Quarantine time has got me thinking about the next time I will be able to travel again. I have already chosen my next destination, the people that will accompany me, and the journey that we will embark on once the pandemic is over. I have a couple of friends I have been convincing for an eternity to join me on a travel adventure and always wondered what was stopping them. At that time, I assumed that they had more important priorities and never even crossed my mind that they may lack travel privilege.
Many of us tend to forget to be grateful about being given this type of privilege and are not even aware of owning it. It is sad to think that some people aren’t able of experiencing the joy of travel the same way I do. The odds are simply against them and there is nothing they can do about it. These are the reasons why traveling is an unfair privilege only some of us are granted with.
It has to do with passport power
If you are travelling often internationally and haven’t had the need to deal with visa applications, then most probably you own a pretty mighty passport. According to the Henley passport index at the moment Japanese citizens are possessors of the world’s most powerful passport. Singapore, South Korea, and Germany are right behind the corner followed by the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. These countries’ nationals are capable of traveling to up to 190 states worldwide visa-free.
Nevertheless, if you got the shorter end of the stick and were unfortunate enough to be born in a third-world country, you are well aware of your traveling limitations. Visa fees can cost a small fortune and applications take forever to get processed. Not only you will have to invest a good amount of money just to go on a 5-day vacation, but you will also need to sacrifice your patience.
It has to do with time and money
People often give themselves permission to make patronizing comments by saying ‘anyone can travel if they set their mind to it and put a little more effort in organizing the trip’. Thing is, not everyone has the time to do that. Many times, determination is not enough as people have responsibilities they are unable to get rid of.
Even if they do make time, their incomes may be significantly low. In the chaos of paying bills and trying to put food on the table, many people scarcely make ends meet let alone think about saving for a plane ticket. Don’t forget about those among us who have children and simply cannot afford to set money aside for a holiday. A Monégasque citizen, for instance, surely earns more than a Filipino national. While the first one can enjoy their vacation carefree, without giving much thought to the financial consequences, the latter barely get by as it is.
It has to do with racism, xenophobia, and discrimination
We live in a world where racism, discrimination and even xenophobia have a dominant hand in every aspect of our lives. Some people automatically lose their privilege of travel as they are constantly discriminated against their religion, skin color, or nationality.
To illustrate, since terrorism is associated with Islam, Muslim travelers are often labeled as hazardous and may be forced to go through more rigorous airport security checks. In these types of circumstances, white supremacy is easily detectable as rarely someone would accuse a Christian European of carrying illegal items. The prejudices build around non-Caucasian people expose them to constant suspicion, limit their ability to travel, and make them feel unsafe and vulnerable.
Travel privilege exists. Those who have been fortunate enough to get it, should never it take for granted. It’s an unfair prerogative only a small part of the world has been blessed with.