I’ll admit that I’ve been up since 4am almost every morning this week, woken by a wide-eyed toddler towering over me in the early morning half light, adamantly making the ASL sign for water, food, ball, whatever in my face, and am coping with so much strong Vietnamese coffee that my brain is twitching.
This may account for some of my possibly hyperbolic irritation, but by no means all of it.
See the link to the article I screen shot above, which I posted on my Facebook wall this morning?
This was yet another in a long line of similar articles that have been making the rounds of social media over the past year or so, each one written by someone on their gap year or in year 8 of their never-ending-solo-travel-whatever or by the TEFL teacher who has been in China for three months and is now an authority on it.
The general theme running through these articles is, wow, gosh, I travel a lot or I live in a foreign country and so I am inherently more:
And so on.
And the comment sections both at the ends of the articles and on the Facebook pages that linked them are often rich with people shouting Yay me! I’m awesome! I can hop on planes and trains and rickety boats and that makes me smart and lovable and not crap and dull and enslaved like those narrow-minded suburban drones who are shackled to their jobs in their monochromatic hometowns! and patting themselves on the back so hard that they pull muscles and the collective twang can be heard ’round the world.
I don’t want to sound jaded but, damnit, this is so much bullshit that it needs to be called.
In order to not repeat myself too much, because we’ve been here before, I’m going to link back to my old privilege post.
Read it first and answer the questions posed within if time permits.
Now, the next time you feel like telling everyone how special you are because you stayed in a few (dozen/hundred, etc) crappy hostels in obscure places (and hung out with other travelers like yourself) or have X number of passports stuffed with exotic visas or tasted the culinary pleasures of tongues, tails and testicles or drank moonshine with the locals or quit your job to travel the world for X months or years, I want you to watch this documentary for perspective.
An excerpt from the review linked above, for context:
The three, who ranged in age from their mid-20s to their early 30s, were among the 25,000 “lost boys,” ages 3 to 13, who fled their villages in the 1980s to escape extermination or sterilization. They traveled on foot for five years, while starvation, dehydration, disease, wild animals and attacks from rebel soldiers reduced their number to a few thousand, before they landed in a United Nations refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya.
I have, over the past 20-odd years, been guilty of taking unjustified pride in my travels, in my expattery, my old passports full of stamps and visas. I’m sometimes quietly smug, despite my best efforts or wishes, because I can say I’ve eaten bear paw and sheep lungs and have slept out in the open in vast deserts and on train station floors and drank shots of homebrew Romanian moonshine with a pair of crazy grandmothers on Christmas morning, 1998. Yay me, right?
I am so full of it sometimes. It’s embarrassing.
The thing is, we, as travelers and expats and people who move around semi-secure in the knowledge that a bed and safety and a meal and a beer await us at the end of most (if not all) days, aren’t more lovable. We aren’t smarter. We aren’t freer. We aren’t, as a collective, more or less anything.
We all do the shit we want to do- or at least try to the best of our abilities. Some of us have far, far more restricted abilities than others. Some of us do it at home and are happy with it. Some of us go elsewhere. Some do both. Some have no choice.
No one is better. No one is more lovable. No one is smarter.
You just are whoever the hell you are.