Are Travel Bloggers Forgetting Travel is a Privilege?

Updated February 14, 2016

are traveling bloggers forgetting travel is a privilege

I love travelling. I love talking about travel, and I love writing about travel.

I think I love talking and writing about travel because it’s is something I have gained so much from and I want others to take a chance on travel too, or at least try and learn the lesson that travel teaches us, to choose the adventure. I’ve met so many people who I know want to travel and could gain so much from it but something is stopping them, and I always want to convince them to break through that barrier because I know it will be worth it.

A lot of the time travel writing is associated with the idea that we should “just go”. This ideal has developed about dropping everything, selling everything, risking everything, for a life of travel. That if you’re not travelling you’re not really living. Maybe that’s the right choice for some, but it’s not for everyone, and more importantly it’s not possible for everyone.

Travel blogging is a crowded space, and I like to try and write about living and moving abroad, since I think it’s an easier way for many people to achieve their travel dreams. I believe in this so much I’ve written things like the steps to travelling forever.

Sometimes though, I feel false for doing it.

Travel isn’t always that easy, moving abroad isn’t always that easy.

The world we live is in full of people who are seeking to go to other places, not for the joy and experience of travel and living abroad, but for fear of their lives and those of their family. I started this blog in 2015 when the plight of migrants in Europe was dominating the news, and I questioned whether I was doing the right thing in promoting the ease of moving abroad when so many people don’t try to do move country because they want a bit of adventure and a new experience, but because they feel forced to. I felt guilty, and I still do.

So this time I’m writing about something I think about every time I write a post.

Travel is a privilege, and I’m privileged for the life travel gives me.

This thought underlies every single post I write. And what I really mean when I write about how easy it should be for you to travel and move, is that if you’re in this same position of privilege where travel is possible for you and it’s what you want, do it. Don’t let obstacles that aren’t really obstacles get in the way. My issue is that either not everyone thinks this way, or it doesn’t come across.

It seems that even the word “travel” itself is pretentious now. Hardly anyone speaks of going on a holiday or a vacation, instead they speak of travelling. Some people compare so called “travellers” and “tourists”, and some people who consider themselves travellers turn their nose up at those who would only go on holiday once a year, or who never go at all. Sometimes I feel like travel is just the next consumer product.

In reality even a holiday is a dream for some people. It shouldn’t be forgotten that travel is a luxury and not a necessity. Does it really matter what you call yourself while you’re seeing somewhere else in the world? Isn’t the point that you’re doing it and the fact you’re lucky to do so enough?

Having said that, I do have a special annoyance for when people tell me I’m “lucky” to travel because it’s something I’ve worked really hard to make happen. I know my social background of being born in New Zealand and having a good upbringing and education plus extremely supportive parents are in a way “lucky”, my own little bit of the silver spoon lottery, but let’s not pretend I didn’t make some choices and sacrifices of my own.

I’ve been placed in a privileged position of being able to go after my travel dreams. When I’ve wanted to travel I’ve found a way to make it happen through effort and hard work, but I had a leg up to begin with. It’s not something I forget when I’m writing about travel.

But are travel bloggers forgetting travel is a privilege?

This doesn’t mean I don’t think travel bloggers or anyone should write encouraging things about travel because it might not be possible for everyone. It also doesn’t mean it’s unfair to speak of travelling and how you shouldn’t be afraid to travel just because it’s not possible for everyone in the world. There are people that need to hear it to give them a push to do what they already want to.

My favourite travel bloggers write about all all sides of travel, the things that go right and wrong, and how it affects their lives overall. They speak of travelling on a budget and making travel achievable for as many people as possible, and of luxury travel when they can. Most of all, you can tell by their posts that they know this life of travel is something not everyone can do and they’re grateful for it.

