A couple of days ago, someone contacted me through the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum, inviting me to join their Facebook group, which is aimed at female travellers. I gladly accepted the invitation as I’m still looking for a travel companion. I have yet to pluck up the courage to approach anyone on there, and have only really glanced at the group posts a couple of times.
This morning, someone posted a link to a slightly misleadingly titled article, Your Obsession With Travel Sure Feels Classist To Me by Katherine DM Clover. I say “misleadingly titled” because I was fully expecting to feel offended by the article. I inferred from the title that Ms Clover was accusing me of being classist, which is as far from the truth as it is possible to be. I am a working class girl who is obsessed with travel, or at least the idea of it, so to think I was being called classist for having a dream… well, it made me want to read the article!
Of course, once I read the article, I realised that it was far from a dig at people like me. It actually resonated with me to such a degree that I actually got a little bit emotional about it. Katherine Clover shared her painful memory of her school days, hearing all the summer vacation stories from her classmates and not being able to tell one of her own as her family had not been able to afford to go to anywhere exotic; they had only gone camping. Ms Clover’s childhood sounds a lot like mine in the sense that I never went anywhere on holiday as a child, for the same reason: money, or the lack thereof.
My mother raised me as a single parent after being left and rinsed dry by my father when I was tiny. Apart from a handful of day-trips across the Channel to Disneyland Paris, we never really left our hometown. We didn’t have a car, and the local transport links were (and still are) utterly abysmal, as well as being expensive to use, so I really don’t have any enduring memories of actually going anywhere fun. I just hung out with the bugs in my back garden, making potions out of crushed up flower petals. That was my summer, every summer, until I was eighteen, when I received compensation for an accident I’d been in aged fifteen, and hopped over to Ireland with my best friend for ten days of drunken debauchery. That was my first real taste of travel, and the first time my eyes had been opened to a world outside of my gossipy little town.
My holiday could have easily sparked something in me, and it almost did, but I could never let it. And why? Well, as Katherine Clover points out in her article, “travel costs actual money”. That was something I didn’t have after Ireland. Being young and with no concept of the value of money, I spent my every penny in Ireland. I could sit here and be mad at myself for it, but I didn’t know any better. I’d never had money to spend as a child, so getting this lump sum as soon as I stepped through the door of adulthood sent me into a brainless stupor! I went out there and spent it all on fancy dinners, bus fares, city tours and booze, never considering that it might be nice to keep some to put into a savings account so I had something to fall back on in the future. Never mind. What’s done is done, and I still count my trip to Ireland as one of the defining experiences of my life. I just can’t afford to travel any more!
So, why can’t I afford to travel now? I mean, I am a whole ten years older, and I’ve been in work for all but an unfortunate two months of my adult life. Well, that takes me back to the article, or rather, people’s reactions to it on Facebook. While I thought that Katherine Clover made some very compelling and understandable points about travel only being a luxury that rich people could afford, a considerable number of readers saw things in a very different way, and this was all based on their own personal experiences. Some of them believed that everyone was able to travel, and that it was simply a case of budgeting. This was the mindset that made me feel uncomfortable; to me, this sort of statement doesn’t sound like it comes from someone who is genuinely struggling financially. It sounds like it comes from someone who hasn’t really run into any major financial problems in their life. I may be wrong… Perhaps I’m making my own generalisations about other people. Anyway, I’m going to answer some of the comments to show how affording to travel really isn’t that easy.
“You do not need a ton of money to travel if you are frugal, resourceful, and flexible.”
I don’t doubt this is true, but it isn’t always possible to be all of these three things at the same time. In order to be frugal, you’d need to be earning money and saving it, which means you will need a job. Now, unless you are really lucky, your job will not allow you much flexibility. In my job, for example, I can only take my holidays during half term, which is when travel companies hike up the price so much that my hard earned cash would be gone in an instant.
“I watch people buy name brands, pay to get their nails done, order expensive meals, buy movies, have car payments, expensive rent, etc and complain they can’t afford to travel. They choose these things over saving for a trip.”
So, people can’t enjoy their life while they are at home? That’s what this statement suggests to me. Besides, a few of these things are much more necessary than the writer thinks. For example, I am paying monthly for my car. It’s not even an expensive car, compared to others. I need my car because of where I live, and while it is a money pit, I couldn’t be without it. I don’t pay those instalments by choice, not really. Also, “expensive rent” irks me a bit. In my area, all rents are expensive. Even the grimiest studio flat around here costs more to rent that I can afford, so I don’t rent. I still live at home.
This takes me on to something else I wanted to mention – getting a home of my own, A.K.A. my other dream. For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of having my own place, but I’ve never been able to afford it. Not through renting, and definitely not through buying. If I had to choose which dream had the strongest pull on me – to build a home or to travel the world – I honestly couldn’t decide. I want both, but at this point in my life, I can’t afford either!
People in my life, and people on the internet, will sometimes suggest that I get a “better” job in order to get more money. Well, firstly, I bloody love my job, despite its low pay, and I’m not prepared to leave it to chase money. Job satisfaction far outweighs having money, in my opinion. Furthermore, I was stuck in my previous horrible job for six long years for the simple reason that there are hardly any job opportunities in my little town (and no, I don’t want to move to a bigger town, before you say anything) so to think I could just find another job right away would be exceptionally naive. Someone in the comments section said about working three jobs at once… I won’t even dignify that with an answer.
So, I’ve laid out the reasons why travelling has not been a possibility for me and why I agree (apart from the class bit) with Katherine Clover’s article. My opinions were based on my own personal experiences, as were hers, yet there are still people trying to poo-poo our words just because they managed to do something we haven’t. Sure, if travelling is your top priority, over work, over getting somewhere to live, if you’re happy to give up every luxury in your life, then go for it! I’ll be happy for you, I promise, but please… don’t make out I’m bad at budgeting, or that I simply don’t want it enough. If I could afford to travel, I would travel. It’s as simple as that. Ms Clover and I aren’t scoffing at those we perceive to be travelling toffs; we are simply stating our own personal truths.