Because I like to travel, I’ve spent a lot of time reading travel blogs and other sources of travel advice. I’ve scrolled through pages and pages of blog posts, Instagram posts, and Pinterest boards, looking for inspiration and feeding my wanderlust.
In all my time consuming travel-related content, I’ve gotten a lot of good tips on saving money, packing, and planning a trip.
But there is one piece of travel “advice” that has been rubbing me the wrong way for a while now.
It goes something like this:
Closely related to this is the mantra of “Just go and don’t worry about the money.”
This line of thinking is, to me, not only bad advice, but actively harmful.
The people who say things like this are, I think, well-meaning. Their particular set of circumstances and desires lined up to make it possible for them to travel (usually extensively and abroad–that is almost always what people mean when they encourage others to “just go.”) and this experience has been meaningful to them. They really believe that everyone can do it, and that everyone should.
I just don’t think that’s realistic.
For one thing, this line of thinking assumes that everyone wants to travel the world extensively, which I’ve said before is something I don’t think everyone needs to want. But it also assumes that, on a practical level, travel is financially accessible to everyone if you just work hard enough. And like any kind of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality, things just don’t work like that.
While it’s true that there are plenty of ways to make travel more affordable, it’s rarely truly cheap. And if you aren’t interested in living a nomadic lifestyle and instead want to fit travel into your normal life, you will have to factor in paying for travel on top of your normal expenses.
And then there is the fact that many of the “money-saving tricks” touted by travel bloggers assume a certain level of disposable income to start out with. For instance, any advice that I have come across to get cheap flights involves gaming the credit card rewards system. But in order to get those rewards, you have to be spending money. And oftentimes, the highest rewards come from spending money on travel or dining out, things that you might not be currently doing if you are trying to save money for a big trip.
Plus, getting one of those high-rewards credits cards isn’t easy or even possible for everyone. If you don’t have great credit, good luck getting one of these cards. Race and privilege come into play here as well, since non-white Americans are more likely to have lower credit scores due to systemic racism in the financial industry. Which means that these rewards systems that are the cornerstone of “travel hacking” aren’t equally open to everyone.
So when someone says “everyone can afford to travel” what they really mean is “everyone from certain socio-economic backgrounds.”
(I have the same problem with any money-saving advice that assumes you have things in your life you can cut out. “Stop buying coffee and eating out” is terrible advice if you literally can’t afford to buy coffee and eat out.)
I also think that this idea put out by a lot of travel bloggers and online travel content creators that “anyone” can travel and that you should “just go” has a judgemental undertone to it. Like, if you don’t or can’t make this a priority then you are just lazy or somehow else a failure.
I’ve fallen prey to this mindset as well, since I do want to travel more but haven’t been able to make it as much of a focus in my life as I would like. I’m looking to change that, but I still sometimes feel as though I’m failing or somehow running out of time to travel because I haven’t just abandoned my financial responsibilities in pursuit of “living the dream.”
I don’t want to discourage people from traveling. I think if you really want to travel and it is possible for you to do so, then you absolutely should. I know that the spirit behind the “Don’t worry, just go” advice is to not let unnecessary fears get in the way of your travel dreams. The people who make it their business to promote this idea probably aren’t (always) completely unaware of how the world works and are just trying to encourage those who need encouraging.
But I also don’t want people who see yet another blogger or Instagrammer posting a photo of their breakfast at a villa in Bali or whatever to feel like it is somehow their fault that they aren’t living that lifestyle because they couldn’t qualify for a travel rewards card and have no disposable income.
So while I don’t think we should stop sharing money-saving tips or ways to make travel more affordable, I think we can all be a little bit more aware of what we are really saying when we say “everyone can afford to travel”
What do you think of the “everyone can afford to travel/don’t worry about the money” kind of travel advice? And what’s the worst bit of travel advice you’ve ever heard?