Not everyone is able to travel, Why not everyone can travel, Laos, Luang Prabang, Kuang Si Waterfall
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“How To Quit Your Job and Travel The World!” – Plenty of travel bloggers.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine.

Don’t worry, this post won’t attack travellers who have quit their corporate jobs and follow their dreams (and wrote about it). I think it’s amazing that people do that, and I am kind of one of them. I say kind of, because I never really started a corporate career, but that’s another story. Those articles about quitting your job and travelling the world don’t annoy me either. Because it is really relevant and inspiring for a lot of people. There are plenty that work a corporate job and would love to know how to get to the point of following your dreams and start travelling.

The famous quote by Saint Augustine is one I am not very fond of. It’s a quote I see being used by a lot of frequent travellers. To me it basically says that people who don’t travel don’t have an interesting life, and it sounds very judgmental. 

I wish travel was for everyone. But it’s just not the case for every single person in this world and I wish that some people are a bit more aware that there are so many situations that restrict people from chasing their dreams. We should all know that when a person wants to travel but doesn’t, that he/she isn’t automatically unmotivated, lazy or just doesn’t want it badly enough. Plus, not every citizen on Planet Earth has a (corporate) job to quit in the first place. So lets for a minute discuss the fact that not everyone is able to travel. 

Edit: please take the time to read some of the comments below, there are some really interesting takes on this subject! 

Not everyone is able to travel

Most people I speak to about travel, talk as if everybody can travel, and I especially notice this with fellow travellers. There are so many travel articles out there that have at least the sentence “If I can do it, so can YOU!” followed with something in the lines of “it’s just a matter of wanting it badly enough and working hard for it”. Just stop spending money on unnecessary stuff, work hard and save up every penny. Have the right mindset, focus on your goals. And so on, and so on. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. I completely understand that mindset, because I thought the same way. However, when you’re addressing your reader like that, you’re actually only talking to one type of audience. The one that actually has a job, lives in a first world country and that is, well, privileged.

Although for many readers of travel blogs advice of that sort can be very relevant, it’s just not the same for most people in this world. Yes, I do believe that people can do most things in life with the right mindset, but only if they have the means for it in the right circumstances. 

When you can travel, you are privileged

It’s starting to annoy me how often I say this, but when you can travel, you are privileged. I know this is hard to accept for some, because it sounds as if you haven’t worked hard to get where you are now. Trust me, I am not saying you have been given everything in life, nor that it has come easy. Of course, everybody has a different story. But if you are healthy and hold a passport that opens most borders for you, that is definitely a privilege. And if you have the freedom to decide to leave your home town/country, that also makes you one lucky person. Even if you can get a (shitty) job to save up money, it’s something you should be thankful for.

Many people in this world face restrictions. Some restrictions are more severe than others. I will talk about some restriction people that dream of travelling may face.

Travel restrictions: 5 Reasons why some people can’t travel

Why you should not give money to children on the streets. Responsible travel guide. In this post we share how travel can be unethical and ways to make sure that you re travelling responsibly

1. Passports which won’t allow you to travel (to most places)

It’s very common to come across a German traveller/backpacker/flashpacker. This isn’t so strange, as the Germans hold the world’s strongest passport in the world. This means that they can go to most countries without even having to apply for a visa. Unfortunately not every citizen in the world holds this same privilege.

The other day a friend of mine messaged me to say that she won’t be able to visit me in the Netherlands. She had a Europe trip planned this summer, but her Visa for Italy, one of the destinations on top of her list, was declined (for no apparent reason). Her Indonesian passport won’t take her to the same countries as my Dutch passport. If I want to go to Italy tomorrow, there is no need for me to even get a Visa.

There are also people from countries that have far more passport restrictions, such as people from Afghanistan. They are offered visa-free access to only three countries, and only 20 countries offer them visa on arrival. Of course they can apply for a visa, but they can easily get declined, often without giving a reason at all.

Even worse is the fact that some people don’t even have a passport. That makes it impossible to travel at all.

2. Unemployment (so it’s not possible to save any money)

If you have the possibility and ability to save money, that’s a privilege. There are people with mental and physical illnesses that makes it impossible for them to work. With a disability, it’s far more of a challenge to find a job and save up money for that dream trip. Not to mention that it’s harder to travel with a disability.