Even when I write about how the more you travel the harder it gets I do it knowing that to begin is a privilege. I’ve wanted to write about how choosing to travel led me to the darkest point of my life this time last year, but I haven’t been able to yet because every time I sit down to write it I think about how I shouldn’t complain when so many people never have the opportunity to travel and move to another country for pleasure. I hope soon I’ll be able to do it, and it’ll be from a place of knowing that for all the difficult moments caused by travelling, I’d never ever change it because I’m privileged to have travel be a part of my life. I guess I’m partly asking for understanding that when I “preach” about the benefits of travel, I’m a normal person who knows that it’s not possible for everyone.

The point is, if you have the desire to travel and you have the ability to do so, you should take note of that privilege. Recognise that even having the choice to travel or not is a something some people can only dream of. And finally, if travelling is something you want to do then you should act on that privilege and do it.

Sonja x

Do you think travel bloggers are forgetting travel isn’t for everyone? Are you sick of reading posts telling you how easy it is and just to do it?

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39 Comments

  • Reply Callie @ A Little More Southern February 14, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Enjoyed reading this, but I don’t get tired of the’ drop everything and just do it’ mantra of some travel bloggers. There are people that are perfectly capable, but for one reason or another, they convince themselves they just can’t. For those, I think they need to keep hearing the message of you CAN. 🙂

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 14, 2016 at 8:21 pm

      I totally agree! I’m actually really interested in what people think of the proliferation of these kind of posts now, because I feel like I could write them so much more but I hold back. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

    • Reply Gos May 15, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Great post. Let’s open the discussion I say. The overwhelming majority of blogs are written by western educated, able bodied, middle class bloggers.

      That in itself is not a critique, like you said we can’t control the lottery of life. Yet at the same time there’s an increasing need to recognise our own privelege. Racial dynamics, predjudices, overt and covert sexism, these are issues rarely addressed or explored in most blogs. Why? Because more often that not the authors own background may (but not always) ‘insulate’ them from such experiences whilst travelling abroad.

      I think it’s great to open the discussion. It can only be healthy, long may it continue.

  • Reply Carlie February 15, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    I can see both sides of the coin but tend to agree with you. I think the plight of most modern humans is that they simply cannot afford luxuries like travel. But I believe those people can find ways to explore more in their local neighborhood, city, state or country. Travel doesn’t have to mean far away and expensive. Some of my most enjoyable experiences have been close to home. Well said, though. I think some travel bloggers try to sell travel in a way that gets likes, clicks and shares. But sensationalizing travel and travel blogging seems really out of touch with modern living and modern problems.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 15, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      I agree with you! Travel doesn’t have to mean far away, in my thinking it just means a bit of adventure, which you can have even in your own backyard! It’s about getting out of your comfort zone. There are people that can definitely benefit from posts pushing them to take a chance on travel, but I don’t like the think that EVERYONE must travel and everyone can do it.

  • Reply Taylor February 15, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    Excellent post Sonja! I think a lot of travel bloggers forget that travel isn’t for everyone, for those who can’t afford it to those who just simply don’t want to do it. And I admit that I do get sick of those posts about how easy it is to just go, how quickly you can save money, etc. It probably works for whoever wrote the post, but it doesn’t always for whoever is reading it. I often think about how travel can be hard work, and yes I’d rather work hard for travel than anything else, but I also think people need to work hard to get to travel so that they can understand the privilege, can understand the effort needed, and to understand the joy in travel that those who do work hard to it get to feel.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 16, 2016 at 10:29 am

      Thanks! You actually put perfectly what I was trying to say! I would always work hard for travel but that’s definitely part of understanding the privilege, that we can work hard to do it. Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply Louis February 17, 2016 at 1:10 am

    The problem with those posts that say “go now” is that they completely romanticize the outcome and minimize the hard work that it takes to earn that freedom. If anything, travel bloggers should be trying to shake the image of the aimless bankrolled wanderer, not perpetuate it.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 17, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      I agree Louis! My favourite travel bloggers are very real about how their travelling life is affecting them, and in fact several have already mentioned in the last year that they are slowing down and looking to find more of a base because travelling forever isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s a lot of hard work! The other thing issue is that keeping up with a blog is even lot of hard work, so often those amazing travels and trips you see on blogs are not the reality because a lot of time is spent on social media and keeping up with posts. Someone else mentioned they would rather work hard at travel than anything else, and I’m the same, but it definitely takes hard work.

