I, like many other people, like to travel and I, like many other people, struggle to finance my trips. Nevertheless I travel ‘a lot’. In the past 5 years I have visited about 15 different countries on 4 different continents, and I am only a 19-year-old student. “How?” you ask me? I will tell you, but you might not like what I am about to say.
Many people call me ‘lucky’. And yes, in many ways I am a ‘lucky’ person. I was born in a developed country that allows me to enjoy great education, social security and a passport that will get me into most countries. I was born into a middle-class family that has been supportive of my passion to explore other cultures. I enjoy a life where don’t need to struggle just to make it to the next day.
But the strange thing is, the people that call me ‘lucky’ are most of the time in the exact same situation. From a developed country, a middle-class family. The people that ask me what money tree I planted in my back yard are probably even making more money than I am.
See, the only thing you need to know about being able to afford travel is that if you really really want it, you can do it. And there is the thing. Most people see travel as a luxury. They think it is what you buy with your middle-class salary when you have money and time left. So when people see me travel they think I first bought all the other things I needed, did all the other things I wanted to do and then bought a plane ticket. And that is true, but only because there are no other things I would want to spend my money on.
For me travel is not a luxury, it’s a priority. I am one of the few people my age who doesn’t have a drivers license. Therefore, I also don’t have a car. I don’t go out partying every weekend. In the past year I went shopping for clothes twice and both times I spent under $80, and not because I don’t like clothes, but because I simply find traveling more important. One day, when I make a good salary during my summer vacations I will start taking drivers lessons and go shopping for clothes. I might even get a Starbucks while I am at it. There are many things that seem ‘normal’ to many people that I don’t have, and I don’t mind because I am spending my money on the things that I actually like. But I try to limit my expenses to a minimum so that I can save up for something that I am passionate about.
People laugh when I say I am going to Brazil for semester and they say ¨Oh, how do you always end up in situations like that! Can I have your life?” but the truth is, I specifically choose my university and my degree because I knew it would include a semester in Brazil. People treat it like it is some kind of lottery that I always end up winning, when it is not. I end up in these situations because I put myself in these situations. If you are not willing to take that extra step for it, don’t expect it to just magically appear on your path because that’s not how it works. You have to shift your priorities to what you find important, whether that is traveling or getting a new car.
Sometimes I ask people why they don’t travel so often, while they are obviously interested in doing so. Most of the times they will come up with some excuse for why they shouldn’t do it and it makes me sad because it doesn’t have to be that hard. The fact that you have to go alone shouldn’t hold you back, and your aunt will have another birthday next year.
Yes, I realize I am typing this from a privileged position, but to all of you middle class western kids out there, and frankly anyone who is passionate about anything; make it your priority. There is always a way, so find it.
– Amarens Elise. This piece was originally appeared on Nationality Unknown
Photo Courtesy: tsukaretab