand that people sharing their enthusiasm about something aren't necessarily thinking less of you for not sharing it.

That said, despite my not traveling much or prioritizing travel in my life, I relate quite a bit to the underlying call to adventure, especially for women. As several other women have pointed out, we are conditioned to be fearful from a very early age. Some of that is necessary and useful, but sometimes our fears become oversized. I would want to encourage other women to go out and experience and interact with the world, near or far, and to step a little outside their comfort zones, because fear breeds fear. If you never get out and explore the world, the world becomes an unfamiliar, unexplored land that you hear about mostly in the context of worst case scenarios.

Even if you can only manage to travel a few blocks, get out of your bubble sometimes as you can. Talk to people, maybe eat food that you don't recognize, ride public transport if you normally don't. If you're a visible majority, go places where you're a minority. Get a little taste of what it's like to be out of your element. Get to know people who aren't like you. If you live anywhere near a reasonable sized city, there are probably cultures you're unfamiliar with that you can 'travel' to for the price of a city bus fare and whatever time you can carve out of your schedule.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:28 AM on July 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


It reminds me of the weight loss thread too--it's this unfortunate intersection of privilege and class issues with people's tendencies to evangelize about things that have worked for them so they can work for you too! as well as, from my perspective, a feeling that sometimes in conversation people seem to treat the ability to travel/thinness as if it is solely a matter that is outside of one's control rather than expressing the realization that even if it is closely tied to privilege it is also frequently the product of sacrifice and prioritization and hard work. Hearing "oh I wish I could travel but I can't afford it" from your friend while you're helping them move all of their electronics and other possessions from the back of last year's model SUV into a house that's bigger than they need stirs some of the same feelings as when someone insists you have a larger portion of food because you're skinny and can eat whatever you want.

Even if I were to find situations like that privately irksome, neither is an invitation to tell my friends how I think they could change their lives to have what I have (one, I could be wrong and two they certainly weren't asking).

Where I can see these threads go haywire is where people at first might think they are just explaining their choices or decisions, but in fact they come across as telling other people how to live.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:45 AM on July 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


I will say this: I have read several times in this thread that "having children" is this inevitable thing that's in no way a personal choice, and yeah, no. And for some people, not having kids is not a "sacrifice" -- we just don't want them! This is totally an option!

THIS. My better half and I have talked about this at length - she has no desire to give birth, and I have no real interest in fatherhood. One of our big reasons is - to tie things back to the article - we've never had the opportunity to take a trip as a couple, and having kids would cross that off the list forever.

(No disrespect to anyone who HAS kids and vacations with them, it's just that my memories of family trips are, uh, less than pleasant...)
posted by tantrumthecat at 8:46 AM on July 5, 2015


It's just about exploring somewhere new and different, even if it's not all that far away.

I know some people who won't eat anything other than burgers or pizza. If the goal is really to broaden the horizons of insular people, I think suggesting something major like travel, that's a huge investment in time, energy, and money, is not the best way to go about that. There are much smaller steps that can be taken.

On the other hand, maybe that's the point. Maybe these people who won't step out of their comfort zone in their own hometowns need an enormous culture shock in order to make a change. But does shaming people into travel encourage those who are otherwise unlikely to do it, or does it discourage them?
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:24 AM on July 5, 2015


I wonder how much of my almost antipathy toward travelling is because of my early indoctrination

There appears to be an active denial here that these kind of cultural impediments to travel exist, though I grant that these cultural affectations might be somewhat of an anachronism now.

But growing up, I knew plenty of people who prioritized one set of trappings of middle class existence (the material oriented ones) over things like travel. And it was true that technically they didn't have the money to travel, but it was because the money had already been spoken for, having been spent on other things.
posted by deanc at 9:28 AM on July 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


But does shaming people into travel encourage those who are otherwise unlikely to do it, or does it discourage them?

If you normalized something culturally (otherwise known as "peer pressure"), it does encourage people to do it. If something is generally "expected" of everyone, then they tend to conform to expectations.
posted by deanc at 9:33 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know some people who won't eat anything other than burgers or pizza. [...] On the other hand, maybe that's the point. Maybe these people who won't step out of their comfort zone in their own hometowns need an enormous culture shock in order to make a change.

^And this is where the Ugly [Nationality] Tourist stereotype comes from.
posted by sukeban at 9:36 AM on July 5, 2015


In US food history, WWII is this enormous watershed, because a massive percentage of the population served overseas, and the length of deployments was long, and because they were constantly moving around they spent a lot of time in local towns and cities in Allied or occupied territory. So they tried the food, and when they came home, they were more adventurous and also often sought out food similar to what they'd encountered abroad. It's the moment when Italian food in America stopped being cheap, suspect, dive food and started being found in local pizzerias and spaghetti houses catering to the middle class, including Anglos.

