Travel and Privilege: Why I Won’t Post the Facebook Travel Challenge

Travel Privilege Facebook

Recently, I read a great post from ALOR about the new Facebook travel challenge. This post lists a number of different places around the world alphabetically, and a little bit randomly to know that travelers haven’t concentrated on one area of the globe and have been perceived as “well-traveled.” What I loved about ALOR’s post was the fact they brought up a topic I’ve long wanted to address on this blog—privilege and travel. It’s a tricky subject, and I’ve kind of touched on it in my post on why voluntourism sometimes bothers me, but I feel it’s something we can always be reminded of when we decide to leave our homes.

Let’s just start with this: I am a very privileged individual. I am young, white (embarrassingly so thanks to my Irish ancestry), can afford this nomadic lifestyle that I live, and carry a passport from the United States of America. Just this combination gives me the opportunity to travel around the world and to experience much, much more than so many people can. We often talk about the 1% relating to the economy, but we digital nomads and frequent fliers are even less of a percentage than that.

What I found honest about what ALOR had to say and which many of us might not think about when posting the Facebook travel challenge is that traveling itself is not an accomplishment. I have been guilty of thinking of it as such when I was younger and from a small town in Montana—when I chose to leave the country and try something very different from the rest of my peers. Now, I know better. I have been outstandingly fortunate in my life and have freedom to travel when very, very few do. Yes, there is an initial amount of bravery in choosing an alternative lifestyle, but many people cannot even make that first leap even if they wanted to.

The travel challenge bothers me because it does make it seem like players are throwing their lifestyle in others’ faces. It’s promoting the idea of privilege in the guise of a harmless status. I’m sure many wouldn’t see it that way, but for me, it reminds me that many “friends” are reading that list and thinking that they might have only seen one or two posted—and that somehow makes them inferior. I’m sure this is not the intention of those who play.

I’ve struggled with my own privilege as a travel writer and blogger. I’ve often thought twice about posting my travel pictures on Facebook, rebranding my Instagram so it only shows pictures of the places I’ve been, and talking about my next trip with others. This is all exploiting my privilege, and I know that. But part of the reason I started this blog was to help others become more aware of it, to help them know that this isn’t reality, and to remind travelers who share that privilege that we are fortunate.

Travel is not an accomplishment. It’s rewarding, challenging, enjoyable, frustrating, and maybe above all, educating. Like all education, it is the privileged to who tend to have access to it. I encourage readers to think twice about posting the travel challenge and to come up with a private bucket list, or to think about ways to make travel possible for others. We’ve been very lucky, and we should learn how to share that luck with others.

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

 

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13 thoughts on “Travel and Privilege: Why I Won’t Post the Facebook Travel Challenge

  1. Love this post. I recently read an article in Kinfolk magazine on a similar topic, one quote that really stuck with me was “how can you go somewhere if you never truly left?” I had an experience months back while traveling in Portugal. On our third day there our van was broken into and all our technology was stolen. It sucked, but ended up being the most liberating thing that could have possibly happen to us.

  2. Alex, first a genuine thank you for reading our post and taking the time to let the ideas marinate. Having a fresh perspective was very important. The point you landed on is particularly important. Linking Travel to education. Another level of why travel is important AND why it’s difficult when it’s out of reach. Unfortunately, like many forms of higher education. I’m in awe of the digital nomad spirit when it comes to making sacrifices to ensure travel can be a part of living. Perhaps that’s the true good we as writers can do. Share the knowledge of our experience yes but also potential paths to gaining travel in ones life that are outside of the leisure travel industry. Inspiration, education and empowerment. To learn how to share our luck with others is a skill I will continue to aspire to. Thank you, Brandy & Paolo

  3. Reblogged this on ALOR and commented:
    Will you be participating in the Travel Facebook Challenge? Why or why not?

    We posed questions on a previous post on a concept that’s been percolating for a while.

    Are travel bucket lists and challenge games only fun for the privileged?

    https://artoflivingontheroad.com/2017/02/28/facebook-travel-list-challenge/

    Travel is a privilege. As a travel writer, at times I question if writing, blogging and posting about it on Facebook is like rubbing salt in the wounds to those who can not afford to travel.

    A new Travel Challenge which is catching fire on Facebook provided good framework to raise the question and hopefully start a discussion.

    We are honored that Alex from thewayfaringvoyager.com took the questions and gave them some thought.

    Her ability to further the disparity awareness, connecting travel and education made the discussion far more profound.

    Utilizing WordPress reblog to connect the discussions and encourage travel bloggers and travel writers to weigh in.

  4. Always good to check your privilege! I always tell people i’m very fortunate and lucky to do what I do – sure I work hard, but many aren’t afforded even the possibility. Safe and happy travels!

  5. Really great perspective here. It is important to keep privilege in check and think twice before making statements like “have you truly lived if you haven’t ___?” because plenty of people can’t save the money or leave their home and travel. Thank you for the reminder. 🙂

  6. So well written! I just came across your post by accident and loved reading it! It’s so true especially if you live in the Philippines where people place a higher importance to other things that aren’t travel related. Simply because our society needs to find ways to feed their family and also since our passport is one of the weakest ones in the world. I feel fortunate AND privileged to have travelled extensively but I wouldn’t want to make people feel less of themselves if they haven’t. And I think the travel challenge and other stuff similar to that on facebook make it seem like so. 😦

    But thanks for writing this. So well written!

    Best
    Kiara
    http://www.viaisabelle.com

  7. So well written! I just came across your post by accident and loved reading it! It’s so true especially if you live in the Philippines where people place a higher importance to other things that aren’t travel related. Simply because our society needs to find ways to feed their family and also since our passport is one of the weakest ones in the world. I feel fortunate AND privileged to have travelled extensively but I wouldn’t want to make people feel less of themselves if they haven’t. And I think the travel challenge and other stuff similar to that on facebook make it seem like so. 😦

    But thanks for writing this. So well written!

    Best
    Kiara
    http://www.viaisabelle.com

  8. I struggle with my privilege as well and sometimes feel so awkward about it. I’m a white, middle class female from Canada, so very similar to you, and recognize that because of THAT I have more opportunities than many other people. It’s complicated and I never quite know how to acknowledge or deal with it. It’s also funny because people think I’m so inspiring for what I’ve accomplished in such a young age, but I struggle to see that. All the people who have told me that (and it’s very flattering) but, they come from the same community and they have the same privilege as me and could choose to do what I do as well. They’ve just chosen not to. It makes me uncomfortable that people think I’m inspiring when I’m just taking advantage of the opportunities I have.

  9. This is such a great reminder. I always try to remember how privileged I am to be on this journey. Many people cannot afford it or have other obligations in life (like caring for a child or sick family member.) For that reason, I always try to keep my Instagram and blog posts positive and grateful!!

  10. I can only agree with you. Traveling can never be a challenge or an achievement in itself – it’s a fantastic opportunity and we shouldn’t be competitive about it. Thank you for this post!

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