The first time I read this article, I felt terrible.
To sum it up, the author is complaining that people who travel, and talk about travel, are ignoring their inherent privilege and encouraging others to make bad financial decisions. The author calls out the attitude:
“that is all too prevalent amongst young people who do not have to worry about the foundations of their future financial security: This idea that you must travel, as some sort of moral imperative, without worrying about something as trivial as “money.”
She calls out inspirational photos, Facebook posts and (here I am guilty of inferring, blog posts):
“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.”
Youch. I read this and felt awful. Like a huckster. Like an aspirational porn peddle who makes people feel like shit because they can’t travel themselves. Which isn’t a great feeling to have about what is essentially your life’s work.
The second time I read it, it was because my brother sent it to me with the note, “You should write a response to this, she has literally no argument.”
Now my brother is the most no-nonsense, responsible, least fanciful guy I know. Travel is not a priority in his life, in fact he doesn’t even have a passport. We are very different obviously, but he is a smart, analytical guy, so if he thought this post was bull, I figured I’d better go have another look.
So I read the article again. What I realized was that this was a post about someone else’s insecurities, not about the validity of talking about travel on the internet.
The author is right in one sense: “don’t worry about money, just travel” is bad advice. It’s shallow, and reductive and I would never tell someone that. No respectable travel blogger I know would say that either.
Which is what it comes down to. The person Fagan mention’s in the article never says those words either. She appears to just infer them from this other girl’s actions. I mean, the internet is a big place, so I’m sure you could find someone somewhere who says that, but it’s a massive generalization about travelers.
I feel like the author’s argument is a bit of a straw man. It’s no different from the occasional comments I get that go along the lines of “gee, must be nice to have rich parents.” I don’t, but even if I did, it’s irrelevant to the basic message of this blog.There are a lot of conversations we could have about travel, money and privilege that aren’t touched on here.
Here are the things I hope to impart on Twenty-Something Travel when it comes to travel and money:
Travel Isn’t as Expensive As You Might Think
Travel is a privilege but it’s not only a privilege for the very wealthy. Many people overestimate the cost of long term travel significantly. I try to shed light on the fact that with the right strategies, travel can be way more affordable than you would first believe. That you could travel the world for an entire year on $15,000 is not something a lot of people know.
The inevitable snarky comment response to that last point is that “not everyone has 15K lying around to go travel for a year.” I mean, obviously not. Which is why I try to use this blog to show you the first hand process of how you could save a large chunk of money like that.
I think it’s important to illuminate how much travel really costs, and the many ways you can minimize that price tag and make your dreams more attainable.
It’s Okay to Make Travel a Priority in Your Life
There are a lot of people and cultures in the world that don’t put much value on the travel experience. When I started this blog, it was because nobody I knew was doing the stuff that I wanted to do (taking a major career break), and I wanted to provide some support and information for other people who might be contemplating the same thing.
Now I know lots of people who travel extensively, thanks to the travel blogging community. So sometimes I forget that going against what is expected of you can be a very, very scary proposition. It’s okay to have different priorities and values than the people around you.
Experiences Can Be More Valuable Than Things
Are experiences ALWAYS more valuable than things? Not necessarily, but in our materialistic culture, it’s important to remind ourselves that they can be. Because it’s startlingly easy to forget this when you are faced with the vision of a new iPhone or a really, really cute pair of shoes.
If traveling abroad is really important to you, there are many ways you can alter your life to make it a more realistic possibility. In this article, I talk about a lot of the ways that Mike and I prioritize travel and make sacrifices in other areas.
There are Ways to Travel and Be Fiscally Responsible
This is one I’d like to talk about more often, now that I have nearly a decade of post-college travel and work under my belt:
It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. The long I am involved in the travel sphere the more my eyes have opened to the multitude of ways that people are seeing the world and still managing to pay their bills.