It did take people out of their comfort zone and sometimes really broadened their tastes and perspectives. War is a sucky way to do this, but it mixes people in productive ways twice: it puts people of different regions, backgrounds, and economic positions in units together and requires them to depend on one another, and then it puts those units into foreign contexts where they experience more difference. This is less effective today, because the nature of warfare has changed so much (you can get a Whopper on a US base in Iraq), but I have still heard some interesting stories about eating local food at the front and soldiers bringing back a taste for Afghan and Iraqi food.
posted by Miko at 10:02 AM on July 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


^And this is where the Ugly [Nationality] Tourist stereotype comes from.

Yes!

I think the attitude in the article has a couple of different components. There's the act of traveling itself, but also the sense of adventure and curiosity that that specific type of travel entails.

I know some extremely sheltered, xenophobic people who have been all over the world. They sign up for tour packages or cruises or something, and mostly just do a bunch of sightseeing from their insulated little bubbles, and then come back and talk about all the weirdos who live in different cultures with their gross weird food and their funny outfits and stuff like that. They talk about it like they'd talk about a trip to a zoo or a museum or something.

I have never been outside of North America, but I consider myself much more worldly and experienced than them, based solely on my experience just walking around places I find myself and interacting with the world in normal ways like talking to people and patronizing unfamiliar businesses that advertise goods and services. (It is hilarious but mostly tragic how some people I know are afraid to even go into stores and restaurants if they don't know exactly what to expect.)
posted by ernielundquist at 10:27 AM on July 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't think someone would have written an article like this even a generation ago, and I think that wanting to write this article places the author into a certain socio-economic category. As was alluded to in some comments, the traditional American dream is much more related to home and possessions, and not travel. Even today, I would imagine exhortations to travel are made by a pretty thin slice of American society. No one tells the corner boys on The Wire that they should save up for a trip to Europe, not even Stringer Bell.

I think in some cases suggesting travel probably is very good advice, in so much as it is outside of what someone thinks they can or should do. It's considerably less useful in social circles where everyone knows it is an option and the people who don't want to do it really have just decided to prioritize other things.
posted by snofoam at 10:27 AM on July 5, 2015


I know some people who won't eat anything other than burgers or pizza. [...] On the other hand, maybe that's the point. Maybe these people who won't step out of their comfort zone in their own hometowns need an enormous culture shock in order to make a change.

Unless they don't want to change and why do you care so much anyway? Let 'em eat burgers and pizza! Let 'em vacation at the nearest lake and never go overseas! Let 'em buy a boat if they want to and who are you to say if that's a "poor decision"? A lot of people seem awfully overinvested in other people's decisions and priorities here. Just mind your own business.
posted by witchen at 10:32 AM on July 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


Ugh, I came into this thread with the expectation that I would be sharing my experience of privileges and travel, eg recently encountering trust fund kiddies in London hostels (since I have just arrived and am freaking out about the job hunt thing, etc etc), who presumed I was from anything like the same background as them, and just how incandescently angry and upsetting it was dealing with their blithe privilege, down to being lectured on how I was... too concerned with money?!? Urgh, actually, turns out I don't even want to get into it. Probably the biggest culture shock of a trip through 8 countries, turns out I just don't meet many of the 1% in my day to day life, let alone their just left home kids.

Ironically, I have made it to the bottom of the thread, and am feeling oddly like my grand privilege which has allowed me to travel, is... Poverty!

That and being from New Zealand, where the culture is such that... You travel. Because we are tiny islands of only 4.5 million people in a vast sea, and even Australia is 3 hours and a chunk of change to get too, so if you travel, you do the economic migrant route, and get work at the other end. Someone asked about cultural attitudes to traveling, and I think New Zealand has that even more than Australia, for obvious reasons. I think it is just down to priorites, in the US, it seemed like people were more likely to have had a new or nearly new car than to have gone overseas, but in NZ, it is the opposite. No one has new cars, everyone drives Japanese imports, etc. International news is a much greater proportion of news, and we get a lot of international tourists ourselves, many who are working their way around the country in exactly the same way Kiwis do when going to other expensive nations.

But anyway, back to the privileges of being poor!
Firstly, no, I couldn't travel according to middle class standards, but luckily - I don't have middle class standards!

I also don't have a house or a mortgage, a car or a cat because I can't afford them, I have always lived in shared housing so I don't have a huge amount of belongings, and the furniture I do have was mostly free, so it isn't a huge loss to put it out in the street to be returned to whence it came.
At each of the points where I was finishing a job, didn't have anything lined up, and crucially, was no longer caregiving for an episodically mentally ill relative or a child (which made the dream of travel stronger) I was essentially free to try and head overseas. Yes, I saved money, but, for many people from my economic background, you do seasonal work, which you have already had to pack up and move for, and after doing a season of apple picking or whatever, where you stayed in hostel style accommodation with meals often already sorted, you come out the other side with the required chunk of change to go do the same thing on the other side of the world, or working in a bar, hospitality, nannying, whatever, with some travel en route.

