Why travelling is not (necessarily) for rich people

I keep reading somewhere that being able to travel is an indicator of belonging to high socio-economic status. That "if you travel around like this" (like me), then you are rich.

I don't really know where to start to dismantle this. 

I could start by saying that the excitement that is often associated with travel is not exemplary of what travelling really means. Travelling is tiring, challenging, and in times of covid: incredibly frustrating. I always aim at sharing also the "unfiltered reality" of my travel, so: hold off your envy :-)

Secondly, there are ways and ways of traveling: for lots of people, travelling is for vacations, and because you are in vacation, you want to allow yourself fancy things. Perfectly reasonable. But it doesn't need to be like that. In short, you get what you pay for OR BETTER, you pay for what you want to get!

Thirdly, everyone has different priorities in life. I would never buy a Luis Vitton bag, for example. I am not going to the hairdresser once a month - well, I am not going (period). I barely buy stuff. In general, I try to buy less and travel with the rest. 

I grow up in a tiny village in the Italian Alps. My family never really travel, no one in my family ever had a passport (YAY, I am a first-generation passport holder!). 

I took a plane for the first time when I was 17 to go on one of these study holidays in the UK - I was so excited and so naive, so preoccupied around stupid details like changing money before travelling, buying adaptors for electricity sockets and bundle for abroad calls. When I was 18, after applying for a passport, I went to Moldavia: my first self-sponsored trip, highly disapproved by my parents! The year after I went to Kosovo, 9 hours on the bus from Belgrade to Prizren to save the money of flying. I gave private lessons all summer to pay for that. EXACTLY! I saved up all summer to go to...Kosovo. 

Only me, some friends would say. 

Then I did my cathartic Erasmus in Poland, another weird destination on the list, but a life-changing experience. The cheapest place on Earth, where you eat lunch and dinner with 3 euros.

Many trips followed. I used the money I got as a gift for my BA's graduation to go to India.

Then, my University sponsored my trip to Jordan. 

In addition to this, thanks to beloved mother Europe, I travelled to Malta, Armenia and Georgia for youth exchange programmes.

I never got any money from my parents to travel. We have never been a travelling family and I think my parents haven't understood yet why I actually need to travel like this. I am actually grateful that mum and dad didn't pay for any of this (and for finally accepting my trips!). It taught me to appreciate each trip more.

Now I am in Kenya and that's... work. Well, sort of :-) but I suppose I am also in England, where I moved for my studies 2 years ago.

My destinations have always been unusual, very unusual. I like it that way - mostly because I like to go to places that are unknown and to be surprised by them. I always reached them completely alone - practically, economically, and emotionally alone!

I have been accused to be rich and economically privileged - mainly by people who don't know me or my family. As with every criticism, I think that was actually productive. It made me think, once more, about the identity of my trips and about my identity as a person "in the move". 2 things came to my mind.

Firstly, that I never felt like a tourist. There is a difference between being a tourist and being a traveller. I suppose that being a traveller now comes to me as a part of my job, but travelling for me is to spend time with the local communities; to live as they live, to eat as they eat, to dance as they dance; to gain time to appreciate the differences, to adapt and to challenge the challenges. I know this has been for me a privilege, but it is also a privilege that I chose for myself, as my career (exactly as other people chose to do their graduation party in Mykonos! With all respect!)

Secondly, I suddenly remembered all the nights slept on the floor of various airport; the intercontinental trips with the most uncomfortable (but cheapest) transfer solutions; the dodgy airbnb, the adventure of couchsurfing in the outskirts of Tbilisi. The hitchhiking, and the stress of local transport. The countless trips in groups of disorganised people. And all the other discomforts that I will never regret, because they were part of the trip - and actually what made the trip economically possible.

As so, to the one who say that I am rich, or that "travelling aligns with high socio-economic status" I would like to say: you get what you chose and what you work for. Possibilities are out there - especially for young European citizens. And if you want a five-star hotel, well sorry if I have to remember you that yes, that's for high socio-economic status!

In a luxurious Bedouin cave, Petra 2018.


Popular Posts