As I prepare for my next big trip, I’ve been reading a lot of travel blogs searching for advice on ways to cut costs. A common theme that exists across travel blogs is the insistence that anyone can afford it if they just try hard enough, and that’s a really ignorant idea that’s dripping with privilege.
I do agree that most people in the Western world living above the poverty line can budget in a way to make travel a priority if they want to. I’m a lower-middle-class white woman living in a big city who is able to travel, and yes, there are definitely things I could do to be able to afford to travel more frequently. My rent would be significantly cheaper if I had roommates or lived in a less desirable area. I’d save money on food if I brought sack lunches to work more often. I could opt to have really shitty internet that barely works for about a fifth of the price I currently pay. I could stop going to rock shows. The fact that I’m not willing to give up those things impedes my ability to budget for traveling. That’s a choice I make.
But so many people–all over the world and here at home in the US–don’t even have the option to choose whether they want to budget for traveling or not, because their wages are too low and their expenses too high. It’s not an option for them to cut back on spending, because they’re already only spending on basic necessities. Suggesting that they could backpack across Europe if they budgeted a little better is insulting and oblivious to reality.
Traveling is a luxury and a privilege. Even if you’re living out of a backpack and staying in hostel dorms, it’s a luxury and a privilege. No, not anyone can do it. I’m lucky that I’m going to have the chance to go to Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin this fall. I’m lucky I’m in that position. I recognize that, and I’m grateful for it. I don’t take it for granted.