Maybe it isn't travel when you are poor, maybe it is being an economic migrant? Ha! Regardless, you can usually fit in holiday enroute, for less than living expenses at either end.
So I didn't have hot water where I was staying in paradise in Thailand, but with the climate, you don't need it, and the bathroom didn't have mould, which is more than I can say for many of the houses I lived in.
It was really, really, really nice. I loved the food, I loved the massage, I would love to go back there and train in Thai massage as a back up or part time career option.
As far as travel costs, I just went from New Zealand to London, over 8 countries, nearly a dozen flights, for just over a grand US, because you game it like you are an extreme couponer.
(Special from NZ to Bali, once there US$70 to Bangkok, from there, cheap flights to Europe. I went Nepal to London via Qatar, because of the migrant worker routes making that cheapest.
If you are heading out of the US toward Europe, try via Iceland, I've heard that is pretty good at the moment)

Oh, and I am a woman! Usually a single woman traveling!
I don't generally travel to places that are more unsafe than the areas I grew up, but then, the area I grew up in wasn't that safe. Someone got stabbed on my doorstep (which I was unaware of, Mum said she was picking up milk, not taking someone to hospital). So again, the privileges of poverty, making travel seem relatively safe.
But even so, this seems to be a discussion of mostly American mefites? And US major cities are usually more dangerous than anywhere on backpacking routes are for tourists, so I would urge other women travellers to consider the inflated risk calculus there, and not let it hold them back.

Other privileges of being poorer and traveling? I think it has sometimes made me more relatable. First of all, people understand traveling to go work in a rich country, save money, and then maybe go home. Totally relatable.
Or when people in India talked about westerners not living with their parents, and then I explained that I didn't live with my parents because a) I only have a single mother, and b) none of my immediate family own houses, so we are all renting, so it isn't any cheaper for me to live with my mother but we would be further from work, and they were kind of blown away at how 'relatively' poor I could be, for a western tourist (no really, it turned out to be this weird bonding experience) even as I was discussing how lucky I was to be from a rich country, oh, and giving advice on work visa requirements. Talking about friends/family who have managed to get a visa for whichever country, is good small talk.

So, yeah, travel is viewed culturally, very differently and I think the working migration pattern versus going on holiday is a big one. In places where it is very expensive (NZ!), there is less expectation that it is something you would do for a holiday, and more something you would do while working, for periods often measured in years, rather than weeks, to either settle overseas, or before eventually returning home.

Eh, I guess the above is in response to the idea that traveling is a sign of middle class privilege, but only when you recursively define 'travel' in terms of middle class expectations for travel, and ignore the millions of people who don't fit that model, travel anyway, or are traveling directly *for* economic reasons.
posted by Elysum at 10:35 AM on July 5, 2015 [19 favorites]


International news is a much greater proportion of news, and we get a lot of international tourists ourselves, many who are working their way around the country in exactly the same way Kiwis do when going to other expensive nations.

I remember meeting a lot of Germans who had been to NZ, and one of them who had spent several months there told me she met more Germans than New Zealanders. I gather that NZ (and maybe Australia too?) has a pretty nice reciprocal work holiday visa agreement with several countries. It's something I really wish the US had but that will probably never happen.
posted by Peter J. Prufrock at 10:50 AM on July 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Unless they don't want to change and why do you care so much anyway? Let 'em eat burgers and pizza! Let 'em vacation at the nearest lake and never go overseas! Let 'em buy a boat if they want to and who are you to say if that's a "poor decision"?

Culture doesn't appear in a vacuum. It appears because there were cultural and social norms that created it. I think it's ok to have a certain amount of cultural push-back against the idea that your money is well spent on a big car and motorcycle in the garage, and a boat at the lakehouse in favor of things like travel and other cultural experiences. Some comments here are pretty firm examples of the cultural left being unwilling to take their own side in an argument.
posted by deanc at 10:55 AM on July 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


pianissimo: yeah, when I was in Brisbane I wasn't around a lot of immigrants, which added to the culture shock - they couldn't even parse why anyone would immigrate (xigxag's comment is poignant) because every international move but be an act of luxury, even if you're doing so to flee a country that hates you or because you're trying to survive. Immigrants in general tend to get it.

And if we're talking privilege: all of you with an American/British/Australian/Western Europe passport, or the ability to get one if you wanted to, need to recognize hoe lucky you are. Visas are the WORST.

As for fussy eaters: my dad probably outdoes me in the Family Traveller Department (likely who I got the travel genes from) and no matter where he goes he only ever eats Indian or Chinese food. Maybe something like Applebees. I'd get frustrated at him for it but he claims that it's for health reasons, so who the fuck knows really. (He's kinda...not the greatest person to travel with.)
posted by divabat at 11:18 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hearing "oh I wish I could travel but I can't afford it" from your friend while you're helping them move all of their electronics and other possessions from the back of last year's model SUV into a house that's bigger than they need stirs some of the same feelings as when someone insists you have a larger portion of food because you're skinny and can eat whatever you want.