  • Reply Megan Indoe February 17, 2016 at 3:48 am

    I agree that traveling is such a privilege, and it’s also not for everyone! I love your post and the points you bring up, but I also like reading other people’s success stories of how they did give up their job and achieve their life of travel. Mostly, because I want to travel as well! I find their posts inspirational, and it ignites the fire under my butt to figure out how I can work hard, save money, not hate my job, and be able to see the world. I think those posts are speaking more to the people who are telling themselves “I wish I could do that,” (who actually could do it) but go about their lives everyday not making the changes they need to reach their dreams.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 17, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      I think that’s exactly the point I’d like to make :). Those people are the ones I want to motivate, without forgetting that not everyone is in that position where they just need a bit of inspiration or some knowledge on how to do it. I’m striving for the balance between helping those people out, and recognising that’s not going to be enough for a lot of people too! Thanks so much for your comment :).

  • Reply Nikita February 17, 2016 at 6:29 am

    This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I find it mind-boggling that people who do travel the world, who claim to be open-minded and culturally aware, still preach this idea of a travel lifestyle for everyone. If anything, travelling makes me recognize my privilege, and in doing so I want to use it to make the world a better place. Not to mention that a lifestyle of travel isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay! I think a lot of bloggers want to feel like their blog is helping people out in some way, and the easiest way to do that is by encouraging people who otherwise would have been afraid to travel. I do think that’s pretty great, but it’s been done so often, and now it often just sounds more pushy and pretentious than anything else. Encouraging people to be happy and to give back to the world is a much more positive approach, in my opinion. 🙂

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 17, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      Thanks Nikita! I love when people are able to put what I want to say into better words haha. I totally agree! I think travel bloggers want to help people and it comes from a good place, but constantly saying everyone can do it and should isn’t necessarily meeting their objective. Sure there are people that need a bit of a fire lit under them so to speak, or to know how to travel because they’re not sure where to start, but you’re right, there are SO many posts and blogs that cover this. More bloggers are beginning to encourage giving back which is great, and hopefully it doesn’t just become the next “in” thing to do and miss actually helping people. I think there are so many things we can do on a personal level and it’s great when people speak about that. I love your blog by the way!

  • Reply The Guy Who Flies February 17, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Hi Sonja,

    I think you should find a way to write that article and publish it soon. In that way us readers can understand you and your experiences more. It is not all a bed of roses and the truth needs to out. At times travel bloggers just put a constant positive spin on things, selling a dream rather than a reality.

    Are we privileged to travel? Yes, absolutely. Yet as you highlight it is becoming more of a commodity to many now. As wealth and lifestyles change it has become very accessible to many in the modern world. There has always been travellers but none on the scale as there is now. I put this down to cost and convenience. Decades ago people could neither afford the time or cost of going long distances. Now with modern, competitive air travel people rarely think twice.

    I travel overseas most months for work and have been doing so for 15 years. I pinch myself everyday since I know how lucky I am. Yet it is not for everyone. People often admire what I do, then say they couldn’t do it. A life on the road is more suited to a few, not for all.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 17, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks! I have actually written the article in draft in a word dump, and I think I’ll try and formulate it into something and public it soon. Its very personal and I don’t know if it will help anyone else, but I can only see!

