This post was put together with the help of Team GWT members and comments from members of our Facebook community. Credit goes solely to this amazing community of insightful and wise women.
The topic of privilege comes up from time to time in our Girls Who Travel Facebook community and was discussed a few times last week, so I want to take a moment to share GWT’s stance on travel and privilege.
Occasionally, someone will post an inspirational quote about how travel is in our power if we just go, if we just set our mind to it, if we just save enough, if we just seize the moment and worry later. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these words of wisdom – sometimes we can use a reminder if we’re feeling stuck and need something to get us to take the plunge. But, as with most “universal” advice, it can whitewash reality and marginalize people.
How? Read on…
In GWT, we recognize that travel is a privilege. Privilege is NOT a bad word. It’s not a negative concept, it’s an awareness concept. And here in Girls Who Travel, we’re all about using this community and our travels to raise our awareness about ourselves as travelers, our understanding about the world and of the people we cohabitate with in this world.
The awareness around privilege and travel comes in when we start to realize that for some people, no amount of hard work or positive thinking or willpower will allow them to achieve what may be within your reach.
Sometimes privilege gets confused with “money” but the truth is that it is so much bigger.
But let’s start with money. For some people, giving up Starbucks or just going and worrying about it later is not an option. They may not be able to get a job that provides them with enough funds to do more than make ends meet. They may not be in a position to have any luxuries that they can give up in in the first place. They may have obligations, debt, health issues, family etc. that are not things they can simply worry about later. They may have a job that will not allow them any time off. They may not have paid time off. Their national currency might not be strong enough to make travel a reality in other countries. Then there are others facing generational poverty, a cycle that perpetuates poverty and is very difficult to break free from. This kind of poverty is present all over the world, even in the richest countries and holds billions of people captive.
But remember that privilege is about SO MUCH MORE than money.
For others, it’s political. The “power” of your passport factors so much into your ability to travel. Passports deemed “powerless” internationally make it difficult or even impossible to get permits or visas to visit other lands. And there are some trapped in unstable areas, in political warfare, where it’s not an option to leave.
For others, it may be discrimination. Travelers of color, of certain faiths, of the LGBTQ community, from certain places etc. may not be safe, or even allowed to enter a country simply because of who they are or where they were born.
For yet others, it may be about ability. Physical and mental illness and disabilities may make it difficult or impossible to go on trips or to enter certain areas that do not provide accessible options or medications needed to survive.
The very fact that you can participate in Girls Who Travel, to be inspired and share your dreams of travel is a privilege as there are people all over the world who do not have access to the internet.
The list could go on and on – but hopefully it serves to illustrate a point: privilege is the fact that you are able. That’s it.
So when you speak, remember to #CheckYourPerspective and be aware of the fact that while a love of travel is what brings us together, what’s keeping you from travel and what’s keeping someone else from travel may not be the same. Do not assume that everyone else is “able” in the same way you are.
We’re here to help each other so if you see unchecked privilege in the group, call it out but remember that in GWT we #EducateWithoutHate. It’s important to remember that #EducateWithoutHate doesn’t mean “never disagree”. It means disagree while remembering that the person on the other side of the internet connection is a human being too and deserves basic respect just like you. We often hear from members that they are being told something for the VERY FIRST TIME so remember that when you engage with people. Note: we do not tolerate hate speech, bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism or any other form of intolerance. If you see this behavior, please let a Team Member know immediately.
And if someone points out that what you’re saying might be coming from a place of privilege, don’t get offended and don’t fight back. Privilege isn’t a dirty word. It shouldn’t become a dirty word. Becoming aware of it is a precious gift that will make you a better person and a better #GlobalCitizen. So listen to what they are saying and be thankful for the opportunity to learn in this safe space.
Thanks for being a part of this incredible community and for sharing in this amazing adventure as we grow together. As always, you are welcome to message any of our Team Members with questions or concerns.
If you support this group’s mission of working together to raise our awareness and are committed to growing your awareness of your own privilege, I invite you to comment below with #GWTLove.