So much this, the feelings seem to be the same too. And if someone asks how, your explaining how you cutback stuff, and now they feel like you are now suddenly attacking them.
posted by Iax at 12:10 PM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


[Couple of comments deleted. Please either engage with the conversation already in progress, or if you think it's all too dumb to bother thinking about, go ahead and pass the thread by.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:12 PM on July 5, 2015


And if someone asks how, your explaining how you cutback stuff, and now they feel like you are now suddenly attacking them.

...Are you sure they are asking you for advice? Or are they just saying "golly gee I wish"? Because sometimes "golly gee I wish" is an incomplete sentence, and the unspoken second half is "but I know that I'd have to give up some of this stuff I have instead oh well", and that therefore actually isn't a request for advice.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:33 PM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think that's where this stuff goes totally to hell. Even if they were asking, after about 30 seconds of hearing someone say "well I make this choice and that sacrifice and this other thing totally different than you have done" it is going to feel a lot like judgment and they're probably wishing they hadn't asked to begin with (especially if they were just sort of making polite conversation and not really asking asking).

But from the point of view of the person who is explaining themselves it can feel an awful lot like "the hell? You asked! Anyway, this is something that's meaningful to me so stop being all weird and defensive about it," and then it can get much much worse from there.

Especially if it's not actually your friend who said it but someone who you don't otherwise know, and whose only relationship with you is that you both paid $5 to join MetaFilter.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:39 PM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is less effective today, because the nature of warfare has changed so much (you can get a Whopper on a US base in Iraq), but I have still heard some interesting stories about eating local food at the front and soldiers bringing back a taste for Afghan and Iraqi food.

A Marine friend of mine who did a couple of tours in Iraq believes in his bones that the modern taste for sriracha and then crossover of Thai and Vietnamese food into the American palate was largely jump started by returning veterans who had developed a taste for it in the 70s and he is willing to lay bets on falafel and hipster muhammara being A Thing in a couple of decades. Skeptical Me says that Filipino food's relative obscurity vis a vis the long running naval presence in the Philppines skewer his theory, but I still give odds that America's taste in street food is guided by the populations that it occupies.
posted by bl1nk at 1:39 PM on July 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'd wager it has a lot more to do with the enormous influx of Southeast Asian migration to the United States that was a consequence of the Vietnam War.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:41 PM on July 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


Maybe it isn't travel when you are poor, maybe it is being an economic migrant?

I have a small handful of American and Canadian friends who have chosen to live in China or Korea either being bartenders, graphic designers, or teachers because they're making the bet that the slight wage premium that they're going to get as a novelty Westerner coupled with the cheaper standard of living will mean that they're going to have a little more cash to devote to paying off college debts and saving for a house. It is more or less inverse to the arbitrage logic that's driven my Southeast Asian brethren to go abroad, except it's all about the gamble of making a lot of money in richer countries without burning all that cash on expensive Western habits.

I rather wonder how many young Americans who might struggle with un or underemployment in the U.S. would jump at an opportunity to spend a few years in Sweden or Argentina or South Africa if labor visas were available and a couple of other intrepid labor hipsters were to write a Medium post about "I paid off my crushing undergrad student loans by working in expensive ecolodges in Patagonia. Here's how:"
posted by bl1nk at 1:51 PM on July 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd wager it has a lot more to do with the enormous influx of Southeast Asian migration to the United States that was a consequence of the Vietnam War.

I agree with this - after all, in order to have X-nationality food, there has to be someone who knows how to prepare X food, and until recently, in the US, that was mostly women's work outside of the rarefied high-class restaurant world. (French food entered the US mainstream because Julia Child taught the housewives of America how to cook it.) I remember Vietnamese restaurants springing up in the late 70's - my mom taught second grade, and the Vietnamese mom of one of her classroom kids opened a restaurant, which we patronized ("it's the mom of one of my kids, and she has to earn a living").

While I agree that serving overseas in the armed forces probably opened many people's minds to new foods, I think the presence of immigrants (or natives, in the case of the parts of the US which were once Mexico) opening restaurants pushes the cuisine into the mainstream. The 1965 Hart-Celler act lifting immigration quotas has done more for America's food than anything else.

Back to the topic of travel, I think that young people from some other countries, like New Zealand, have more opportunity than those from the US to combine travel with work. The US does not have work agreements with other countries like that, nor is there a EU system that allows people to cross borders and find work with minimal red tape. Most young Americans assume that to work abroad means teaching English somewhere, getting a job at a multinational corporation and hoping to be assigned overseas, or having a Very Special Skill (not some generic history or English lit degree). For most Americans, the only way to travel is to do it on one's own time and dime.