      I think there has been such a shift in travel over the last couple of decades with affordability meaning it is becoming more and more accepted to take time out of the “expected” life of school, university (maybe), job and retire and do something different and I am all for that, but it does make me mad to see people becoming pretentious about it and then turning around and talking badly about people who DON’T choose to go. It isn’t for everyone, and I think that’s the better angle to take.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply Graham February 17, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Even if many bloggers don’t explicitly point out their privilege they do it by default. Blogs tend to be about nice places and sharing experiences with other westerners with very little effort made to really engage with locals in poorer places, beyond some pre packaged experiences. When they indulge in their bad experiences it’s often the kind of thing that the world’s poor have to expect as part of everyday life, not that many bloggers would consider mentioning it. Of course there are some great exceptions but too many blog posts seem to be by writers oblivious of the people around them and the details of their lives, beyond possibly pointing out how friendly they are. It’s not enough to simply say, ” I am privileged to do this “, we need to learn from our interactions and write about the stories and lives of those we meet.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 17, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I admit I do enjoy blogs about things going wrong with peoples travels, because a lot often goes wrong for me when I travel, but I agree it’s often things that we don’t realise other people deal with on a daily basis. It would be great to have more from the perspective of the locals and the people we interact with on our travels. I loved when the HONY Facebook page went to Pakistan and Iran last year, and it showed a completely different perspective. We rarely see that much detail about the people in the countries we visit.

  • Reply The Traveloholic February 17, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    I agree with you too. Traveller or tourist doesn’t matter, as long as people are happy. travelling sure is a privilege and we must be thankful for that! It is rude in a sense to say that people postpone going somewhere by making up excuses. We don’t know what situation thay might be in. Thanks for sharing this post. Stay in touch 🙂

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 17, 2016 at 5:09 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I actually wrote this on the back on writing a post about making excuses to not move abroad, and it bothered me because I wrote it from a point of view of knowing that of course some people have legitimate excuses or things going on in their life, and I wasn’t sure it came across in that way!

  • Reply Katie Featherstone February 19, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Thanks for this! I wrote something similar a couple of weeks ago and was worried about its reception from bloggers- most were surprisingly supportive, so i’m glad we’re on the same page!

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 21, 2016 at 6:46 pm

      Me too! It’s something I think about often in my writing and with how much information about travel there is out there now. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • Reply Emily February 19, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    It’s funny that for some people, this is such a contentious topic! Privilege plays huge role in the amount of travel one gets to do, and I agree many bloggers seem to lack awareness when it comes to that fact.

    Of course, as you say, other things also play a role, such as hard work and sacrifices. I think a lot of people say they’d love to travel long-term, but when it comes down to it, they don’t really–they’d miss their families, it doesn’t jive with their career goals, etc. And that’s just fine! I think travel bloggers encouraging others to look beyond the excuses is great, but we also need to recognize that everyone has different priorities, and that doesn’t automatically make their life less worthwhile!

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 21, 2016 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks you totally hit the nail on the head! It’s about encouraging people to think outside the box and recognise there are different options and whatever might work for them doesn’t have to be for everyone 🙂

  • Reply Raphael Alexander Zoren February 19, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    I think luck is a relative term and not an absolute one. We’re all luckier than some people, unluckier than some people and completely equal in terms of life circumstances to other people.

    International travel is objectively easier for people from developed countries when compared to people from developing countries.

    And yes, I firmly believe that all of us Travel Bloggers (even those who come from a developing countries like me) are luckier than (let’s say) Syrian refugees mainly because we had the luck of being born in a country not currently involved in a civil war.

    Thinking in relative terms instead of absolute ones really puts the complete world in perspective.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 21, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment that’s a great way of expressing it! I definitely agree it’s relative. I think it’s when people who are of similar “luck” to me, of coming from a developed country and similar background, call me lucky. It feels like the hard work I put into making travel possible for me is ignored. Although sometimes it could just be a lack of understanding of how to go about doing things. For example, some people who have never travelled think it is a lot more expensive than it is.

      • Reply Raphael Alexander Zoren February 24, 2016 at 8:37 am

        Yes, I fully agree. I also get annoyed when some of my friends that went to university with me tell me “I’m lucky to afford to travel” even though they are perfectly capable of doing the same if they wanted to. However, I completely understand if someone from a different background tells me the same.

        • Reply Migrating Miss February 24, 2016 at 6:47 pm

          Exactly, that’s the kind of being called lucky that gets under my skin! Of course I’m luckier than some in the life lottery, but I also work hard for what I want. I think sometimes these people either don’t really want it, or can’t figure out a way to make it happen.

