Sat

16

Jan

2016

Why we shouldn't pretend that everybody can just quit their jobs and travel...

La Esperanza, Ecuador, South America

 

Maybe I'm just feeling bitter because I can't travel right now and maybe this article will be a little controversial, but I feel that among the chorus of bloggers telling people to give up their mundane lives and see the world, we've neglected to acknowledge our own privilege. Although many of us work hard for the freedom to travel, it's impossible to pretend that our opportunities are open to everyone...

 

Lake Titicaca, Isla del Sol, Bolivia

 

Some of our luck is down to family and friends. I always had the option of staying with them while I saved, calling in an emergency or returning home if funds dwindled down to zero. My friends have lent me their sofas when I've rocked up at their doorways (mostly Bryony, thank-you!) and occasionally helped me out when I've found myself unstuck abroad. Above all, nearly everyone in my life has been supportive. It's possible to travel without this safety blanket, but leaving takes a good deal more bravery and commitment. 

 

Secondly, the people of Britain are comparatively privileged. Travel is considered a normal right of passage for many young adults, women are relatively liberated, the pound is strong and we have one of the most powerful passports in the world. We are also (currently) lucky enough to be a part of the European Union. This gives us 28 countries who's borders we can automatically cross without need of a visa; we can even live and work in them without legal issues if we have the opportunity. Imagine being born in North Korea.

 

Huaraz, Peru

 

Even within the relatively wealthy nation of Britain, poverty and responsibilities make the idea of long term travel unthinkable for many. High rent and food prices compared to the minimum wage make it nearly impossible to save if you have a low paid job and dependants. Though I've met a few truly inspirational families, including one small troupe of French circus performers who were cycling their way North through the Americas, maintaining a consistent education for your children must be difficult if you aren't knowledgeable in vital areas yourself. Sometimes I barely have the confidence to set out on an adventure alone, let alone take children with me, so I admire those who are brave enough to take their families.

 

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

 

So, I'm not going to patronise you all by saying you could be just like me if you really put your minds to it. I don't know who you are. Life is complicated and some things are more important than travel.

 

Rant over. 

 

 

Write a comment

Comments: 37
  • #1

    Shikha (whywasteannualleave) (Sunday, 17 January 2016 12:02)

    Very good points Katie. And it's not just about not being able to quit our jobs and leave -"some of us actually like our jobs, our daily lives and our home towns and homes but travel is our passion in our spare time - at least that's where my blog name came from anyway! I just think each to one's own but I agree that there seems to be a lot of lecturing that goes on sometimes.

  • #2

    Anje Rautenbach (Sunday, 17 January 2016 12:24)

    Great post, Katie and I totally agree with you!
    It is not that easy to see the world if you are not in the right location or have the funds. The only reason why I've seen what I've seen is because I worked in South Korea (and then the only reason why I could leave for South Korea is because I had the opportunity to go to University).
    Now that I'm back in South Africa reality is striking hard that I might not leave Africa in 2016 due to the weak South African Rand.
    Great post!

  • #3

    Katie Featherstone (Sunday, 17 January 2016 13:48)

    Thanks so much for your comments Shikha and Anje. I was quite worried at what reception this post might get, but at least two bloggers are supportive, so I haven't totally ostracised myself!

  • #4

    Stephen (Sunday, 17 January 2016 15:30)

    I totally agree with you, but to take the other tack:

    It often seems to me that a lot of the regular *readers* of so many travel blogs are those in similar positions to the authors: largely European or American, generally born into mid or higher income, mostly able to make the jump if they indeed wanted to. I assume most of these exhortative posts to be targeted primarily to that demo, to kick aside the most commonplace excuses that we've all heard about why it isn't possible for somebody in that group to do.... well, what so many of us are obviously already committed to doing.

  • #5

    Katie Featherstone (Sunday, 17 January 2016 15:50)

    Yeah, I agree Stephen. Excuses frustrate me too- I just wanted to acknowledge the contradiction in that sort of title. I think travel blogs are becoming increasingly popular in other parts of the world though, particularly in Asia, so I never want to assume my readers are the same as me.