I'm all for getting information out about the possibilities of budget travel, and the different ways one can find work abroad. The Internet makes this easier. But if the time, money, and personal freedom aren't there, then they aren't there. It's very possible that the person you are judging for buying an expensive car/stereo system/pedigreed cat instead of traveling might have the money, but no time or personal freedom. A car does not take up vacation time or take away from caregiving commitments.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:01 PM on July 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


My travels as a young woman were formative. Yes, I am privileged. My family had very little money but both my parents had traveled internationally and encouraged me to do the same. In Canada I grew up in the post-Trudeau era, where the government funded travel for high school students. And of course health care wasn't a worry. My first big trip was to a tiny Innu community above the arctic circle when I was 15. It was funded by the government and car washes. It blew my teenaged mind and completely changed my politics. I joined the school field hockey team when I learned they were going to England. I joined air cadets when I learned they'd fly me around Canada to summer camps for free.

At 18 a friend and I saved up (I worked at Wendy's) took $500 each and flew to Greece for two months. Lots of other trips followed over the next dozen years, some solo, some with a friend, one year long trip with my now-wife. I know I'm privileged - the vast majority of the people I met on those trips had zero chance of ever traveling any distance from their homes. I appreciate very minute of every one of those trips, even the shitty moments.

If you haven't had the opportunity to travel extensively, or at all, and you want to, I'm sorry. I hope your circumstances change. Someone up thread mentioned this, but as someone who is now firmly middle class I help fund a small travel scholarship as part of my charitable giving. It means that a student on financial aid can travel to visit a major US city and visit art museums and other sites. Some years we can only send one student, other years we can send two. If you've liked traveling and have the means you could contact your local community college financial aid office to inquire about opportunities to donate.
posted by Cuke at 2:09 PM on July 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


I gather that NZ (and maybe Australia too?) has a pretty nice reciprocal work holiday visa agreement with several countries. It's something I really wish the US had but that will probably never happen.
posted by Peter J. Prufrock


Well, the good news for Americans under 30, is that, there is actually a working holiday visa program for you to go to New Zealand, so, you can do the same thing as the German tourists!

It's just not reciprocal, in that, there's no working holiday visa to get into the US - well, except for that one which basically limits you to working at Disneyland or selected summer camps?!
Just going by availability of working-holiday visas though, the US is something of a special, isolationist case when compared to other western nations, which is just another in the soup of reasons why travel is less of a cultural value in America.



I rather wonder how many young Americans who might struggle with un or underemployment in the U.S. would jump at an opportunity to spend a few years in Sweden or Argentina or South Africa if labor visas were available and a couple of other intrepid labor hipsters were to write a Medium post about "I paid off my crushing undergrad student loans by working in expensive ecolodges in Patagonia. Here's how:"
posted by bl1nk



Oh, bingo! Actually, I saw one recently - it's a "Go live in the middle of the mining-town desert in Australia to save money" http://lesswrong.com/lw/43m/optimal_employment/
(It's warmer than Alaska I guess? I disagree with a lot of their points, including that, I think going to NZ and doing seasonal work is a good way to fund a holiday, but not really save a lot).

Also, there is a US woman in India who did a three day massage course, and now makes a living giving massages to tourists in Goa, and wrote an article explaining how you can too... Which bothers me for a multitude of reasons, mostly the three day thing, and that it is clearly tourists willing to pay a huge (10x) premium to get a massage from a blonde american woman rather than a local. Oh well.
posted by Elysum at 2:39 PM on July 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Something that people said to me a lot when I moved to New Zealand was "Oh, are you on your OE?" I heard this so many times when I lived there, and it gave me some insight into the Kiwi culture being one that valued overseas travel considerably--so much so that not only was there a common term for it (the 'overseas experience') but that a great number of Kiwis considered it such a universal thing that they thought Americans did it too. I knew relatively few Americans who moved abroad unless it was required for work, and I didn't know many Americans who even did overseas travel that lasted more than two months. It was weird to think about at first, because the American reaction was a lot more along the lines of "You're doing what?", compared to many New Zealanders assuming that what I was doing was a totally normal thing.

So the OP is definitely an American-centric piece, I think, and is reflective of the idea that overseas travel is some sort of aspirational goal, the type of thing that can transform you and make you a better person, not just this common thing that is valued, yes, but not elevated to pseudo-mythic status.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:51 PM on July 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'll be 68 this year. I had been mulling a trip to Montana, this thread has bumped it up to active planning. Thanks again Metafilter.
posted by JohnR at 3:35 PM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hilarious. This beat poet guy I know once told me (while I was disabled and had a toddler) that if I just were free enough in my mind I could "backpack all over south america" with no money. Love that guy and his poems but..... Riiiiiight.
posted by geeklizzard at 3:55 PM on July 5, 2015


I'm trying hard and can only think of three people that I know who have ever moved from the US to work in another country (not counting military).
posted by octothorpe at 3:56 PM on July 5, 2015


