Traveling is a Privilege

I feel a slight hesitation as I post my most recent vacation photos. I’m a photographer, so there are few things I love more than sharing my images. But I also grew up in a blue-collar family. I honestly never thought I would travel to different corners of the country {let alone to another continent}. So now as a mother, I can admit, that traveling is a privilege.  

It’s the same feeling I had when sharing my pregnancy announcement. I’m always afraid of hurting other people’s feelings – even indirectly. But it reaches a point where I have to let myself experience joy.

Wanderlust Culture
My dad grew up in a town of 6,000 people and he still lives there. I don’t know how much it ever crossed his mind that he could move somewhere else. Before social media, before the popularity of the bachelor’s degree, did people feel very compelled to leave their town? All I know is that moving away to college was a huge rush for me. My desire to see more and more places was fueled by seeing all of my friends’ blogs. Our generation has equated “well-traveled” with “well-cultured”.  

I couldn’t find a place to pump at our local airport. Chicago Midway came through with this Mother’s Room!

National Obstacles
Despite America’s obsession with travel, very few of us have the means. We are not guaranteed vacation time, maternity leave is usually a joke, and salaries aren’t keeping up with inflation. Having kids multiplies the difficulty of travel, both logistically {bring all their stuff? find a sitter?}, and economically. And for as many breastfeeding campaigns that are pushed on us as new mothers, airports are hit-and-miss in terms of facilities.

Moving Isn’t a Cure
If it’s so expensive to travel, why not move for a well-paying job? While I don’t regret living out-of-state before having kids, I don’t recommend it as a means of travel. You’ll most likely use all of your vacation time visiting family! And cities with high salaries come with a high cost of living. So move to get out of your comfort zone. Move to see if you miss your home state. But don’t move to do more sight-seeing!

Pictured Rocks, located along Lake Superior. Double-exposure on film.

Appreciate What You Have
My early yearnings to see cities made me neglect living so close to amazing nature. Despite growing up in Northern Michigan, I only recently made it a point to explore the Upper Peninsula. There’s nowhere in the world like it. So, if you can’t afford to go far, you might be surprised what gems are hidden in your own state.

Finding the Means
There are probably some sacrifices you could make in order to do more traveling. Make your lunches every day, join a vanpool, or buy clothes second-hand. You also have to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Our recent vacations only happened thanks to a work conference, family condo, parents living abroad, and friends living on the coast. It’s striking a balancing between using the credit card and missing a window for a good deal.

I recognize that my travels thus far were thanks to my privilege. I hope that the pendulum swings back from “travel is everything” to a more centered stance. Yes, travel if you can. But doing so doesn’t make you a better person, or necessarily more cultured. Starbucks and McDonald’s are in The Louvre.
If you want a more global perspective, start by visiting your local library, and meeting all of your neighbors.

If you could have an all-expenses-paid trip, where would you travel to next?

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