  • #6

    Franca (Sunday, 17 January 2016 16:41)

    I understand what you are saying and I agree with you Katie, although I still think that if you really want to travel, if you are 'lucky' enough to have the right support and be in the right circumstances, it's up to you to decide what is more important and which path to take.

    I know that it's unfair to say that everybody can do it because in reality that isn't the case. We often forget how fortunate we are even to be able to choose to travel.

  • #7

    Katie Featherstone (Sunday, 17 January 2016 18:56)

    Yes of course. I'm not trying to devalue the effort and commitment it takes to maintain a travel lifestyle, but simply say that it's not an opportunity that everyone is able to take. Thanks for commenting Franca.

  • #8

    Shing (Sunday, 17 January 2016 20:11)

    It's always a good call to show the other side of the coin Katie, especially when quitting your job to travel is made to look effortless which is entirely misleading. If I see an article with those kind of titles I usually ignore them because most serve as clickbait.

    Saying that, sometimes it can work, but those individuals have worked incredibly hard to get to that position, yet I wonder if people choose to ignore that reality.

    I have no issue with people quitting their jobs to travel - that can the best decision - travel is a beautiful, life-affirming experience. But it becomes an issue when they tell others to. As you've already highlighted, everyone's situation is different and life is precarious enough without encouraging others to plunge into financial uncertainty by quitting their jobs.

  • #9

    Katie Featherstone (Sunday, 17 January 2016)

    Thanks Shing. It's true that it's not an easy decision for anyone, but it usually a great one for those who manage to pull it off. I'm definitely intending to do it again myself when I can- I'm just thankful that it should be possible for me.

  • #10

    Nathan Anderson (Sunday, 17 January 2016 20:39)

    You make a good point, Katie! One other thing that someone mentioned in the comments, is that dropping everything and traveling isn't what everyone wants to do. A lot of people have jobs, families, and other responsibilities which make that either inconvenient or extremely difficult to do. For some, a weekend trip to a nearby park might be all the travel they need :-)

    Anyways, good post! I think you did what you intended without alienating anyone, haha

  • #11

    Katie Featherstone (Sunday, 17 January 2016 21:13)

    It was a pretty difficult line to tread Nathan. :/

  • #12

    Shandos (Tuesday, 19 January 2016 02:37)

    Great points! A blogging friend recently pointed out that this isn't something that's possible for her, because she has two kids and they're her priority.

    I think one of the points that many travel bloggers are trying to get across, is that for many people where this is an actual possibility (they're well off, have a good passport, minimal responsibilities), they don't realise they can do it, either because of the expectations of those around them or thinking that they need heaps of money to do so.

  • #13

    Katie Featherstone (Tuesday, 19 January 2016 09:33)

    Thanks Shandos,

    Yes, I agree. Maybe I should do a follow-up entitled “Why it might not be as difficult as you think”! I just didn’t like to assume.

  • #14

    Kathryn (Tuesday, 19 January 2016)

    Well said. It's something that really resonates with me because for many years I raised my son on my own while working full time. Travel just wasn't a possibility when meeting basic living costs was a struggle.

    I'm "living the dream" now, lol. Well I travel full time and make my living as a writer. But the assumption I find quite often is that you can do it all NOW. Sometimes, other responsibilities come first and that's not a bad thing.

  • #15

    Katie Featherstone (Tuesday, 19 January 2016 18:01)

    Hi Kathryn,

    Thank-you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I really appreciate your opinion as, not having children myself, I don't feel very well qualified to talk about that issue. You must be really proud of raising your son on your own and now your life sounds amazing, so there is definitely something to be said for patience. I'm so happy you're living the dream!

    Katie

  • #16

    Ted (Tuesday, 19 January 2016 19:49)

    The one term that is used for this is vagabonding. People have done this for centuries, it's only recently that more have begun and we hear about them easily, because of the Internet. For some people the things shared by those who have quit the 9-5 and taken off, inspire them to pack up and leave. Whereas prior to the Internet, they would never have heard about it or been told not to "do that sort of thing".

