“Oh, that sounds amazing, I wish I could afford to travel.”
“Once I am done with X thing, then I can travel.”
“If only I had more time I could go some places.”
These are common statements that float around our society like leaves on a breeze, accepted as truth and restated with the commonality of raindrop in Seattle. But what if we didn’t just let these statements blow by us? What if we said, wait a second, is there another way to look at this?
Today I would, for a brief moment, take a look at how we assign value in our culture. How do we decide what things are worthy of our time and resources? Who gets to decide what is socially acceptable to spend money on throughout our life? How do those social norms and accepted ways of doing things impact our society as well?
Point being; we don’t seem to bat an eye at spending half a million on a house, while in the same breath talk about how travel is “too expensive” or “to time consuming” to be done. We place a premium on the purchase of material things and normalize the pursuit of these items regardless of the impact, but downplay the value of travel experiences, relegating them to a luxury for the few. If you choose travel you are impractical, irresponsible, a dirtbag, a failure.
Now let me say this, we at Travel Life Adventures recognize that travel is a privilege. The fact that I get to do it puts me in state of privilege over many individuals we actually don’t have the ability to do so. Travel is not accessible enough to everyone. This is the reason we work so hard to provide travel experiences to as many people as we can for as low a cost as we can while not taking away from the communities we travel in. Travel is a privilege, but should not only be for the privileged. Travel is a privilege, but should not be seen as a “luxury item” compared to other things in our culture.
This is where we want to shift the narrative around travel, and why I am exploring this topic today. Travel and the pursuit of rich, deep, and meaningful experience is and should be treated as a valuable and worth pursuit, same as getting a college degree or buying a house or being promoted. Travel brings value to the world in an exponential fashion as more people have the ability and desire to do it. Think about this:
- According to the Mortgage Bankers Association the average American spends $310,000 on their house at a rough cost of $1,494 a month in principle and interest, not including utilities
- The average American spends about $9,000 on a car to drive for an average of 7 years. Figure a person drives from age 16 to about 75 (for arguments sake.) That is 59 years, or 8.4 cars over a lifetime. At $9,000 each, thats $75,857 for a lifetime of cars.
- According to College Board, the average American spends $22,686 per year on tuition, or $90,746 for a four year degree (that is average of private, public, in state, and out of state tuition across the nation.) If you add in room and board that number jumps to $135,406
- According to the US Travel Association, more than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused in 2015 and forfeited a total of 222 million vacation days
- Also, the average American will spend $1,789 this year on travel. Take that as an average and extrapolate over that same 59 year period for the cars above and that comes to $105,551 over a lifetime. That is $30,000 less than a college degree. That is $204,449 less than a house.
I realize some of these numbers are abstract and don’t all exactly compare apples to apples. I also realize you need somewhere to live, the value of education, and the need to move around and support yourself and your family. The point here is not to downplay one thing or another, the point is to ask the questions about why we value some things over others. Why one is a pipe dream reserved for the lavishly rich or the perpetually irresponsible? Why is it taboo to prioritize a lifetime of travel and experience, while at the same time glorifying a lifetime of debt and material imprisonment?
I believe this runs deep in American culture, at an existential level, and has become our way of life. What is means to be “successful” is marked by what material possessions you can place in front of you and look at and show others. “Success” is your career, which may demand 40, 50, 60 hours a week and possibly comes with a whole set of stressors and negative inputs that we accept like badges of honor on our scared mental states. Just because you can look at something forever does not give it inherently more value.
We put forth this decree: the value that travel brings to the individual, to society, and to the world at large is at least equal to, if not more valuable than any of the things described above.
If we prioritized connection, experience, and the gaining of knowledge we could destroy so much of the hate and evil that seems to run deep in our veins as a society. If we could empower each person to be able to make the choice to travel, and travel in a culturally immersive and sustainable way, it could change our culture at a deep, meaningful level. If we could aid each person in leaving their home, their bubble, their comfort zone we could create a revolution of experience that would benefit our society as a whole forever by changing our fundamental makeup.
At the end of the day, all we are asking is to take stock of our priorities as a society, what we value, and what we are doing with our privilege. What are we doing with the precious few days we have on Earth that will outlast metal and wood and paper? How will the world better for those whom it is unjust, unfair, and unequal once I am gone?
I would also challenge you, and me, to challenge those around you when the statements about the impracticability of travel is brought up. Ask these questions of others and ourselves. Spark a discussion that can change the narrative around travel and material culture.
As a side note, our ultimate goal and big dream at Travel Life Adventures is to build this business large enough, partner with the right community leaders, and begin to offer these deep, experiential travel opportunities to those who might otherwise never get to have them, free of charge. Travel should not just be for the privileged. Every person deserves the chance to expand their mind, grow their understanding of the world around them, and gain knowledge of people and places and their place in the world. That is our dream and what we are working towards.
So lets take a more critical look at what seems “normal” or “acceptable” to do with our time and money and at least recognize, as a society, that there might be another way. That there might be enormous value in a life spent in pursuit of the gaining of knowledge through travel, or at the very least sacrificing some material things for a couple trips a year. Yeah, lets start there and see what happens.