If you subscribe to any type of travel-oriented community, there is a prevalent mentality that travel is possible if you have the will and the mindset. There is a common anecdote that goes around of young people being asked, “How do you afford to travel??” with the assumption that the asker thinks the traveler is a trust fund baby. It’s strange that so many travelers seem to have stories of people asking them this disdainfully, because no one has ever asked me, but I digress.
This anecdote follows with a tirade about how unfair it is that someone asked them this. How dare they question their integrity by implying someone else is giving them money! Don’t they know the secret? I work hard to make my dreams come true, and I sacrifice other things to save that money for traveling. They rail against the assumption that they are lazy and their parents are footing the bill. I’ve worked hard, they claim, with the unspoken (or sometimes explicitly stated) follow-up that if you can’t afford to travel, you must be lazy.
What a crock of shit.
So here’s a message for my fellow travelers who are, at this moment, telling this tired story to someone in a hostel kitchen, or at a bar back home:
You are usually not able to afford travel by your own hard work and sacrifice alone. For the most part, you can afford to travel because of some miracle of good luck and/or coincidence. Maybe you don’t have a trust fund, but you probably have some other advantages that you conveniently skated over whilst on your soap box.
Maybe your parents paid for your college costs, leaving you without student loan debt. Maybe your parents could allow you to live at home while you worked to save up for traveling. Maybe you live in a place where it’s easy to forgo expensive things like buying and maintaining a car. Maybe you have a nice cushion of savings to fall back on, even though it’s not enough to be considered a trust fund. Maybe you are lucky enough to have family that don’t depend on you to help them out financially. Maybe you are lucky enough to have a passport or currency that can get you almost anywhere at relatively little cost.
When you’re more concerned about people thinking you’re rich than you are with the fact that 46.7 million people in the US live in poverty and 48.1 million are food insecure, then you have a problem.
Stop acting like poverty doesn’t exist. Stop acting like people’s financial struggles are just excuses. Stop acting like you are anything more than damn lucky for being who you are, where you are, with the money or resources you have. Stop acting like the phrase “trust fund” is a slur against your work ethic.
And for the love of god, stop acting like you’re the victim here. I know it’s easier to say, “I worked hard and saved my money” than, “I have privileges that have given me wealth and opportunity beyond what most people in the world have and I’m using them to travel”, but it doesn’t make it any less true.