    But - it is not for everyone.
    You have to weigh up the pro's and con's for yourself. Some just go for a set period of time, say a year or two. Often with a savings behind them or rollover stock dividends (like someone I know) and make up the rest by doing migrant work.

    Then there's everyone else. Family, work, holiday, etc., if you are single you have quite a lot more time. Of course, a nice paying computer contract every few months can do wonders for your travel budget. I reckon Shing must make some serious dosh, the way she travels so often ;)

    I have a meager pension and could go for quite a long time if I do it right - stay 2-3 months somewhere and spend less, then have enough for a decent flight/train to somewhere else and begin the process again (at least that's the basic plan). Though being stuck at home nursing some NHS failure has put me back 6 months.

  • #17

    Katie Featherstone (Tuesday, 19 January 2016 23:08)

    Thanks for your input Ted. I agree things are certainly a lot easier if you are single and have savings- in that case there's really nothing stopping you!

  • #18

    Jatin Adlakha (Thursday, 21 January 2016 22:23)

    Well that makes total sense. Lots of friends I know, for that matter even me are constrained to the desk jobs for the money factor. I so feel enraged about the strength of a currency or passport over another, esp when it comes to this! Good post. :)

  • #19

    Kaley (Friday, 22 January 2016 00:58)

    I love this post! I think it is always best to count your blessings. Europeans like to trash Americans on our lack of travel overseas, but they don't realize that traveling around Europe is, really, not different than us traveling around America! Just because they speak a different language doesn't make you special. :P Controversial opinion, but living overseas I got tired of that attitude from Europeans. So what you've been to ten European countries? I've been to 12 different States. Get off my case!

  • #20

    Josh Taylor (Friday, 22 January 2016 06:21)

    THANK you for that post. You've hit it on the nose. Not everyone can have this lifestyle, but I suppose we can always dream...I have half the world thinking none of this lifestyle design stuff is real and the other half online acting like it's all true. I'm somewhere in between.

    That's one reason I got into hiking, camping and backpacking, that it was something I could afford more easily. So my blog emphasizes hiking and backpacking as something most people can make the time and money for.

  • #21

    Katie Featherstone (Friday, 22 January 2016 10:30)

    Wow, thank-you everyone. I'm quite overwhelmed by all the positive feedback on this.

    Kaley- that's a really interesting perspective, thank-you. I actually hadn't thought of that, but the USA must be hugely varied too. Travelling your own country is just as valuable as abroad, just in slightly different ways.

    Josh- I am also somewhere in between. I'm certainly not trying to say we shouldn't if we can, but it's deluded to say that's for everyone!

    Thank-you everyone!

  • #22

    Naomi (Monday, 25 January 2016 22:23)

    Great post! Couldn't agree more. Great other side of the story and I feel like it must be said. We do not need to travel full time, just because we like it so much. I like it even more because I cannot do it whenever I want.

  • #23

    Katie Featherstone (Monday, 25 January 2016 23:15)

    Thanks Naomi. Yes, I would love to, but haven't quite worked it out yet. I find it hard to think about earning while I travel, so the money always runs out at some point!

  • #24

    Savannah Grace (Wednesday, 27 January 2016 11:35)

    I'm not offended at all. The whole "quit your job and travel" theme has become overly hyped in recent years, and naturally more posts proving why you can't are going to come out. I think the MAIN thing people forget to mention is the SACRIFICES that come with "quitting your job and travelling". Doing that doesn't = perfect paradise life... and it's up to everybody to find a balance that suits them. Like Shane said in his recent speech "would he recommend being nomadic for years and doing what he does? NO." And I completely agree with him. This intense, travel lifestyle isn't for everyone and people should'nt believe that it is paradise.In theory everyone CAN "quit job and travel" but that may mean you need to scrub toilets in India or sleep on park benches.... we have to be more realistic about what it means...I was able to travel the world with my family for 4 years, but it was more often than not, a very uncomfortable, challenging journey. Despite all the great things that have come out of it, it isn't something I would push others to do. Everyone needs to find their balance, make small sacrifices (a cheaper phone, a smaller car) to see the world. I think that is the most important message, to inspire people to buy things that last forever - memories not possessions.