No matter where on earth you travel or the conveyance by which you do so - with the possible exception of a solo yacht or a blimp to a deserted island - there's just going to be a bunch of stupid-looking people doing dumb idiot bullshit and complaining about the weather and the prices of things and breathing on you, so whatever.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:04 PM on July 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Elysum: "Also, there is a US woman in India who did a three day massage course, and now makes a living giving massages to tourists in Goa, and wrote an article explaining how you can too... "

While I'm firmly in the check-ya-privilege crowd, I once spent 1/2 hour learning how to do those braids with colored string, and spent a month in Bolivia, making a living braiding people's hair (mostly tourists, but some locals too) on the street, and actually managed to pay for my expenses + partying and save a little money at the end of it. And I am the exact opposite of a blonde american woman.
posted by signal at 4:31 PM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, the good news for Americans under 30, is that, there is actually a working holiday visa program for you to go to New Zealand, so, you can do the same thing as the German tourists!

Oh, that's great! I wish I had known that when I was younger. It requires showing that you have 4200 NZD (2800 USD) in available funds, which many will still find onerous. But it's doable and better than nothing. Thanks for the tip.
posted by Peter J. Prufrock at 5:13 PM on July 5, 2015


When I quit my first job out of college to head to a startup, I had exactly two days (a weekend) between leaving and starting. I got a lengthy lecture from a coworker from my first job about how this was my time to travel, I was young and unattached, I should take a month off and go see the world, he met his now-wife on a safari between two of his jobs, blah blah blah. I kept saying "No, really, I can't afford it" and because we were both upper-middle-class engineers with solid job prospects he kept telling me "Sure you can, just put it on your credit card, you'll pay it off eventually, I'm sure you got a raise with this new job." There were lots of reasons I was concerned about paying my rent the following month, some sympathetic, some "young and stupid and spending beyond her means", but it was pretty tiresome and an embarrassing argument to be in. And I love to travel! I adore it! I just wish someone would believe me when I say "No, I can't right now", irrespective of how "perfect" the timing is for me in life!

Also, regarding American vacation time, I've always found it sort of bitterly funny that my Australian husband hardly considers any overseas trip under 4 weeks to be worth it, when inviting my retired American parents to visit us in Australia for more than two weeks at a time is met with disbelief that anyone would vacation for more than two weeks.
posted by olinerd at 6:08 PM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, during college, I self-funded a relatively inexpensive semester abroad in Mexico, since my parents weren't in a position to help me out with the personal growth experience of a European semester abroad I truly wanted. As a result I ended up with hardly any money to spend on anything but food for five months at a university that, I found out upon arrival, charged you for literally every activity you might join. Salsa dancing club? $$! Spanish lunch table for non-native speakers? $$! Community service? Seriously! You had to pay money to join in any community service activities! It was miserable. I didn't integrate nearly as well as I might have and was pretty homesick and unhappy for the majority of it. So I'm particularly sensitive to just how "fun" and "exhilarating" it is to be in a foreign country without money to do anything other than sit in a room and feel sick that you just had to pay the post office US$35 -- easily a week's worth of groceries -- for "extra postage" (read: a bribe) to get your care package from home out of which half the stuff has been stolen anyway. Maybe it's not so bad when you have parents who can wire you money in a hurry, or friends in that position who are happy to bail you out, but it's mortifying and scary and depressing on your own.
posted by olinerd at 6:13 PM on July 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


That's just it, and as I said a bit upthread, emergencies and unexpected expenses do come up -- whether you can "afford" a trip is also contingent upon whether you can absorb these extra costs or whether you'll be completely hosed.
posted by mirepoix at 9:23 PM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Late to the argument but ... there is privilege and there is privilege. Sure I am white and from Australia, but all my travel has involved sacrifice - my first trip to Japan required working two jobs and then working (illegally) when I got there and not getting to stay as long as I wanted due to visas. And I had much less money than I should have had when I got there, and I had woefully misplanned what to pack - but I had wanted to travel to Japan since I was 8 years old, and I had wanted to travel anywhere since I was 2 and coming from a poor background where I was only the third person in the history of my family EVER to get a passport was not going to stop me.

Very few people in my family have left their home country. They think I am weird for prioritising travel rather than a mortgage or stability. But my husband and I have travelled, and make it a priority. Sure he is 'privileged' because he could take a sabbatical 12 years ago to travel but you know what? He was the first person in his organisation to do so, it was not 'the done thing', he had to sell his case and prove to them that he was good enough at what he did that it was better to let him take the time off and then have him back than have him leave for good. We moved from Australia to the UK partly to open up the possibility of inter-country travel for our family. Yes, we are privileged in that my husband had the kind of job where he could do that. But he worked freaking hard to get that job, and being accepted in to the new job, and it had nothing to do with being born in to wealth. I get that being white is a privilege, but you know what - there are a lot of people who start out at the same place, have the same luck and choose to do something different. Good for them and I hope they are happy where they are. But when people are doing something you would like to do but you life choices mean you are in a different situation, perhaps there is more than 'privilege' going on. I worked in a backpackers hostel and met a man with serious cerebral palsy who had travelled to 20 different countries and wasn't stopping any time soon. I know people who are blind who travel on their own, and single parents from working class backgrounds who travel the world with their kids, and wheelchair bound travellers. They are near the bottom of the Western privilege totem pole but to them travel is THE priority and they make it happen.