All through my twenties I traveled extensively, yet I never missed a student loan payment, I never hit up my parents for money, and I never saw my bank balance dip into triple digits. I had some long worry-filled nights crunching numbers, and I wasn’t always able to do everything I wanted, but I always fulfilled my financial obligations before anything else.
There are so many ways to incorporate travel into your life, while still being a financially responsible member of society.
Nonetheless, It’s Important to Recognize Our Own Privilege
Now all that being said, I do think it’s ultra important for travelers to recognize their own immense privilege. It’s important to remember that and to stay away from empty platitude like”everyone can travel.”Not everyone has the means and ability to travel extensively.
To travel abroad at all is an amazing opportunity and responsibility. I have been blessed many times over: with supportive parents, with a safety net to fall back on, with an American passport that opens nearly every door.
But you know, I’ve also worked really hard to get where I am. I’ve taken some real risks and made some real sacrifices too. And lots of other people have managed to overcome less than perfect situations and still travel the world, like this commenter on that same article.
So, those are the conversations I want to have, not whether some navel-gazing chick on facebook posts too many inspirational quotes.
The goal, on this website at least, is not to make you feel bad if you can’t travel. It’s to inspire you if you want to travel, and to maybe help one or two people realize that something they thought was out of reach, might be easier than they believe.
What do you guys think?
30 thoughts on “Of Course “Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel” is Bad Advice. Can We Talk about Something Else Now?”
Thanks for this even-handed response. I have seen a blogger write ‘if I can travel, anyone can travel’ and insist he literally mean it, but it’s been several years and I think people (on the internet especially) are a lot more aware of the concept of privilege than they were in, say, 2009. Inspirational graphics on pinterest and facebook are the biggest offenders at the moment – “Travel while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work,” is a common one.
I can definitely understand the frustration of having a friend who jet-sets off to wherever like it’s no big deal while you’re trying to make ends meet, but I also realize I *am* that friend at times, so I appreciate articles expressing both points of view.
I know this is not a reader survey, but THIS is what I want more of!
You have such an excellent, no-nonsens yet still very respectful way of argumenting and I really enjoy reading pieces like this! More power to you and btw I felt the exact same way when I read that article, so thanks for communicating it so well! 🙂
Steph a great response that I absolutely agree with. Both my husband and I come from immigrant families who came to the US with almost nothing when we were teenagers. We both did college, got jobs, made money, managed our student loans, and made the decision to invest in travel. We traveled long term, which was a lot less expensive than living our lifestyle in Washington DC. We could have kept going, but we prefer the steady income for now, as we ponder the way to make travel a sustainable lifestyle for us. THe point is we aren’t privileged, and I would even say come from somewhat disadvantageous background, but we made travel a priority. Of course we couldn’t afford it if we were to jet off for 2-3 months in high style, but back-packing makes it a total value proposition.
I agree with all you said on the financial side but the one point the author did make that I think is valid is the bit about how some travel writers (not you obviously! : )) have a holier than thou attitude about how travel is the only way to learn or be a better person or whatever. Like you mentioned with your brother– travel isn’t for everyone and it’s kind of presumptuous of some writers to suggest otherwise. I also dislike those so-called inspirational quotes about how you HAVE to see the world while you’re young– because God forbid you hit 30 and haven’t checked off a list of countries. While no doubt traveling in your twenties is fun and it’s awesome that you provide the hard resources and know how, there are other writers who seem to exist only to reinforce the myth of the ticking clock and time running out on travel once you hit 25 or 30 or whatever– ridiculous! I actually love reading blogs from those in their 60s and beyond to remind me what’s possible at any age. This might get caught in your spam but I love this piece: http://traveltalesoflife.com/2015/02/16/10-things-to-do-before-youre-95/
I do agree with that. I try pretty hard to stay away from absolutes on here for that very reason. Not everyone CAN travel, not everyone SHOULD either. It’s important to recognize that everyone’s situation is different.