  • #25

    Duke Stewart (Wednesday, 27 January 2016 13:01)

    Thanks for this, Katie. I've been noticing more of the "Quit your job" types of posts but can see that the folks behind them are either brave or financially secure. I come from a middle class background and had a father who'd bail me out when I needed during my study abroad stay in Japan. As I got older, things got tougher and the only way I could travel was through working abroad as an English Teacher. I think you've inspired me in a way to go write something that adds on to this but in the meantime, thanks again for pointing out our privilege. It is something those of us who've traveled should always keep in mind. Cheers, Katie.

  • #26

    Katie Featherstone (Wednesday, 27 January 2016 13:10)

    Thanks Savannah, that means a lot. A couple of people have been a bit offended, but I really tried not to write it that way. You're right about sacrifices and some people's would have to be much bigger than others!

    Duke, your comments are always so thoughtful and this one is no different. My parents would always help me out if I was stuck too, usually I'm too proud to ask them, but it's always reassuring to know.

  • #27

    Kate (Wednesday, 27 January 2016 13:36)

    Such a refreshing read Katie, thank you! Being a South African, not only is it extremely expensive to travel abroad but there are very few countries where South African passport holders don't need a visa. I'd love to quit my job and travel the world but in a country where we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, as well as a crashing currency I hold onto my job and treat it with the respect it deserves!

  • #28

    Katie Featherstone (Wednesday, 27 January 2016 13:42)

    Well said, thank-you Kate. That's pretty humbling.

  • #29

    Julie (Wednesday, 27 January 2016 15:29)

    Well said and I completely agree. Those of us who won the life lottery of being born in a country/family/community that enables us to travel have to recognize that much of the world is living with entirely different constraints.

  • #30

    Katie Featherstone (Wednesday, 27 January 2016 15:52)

    Thanks Julie! Well summed up. :)

  • #31

    Jennifer (Friday, 29 January 2016 15:38)

    It's nice to see someone else who feels the same! I'm in no position to up and quit my job to travel. While it can be so easy for people to say, unfortunately, it's not always easy to do. This isn't to say traveling full time is impossible, but it can be a huge risk for some people more than others. I think there is a lot of snobbery in the travel blog world that needs to be squashed immediately.

    Nice post!

  • #32

    Katie Featherstone (Friday, 29 January 2016 17:28)

    Here, here! ...or is it hear, hear?!

  • #33

    Beth W (Saturday, 06 February 2016 09:45)

    'I feel that among the chorus of bloggers telling people to give up their mundane lives and see the world, we've neglected to acknowledge our own privilege.'

    I wanted to read this post again, and I definitely agree that actually 'we' (UK/supported young people) are in such a rare position to travel so freely and relatively easily!

  • #34

    Katie Featherstone (Saturday, 06 February 2016 15:38)

    Thanks Beth. I hope you're enjoying your time in India.

  • #35

    Charlie Marchant (Sunday, 28 February 2016 22:42)

    You know, I've been meaning to write a post about this topic for so long but have just never gotten round to it... I am 100% behind your sentiments. I think we - bloggers especially here - need to be more down to earth about what a privilege travel is and open their eyes more to the people around them and their situations.

  • #36

    Bernard Mc Cabe (Sunday, 13 March 2016 16:16)

    Agree 100% Katie, it's something I've been thinking about ranting about myself. If everyone left their jobs to travel the world would fall into chaos!

  • #37

    Katie Featherstone (Sunday, 13 March 2016 18:14)

    Thanks for your support guys. I'm glad you agree! :)

Follow me...

Where's our van now?