Another thing to take into account is that in some countries, there simply are no jobs. Think about all those people living in poverty. Or people might not be educated enough for the available jobs, nor have the money to get any education for that matter. The fact that you are educated, gives you so much more possibilities.

Yes, there is such a thing as travelling on a budget. But then you still need some money to start with. There is a lot to take into account, such as transportation and accommodation cost, and well, you need to eat too. It’s a bit hard to stay on a budget without anything to budget.

3. Not fit enough to travel

Some people are too sick to travel. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much money you have, if you are too sick to travel there is no way around it. You may have the right passport, and the right mindset. But health is really a big and important factor with travelling. Whether someone is mentally or physically sick, there are many ways someone’s health can stand in the way.

4. Lack of freedom

When I visited the Demilitarised Zone at the North Korean border privilege was just dripping off me. The fact that I was on a tour, with people on their vacation, going close to a place where people can’t even decide anything for themselves made me feel… weird.

There are people in this world that almost don’t dare to even think for themselves, let alone travel this world. We take this freedom for granted sometimes.

5. Some people simply have other priorities

Next to having a passport, money, health and freedom, there are also other factors to take into account. For instance, some people have loved ones to take care of. Think about very sick relatives without anyone else to cater for them. Even if that person has the ability to leave, it often isn’t as simple as that. It’s good to be selfish sometimes, but there are boundaries.

Being a parent also makes it a bit more of a challenge to travel. I know there are plenty of parents that travel with their little ones, even long term, but that doesn’t mean every parent can do this.

Follow your dreams if you can

I think it’s great that so many people follow their dreams and travel this world. It’s something I would always support, whether you are a friend or a stranger. Also, I am a travel blogger myself and share articles and photos on my social media channels with lots of inspiration for fellow travellers. But perhaps we all should be a bit more aware (me too!) that it’s not always that simple. This world can be fully explored by a privileged part of the whole population. Unfortunately there are so many out there that don’t even get this opportunity. Please don’t think you’re better than anyone, because you are well-travelled and others aren’t.

Before I travelled extensively, I also thought that everybody could travel if they really wanted to. Probably because those in my environment, mostly educated people, can travel if they want. One thing traveling taught me is that this definitely is not the case.

Even though I have worked hard to travel, I am so lucky that I could even get a job. To save up money, I lived with my sister and didn’t have to pay any rent. It’s not as if every person has this option. Nobody paid for my travels but me, but there are many more factors than hard work to take into consideration. Never in my life has any Visa been rejected and I never had much trouble to land a job – even though it might not always be the first job I wanted. There were possibilities for me and I took them. Others might not have any chances to take.

Don’t judge the “less travelled”

Try not to judge people who don’t travel or aren’t as well-travelled as you are. Keep in mind how lucky you are that you are able to travel and that it’s a gift. Personally, I think it’s always good to stay humble and be thankful.

I personally don’t even agree with the quote by Saint Augustine, as if you stay in one place you can have a fascinating life worth telling about. The most interesting person I ever met was a North Korean defector who has barely travelled in her life.

The quote by Saint Augustine may be taken out of context

I’ve received a lot of interesting comments on this article. One of them is by travel blogger Esther of Local Adventurer about the quote ‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page’:

“…I was also going to write a post about how it’s funny that Saint Augustine quote has always been taken out of context. He has never said the world is a book and that you should travel, but he has mentioned similar words about “the book of the world”. It’s about the divisions within the church and how instead of being confused after what you read, you should look at the world – the greater book – to find proof of the bible’s principles / God’s work. If you actually read his works, you will find that he doesn’t really travel and that he would find travel for pleasure to be completely selfish. haha That one is a bit hard to swallow, but it is true. Travel generally is not selfless. 😛”

So it’s funny how we can create our own meaning from people’s quotes and actually take them completely out of context!

Of course there are amazing stories in this world of people who come from nothing and made it all work. People who overcome all and never let anything stand in their way. Nothing is impossible, but we should still bear in mind that those are unique stories. Even strong people that are capable of overcoming anything might still not manage to make it work, yet again due to other factors. It’s just the reality. 

One impressive story for instance is We Carry Kevan, which also shows the importance of kindness of friends. Do you know any unique travel stories by unusual travellers?

When researching for this article I also came across this great article by This Battered Suitcase. It’s about the quote “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page” and why she dislikes it. Other relevant articles I wrote are Privileged to Chase Our Dreams and 8 Things I have Learned from Traveling.

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