I completely agree. It is easier and cheaper than most people think to travel long term. I am at the beginning of a year of travels at the moment and I have about $15000 to spend. I definitely think I am lucky compared to a lot of people as I was born into a middle class family, had a good education which led to a good job so I could save for travel. It really annoys me when some people say that anyone can do it because you are right, that isn’t true
I think I accept the privileged tag somewhat less than you. We’ve worked really hard over decades to make this possible, nobody handed it to us on a plate and it has zero, zilch, nada to do with my parents ( I’m a 48 year old mum and my own parents have long since disowned me for being “a gypsy”). We prioritized, a long time ago, it’s all been building to this, although we didn’t realise it at the time. Somebody called me privileged on my Facebook Page, a fellow white westerner. I could have slapped her quite happily.
I mean, it’s different for everyone, but I do think that as a white american I have a lot of inherent privilege that is put into stark relief every time I travel. Travel has been significantly more attainable to me than say, some poor kid living in Laos, or someone in India who has to jump through big visa hoops every time they travel, or even people from very different backgrounds in the US who have had to struggle in ways I never have.
But I also don’t think that negates all the hard work you or I have done to get to where we are either. A lot of times “privilege” is hurled as a way of knocking people down and negating their accomplishments, which isn’t fair either.
I’m so glad you wrote a response to this article! It popped up in my news feed too and it made me really uncomfortable (but I was a bit intimidated to post a comment on it because it seemed like most people on the thread were agreeing and I didn’t feel like getting eaten alive!) I get so frustrated by articles in which the overall message is “you should just accept the fact that there are some things in life you’re never going to be able to do.”
We’re all handed a mixed bag of advantages and disadvantages, but I think learning not to identify with those disadvantages – not letting them define your entire existence – is half the battle. There are extreme cases, of course – I get that some people grow up in genuinely terrible conditions that I couldn’t even imagine – but in a lot of cases the label of “privilege” just seems like any easy way to invalidate someone else’s hard work and make an excuse for why you haven’t made similar achievements.
I’m not saying I’m not lucky in a lot of ways to be able to travel as much as I do – I definitely am. But I also just don’t see how it’s ever helpful to look at something you want out of life and tell yourself you “can’t” have it without even giving it a shot.
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. This article was going around my facebook feed so much I worried I might be the only one who took issue with it. Definitely agree that it’s not cool to tell people to just give up.
Wow, I recently wrote a journal entry and a blog post that you basically combined into this blog post. Weird. Needless to say, I totally agree with you. In fact, I just posted a blog post about a few of the points you make called Buy Travel, Not Things.
While the author does make a couple of fair points about how growing up with a certain amount of privilege enables people to travel (namely, I think, the safety net of having family members’ couches to crash on if disaster does strike/plans don’t work out), the article mostly makes a lot of assumptions about travelers’ backgrounds, and definitely puts words in the mouths of people who make traveling their lifestyle or career. The whole title of the article — “don’t worry about money, just travel” — isn’t something I’ve seen any travel blogger advocate, ever. Love your response; it’s an important clarification. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Yeah I think that is what bugged me- who is actually giving this advice?
When I was younger, and dumber, I definitely didn’t realize the barriers that many people have to traveling. Even then though, I still new you had to be in a good place financially to travel.
I love these responses, so well thought out. I’m in the same boat. I wanted to travel, yet had numerous student loans to pay off, (after I graduated university I even took over paying the ones in my parents names that they took out for me). I traveled and worked where I went. I found a country that I could get a work visa to go to, and traveled around for the year I was there. There were many other countries I could have done the same in. I hate it when people think that my parents funded my travels, when really I worked my butt off to save money summers while in school and then be able to go somewhere. Now it’s the same in my “adult” life. I prioritise traveling over possessions, and people need to realise that if they wanted to, they could do the same.
Yes, I don’t like the idea that all travelers have basically shirked their responsibilities. You can definitely do both!