Perhaps we have made travel a priority, and while it might seem that we are lucky to have the opportunities we have (and sure, there is an element of luck - any one of us in our family could have been struck down with infirmities or the like that made it super difficult) but we have made sacrifices too - we have put off getting a mortgage, we have moved across the world away from grandparents to babysit our kid or provide support, it has cost us a lot of money that we could have used elsewhere. Do I expect anyone else to do what we have done? Hell no - why would you if it is not as important to you? And I don't think travel makes you a particularly better person - if you are on the misanthropic end of the scale like me it just reinforces that people are people wherever you go and there are plenty of stupid and annoying people everywhere. And I would never tell people that money doesn't matter (I have NEVER gone in to debt to pay for travel) because that is just dumb. But the kind of reverse snobbery on threads like this - where anyone dares to say that travel, or other supposedly 'privileged' activities are actually important to them and are possible to many others if they really want to do it is beaten down because this is some kind of signifier that you have no idea how other people live, or you are too rarefied to share you opinion with 'normal' people - is a bit gross.
posted by Megami at 10:19 PM on July 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Again, literally no one here has done that. All anyone has done is push back against the insistence that travel is accessible for everyone, or a requirement to be thought of as a worthwhile person. REALLY not understanding why some people don't seem to grasp that.
posted by palomar at 10:31 PM on July 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


But as someone else pointed out above, there's a difference in a conversation about why someone doesn't travel in a response of "Ah, I'd love to, I just can't afford it," and "I feel like I can't afford it. How'd you manage to get to [Cool place] without breaking the bank?" I shouldn't have to describe my entire financial and personal situation to someone just to get them to stop pressuring me that if I REALLY cared blah blah blah. It's like that "why are you single?" convo. People who say "Ah, I just don't have time to worry about that right now" are probably looking to change the subject because there are many personal reasons they're single, rather than get a lecture on work-life balance and making time for love. That's the point of privilege. Not just belonging to a certain group, it's the assumption that you know how someone else can do something that you've done AND the feeling that they need to hear your opinion on it because it is the right one.

I don't begrudge anyone the choice not to travel for financial or other constraints. It's only the attitude of "why would I want to see anywhere else? Where I live is the best!" that I find distasteful and hard to relate to. I am related to a number of those people. They exist. They make me sad. They could use some worldliness. But anyone who claims they can't afford it, just hate airplanes, have medical conditions, have family care obligations, whatever? Total sympathy.
posted by olinerd at 10:33 PM on July 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not to mention the griping one gets for not doing what everyone else does, and "everyone else" is expected to at least jaunt around Europe for a bit in or after college if nothing else these days.

Eh, you're right, I really don't care enough to sacrifice for travel. Yeah, I kinda feel bad about that, but mostly that's when someone's complaining at me about it or I'm stuck having to listen to people going on about their trips again. But that's an uphill battle I'm not super interested in taking on when I don't have much going for me to make that easier. I have other priorities (like finding a job/vocation more suited to my skills) to worry about waaaaaaaaaay before "how to travel" even gets on the radar screen. "How to travel" isn't even gonna have a chance to make the priority list unless something else drastically changes to make it easier for me to afford/do. I don't see that likelihood changing--probably not gonna win the lottery, make more money than I do, inherit anything, or get married--so...
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:04 AM on July 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was wondering if any Aussies would contribute to this thread because it does seem like they do prioritize travel.

This is my sense of it too, from my limited anecdotal perspective as an immigrant who perhaps now lives in a bit of a middle class bubble. Divabat had a different experience, so I can't exactly speak for the whole of Australia.

There are at least 2 factors which Americans are saying are a barrier to travel that don't affect us Aussies quite as much - the scarcity of annual leave, and the lack of a medical care safety net. So it becomes more about having the finances to travel (which is not always easy and travel ain't cheap because outside of Asia the exchange rate is almost always against us) but there's less of a worry about not having a job to come back to, or having to have 6 month's worth of savings on top of the travel budget.

I've always found it sort of bitterly funny that my Australian husband hardly considers any overseas trip under 4 weeks to be worth it

It's because Australia is so darn far from almost everywhere else! And literally every other country is overseas! To fly to Europe or the Americas is something like a 24 - 48 hour journey each way, so spending like 4 days travelling for 2 weeks at the destination? So not worth it.
posted by pianissimo at 5:57 AM on July 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'd wager it has a lot more to do with the enormous influx of Southeast Asian migration to the United States that was a consequence of the Vietnam War.