  • Reply Dana February 20, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Great article! Travel is definitely not easy and I’m grateful everyday that I have the opportunity travel and live abroad with my family.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 21, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      Thank you so much! It’s definitely not but you’re right, something to be grateful for everyday.

  • Reply Ângela Goldstein February 26, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Sonja, honey, this is one of the best and most lucid posts about travel I have read lately! Thank you for writing it!
    I have been giving this issue a lot of thought lately, especially given the financial crisis my country (Brazil) is going through at the minute. It was nice to know I’m not the only one thinking about it! You go, girl!

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 26, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks Ângela! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one too! I think it’s a hard balance. Some people do just want a bit of motivation, but some people, no matter how much motivation they have, are just not in a position to travel. I want people to know I do realise that!

  • Reply Natalie February 29, 2016 at 2:11 am

    I was very happy to read this post. As a newer travel blogger trying to find my niche, I am often put off my those blogs that suggest people should ‘drop everything and just go.’ I also get tired of reading about travel portrayals where everything goes perfectly. There are always bumps in the road in life and personally, I think those are worth sharing. I actually stopped following a handful of bloggers that I felt weren’t being realistic with what they write. I want people to be genuine about their experiences, both good and bad. As far as people who say they want to travel, but don’t actually do it, you should check out this post by Mark Manson: http://markmanson.net/question. It’s completely changed how I look at my choices in life and made me a bit more understanding of others’ choices as well.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 29, 2016 at 10:06 am

      Thanks for your comment Natalie! I had the same thing when I was defining the niche for my blog, which is why I decided to go with expat travel and moving abroad because I think in some ways it’s an easier option for people than long term travel. It still has it’s problems of course! I absolutely love Mark Manson but not sure I’ve read that one so thanks!

  • Reply Lucille April 17, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Good post and an interesting discussion. I remember being in my 20s and desperate to create something different, to break free of the drudgery of the 9-5. Blogs weren’t a thing back then, or at least not to the extent of today, but if I had read a post about ‘just going’, I think it may have resonated with me and given me the boost I needed to take the risk. As it is I ended up becoming an expat in my mid 20s anyway, but that was attached to a company and a partner. I think anything that proliferates can become overdone, but the sentiment behind it is felt by generation after generation and so there is always a receptive audience for ‘just go’.

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 17, 2016 at 8:18 pm

      Thanks Lucille! I think your comment is really spot on. For some people, the get up and go post is exactly the push they are needing, which is why I love to write like that sometimes. At the same time I don’t want people who are really not in a position to just do that, who would love nothing more, to think I’m forgetting that it isn’t possible for everyone. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • Reply Erika May 18, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    It seems like every blogger has an “if I can travel you can too post” and, while I agree that some people could probably travel and choose to prioritize other things in life, those posts bother me. Sure, a lot of us work hard to travel, but hard work isn’t everything. I think about how some people have movement restrictions due to the country they were born in and how some people have to care for family members. I think about how others are just focused on procuring their next meal or are battling illnesses. There are a million and one reasons why people might choose not to travel, and it is not out place to judge.

    • Reply Migrating Miss May 19, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      I totally agree Erika! Some of those posts I find motivating, and I’m sure they’re great for people who do have the opportunity and are looking for that little push to get them to do it or need help figuring out how. BUT some of those posts definitely grate on my nerves, and I would never want people reading my blog to think I don’t realise how fortunate I am to be in this position. The reality is only a minority of us are. Thanks for stopping by! x

  • Reply Ellie Bohemiance September 20, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    This is such a great article, I’m so glad someone has written an article on this topic because its something I think about a lot too. There is definitely a lot of snobbery in travel about the traveller/tourist divide when actually people mostly are all working towards the same goal. I dont know if you’ve read Nomadic Matt’s travellers manifesto but this article really speaks to that!

    • Reply Migrating Miss September 26, 2016 at 11:12 am

      Thanks so much Ellie! I haven’t read it but I’ll go take a look. There really is so much snobbery and I didn’t want to add to the debate when I started blogging!

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