As with the UK and colonialism - we wouldn't have tikka masala if it wasn't for the wave of Asian migration to the UK in the 50s and 60s. A dish which does not exist in India, and yet that is the first thing most English people would name when asked to name an Indian dish.
posted by mippy at 7:22 AM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hell no - why would you if it is not as important to you? And I don't think travel makes you a particularly better person - if you are on the misanthropic end of the scale like me it just reinforces that people are people wherever you go and there are plenty of stupid and annoying people everywhere. And I would never tell people that money doesn't matter (I have NEVER gone in to debt to pay for travel) because that is just dumb.

Those are the things people are complaining about, and since you don't do them, people really are not complaining about you. In fact, I think your self awareness about travel is the kind of model that we'd those of us frustrated by the "just travel!" crowd wish more people would adopt. So, sincerely, thanks.

If travel brings you joy, NOBODY here is saying don't travel. Heck, if you love giving advice on how to travel on the cheap to people who are looking for that advice, I bet everyone here supports you doing that. It's just that for a certain subset of people who like traveling, they judge people who can't or won't travel, or maybe they (also) like giving advice to everyone, even people who aren't looking for it, and they don't believe others when they say "no really, it won't work for me."

It's what happened up thread, where people were talking about how buying a boat is a "poor choice" when compared to traveling, or giving advice on how whatever reason people couldn't travel isn't really that hard to overcome, when nobody was asking for advice. Those people are who the article's about, and who we're grumbling about here.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:35 AM on July 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


Ok here are two sentences that are not the same despite being almost the same:

"no you totally can travel if you just make it a priority"

"no you totally can travel if you just make it THE priority."

In a lot of these conversations about travel, you have people saying the first but MEANING the second, even if they don't realize it. To wit, all of the comments in this thread detailing how X person travels the world and all it required was for them to reject practically every other thing on the planet that costs money, forever.

Sure, for some earning brackets, travel can be made possible by being made one of several priorities. Sure, some people really might make a lot of money and yet manage it poorly, and they might truly benefit from a nudge to cut waste from their budgets. In those cases sure, maybe those people just don't really want-want to travel.

But nobody is provincial, stubborn, or ridiculous for being unwilling to prioritize travel above all other really basic life experiences, like having a job they like or a raising a child, or creating a stable home. These things, like everything else, have varying levels of importance to people but are all, inherently, really worthwhile ways to spend one's life.

And you may tell yourself that a desire for travel isn't code for sophistication and intelligence, but it is. So when you tell someone "you just don't want to, I guess" because of their reasons, you are exactly saying "you're just not a very sophisticated person, I guess." So like, if that's a thing you're doing, you need to cut it out. And if you just can't wrap your head around people with different priorities then for heaven's sake, leave them be and find new friends.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:28 PM on July 6, 2015 [16 favorites]


A lot of people get a lot of happiness from boats, is all I'm saying.

Of course, what people mean when they say "oh, they bought a boat instead of going to Barcelona" is "those people are vulgar and crass and probably motor loudly about on the lake with water skis; worse still, they may be well-off working class people who, a la Paul Fussell's observations, enjoy having fancy televisions and vulgar things like that". Like, if you have two union gigs in the family and one child around here, you can buy a boat. Not a yacht, mind you, but something where you can go out to the lake and do some fishing. Might could be that your carbon footprint would be smaller than if you were jetting off to Rekjavik or Uttar Pradesh every year. (That's the other thing...it's not exactly green to be flying all over the place, is it?)

I mean, I hate boating; show me an afternoon on the river and I'll show you boredom and sunburn, but a lot of folks get a kick out of it.
posted by Frowner at 2:40 PM on July 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


My neighbors have a motorboat. The man and his grown son like to go out and have some quality father-and-son bonding time on the boat. I would think that this is the reason the neighbors bought that boat - for family togetherness, not flaunting of crass materialism.

But nobody is provincial, stubborn, or ridiculous for being unwilling to prioritize travel above all other really basic life experiences, like having a job they like or a raising a child, or creating a stable home. These things, like everything else, have varying levels of importance to people but are all, inherently, really worthwhile ways to spend one's life.

+1000. Yet I've seen it lamented on Metafilter and other liberal spaces about those awful, ugly Americans who don't even own a passport OMG! It can't be because of the lack of time, money, or a safety net, or because some people want to prioritize other things in their lives. No, it's because they are provincial, unsophisticated, narrow-minded and materialistic. And, therefore, Bad People, or at least Not Our Kind, Darling.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:57 PM on July 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


This whole thread has turned into "What We Talk About When We Talk About Travel."
posted by GuyZero at 3:00 PM on July 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


Cue: Eleanor Rigby
posted by JohnR at 8:42 PM on July 6, 2015


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