Is travel a right or a privilege?

by Lesley on April 26, 2013 · 15 comments

in lessons learned,travel

 cinque terra

When it comes to travel, there are many different types of people. 

There are people who love to travel and save hard earned money to make it happen.

There are people who dream of seeing the world but could never justify spending their cash in such an “extravagant” way.

And there are people who really shouldn’t spend their money (or lack thereof) on travel but do so anyway.

At various times, Jonathan and I have fallen into all the above scenarios. Both of us love to see this great big world, and we’ve been fortunate to jet set since we were young. Our parents took us on fantastic driving trips as children, encouraged us to visit countries like Guatamela, Japan and China when we were in our teens, and cheered us on when we spent semesters abroad in college.

Both of us are grateful for our experiences in other places–not just because they’ve been fun but because our hearts and minds have grown every time we stepped outside our familiar bubbles. I hope I can offer the same experiences to my children.

And yet… gulp…when it comes to travel I was am very spoiled.

In my twenties I developed an attitude that travel was not a luxury, but something owed to me. Even when I was barely scraping by I’d often say to myself, “You’re only young once. You work hard. You’ll never have an opportunity like this again. You’ll never regret the memories made.” 

Then something happened that shifted my thinking.

My friend Lori told me a story about her parents. The Lesters are an incredibly kind, generous and hard working family. For many years they’d saved for a big trip to the Mediterranean and were finally making plans to go when Lori’s dad was suddenly laid off after 15 years at the same company. The Lester’s trip was postponed indefinitely.

I’m sure Lori’s parents were disappointed, and they’d have every right to be, but rather than feel sorry for themselves they simply changed their travel plans and said, “We’ll keep working hard. We can wait.”

Their attitudes were so different from my own. For them, travel to faraway countries was a luxury. For me, international travel was a right, not a privilege. 

Since Lori told me the story about her parents, I’ve tried to look at travel with a new perspective. This has been particularly good for me to do as we’ve planned and cancelled our own Italy trip several times.

You see, Jonathan and I have dreamed about and schemed about an Italian vacation ever since I spent time there in college. When I was in Florence a group of friends invited me to travel with them to Cinque Terra. At the time I was falling in love with Jonathan and decided I didn’t want to visit the magical sea side towns until I could do so with him. We made a promise by phone that someday we’d visit Cinque Terra together, the sooner the better.

We’ve been married almost 8 years, and the Italy trip hasn’t happened. It’s not been for lack of dreaming and planning. For the last year we’ve been saving consistently for a trip. We planned to fly into London and stay with our good friends, Brent and Erica, before traveling with them to Switzerland and Cinque Terra. It was going to be amazing.

But then I found out I was pregnant, and the trip simply couldn’t happen this spring. At first I felt disappointment and anger. We saved! We planned ahead! We lined up childcare! We waited for 8 WHOLE YEARS!

And then I realized my privilege attitude was making a sneaky appearance again. Here I am only 31 years old, blessed with a healthy husband and (almost) two babies, but I’m whining because I can’t visit a country I’ve actually been to before?

People, my heart can be really ugly sometimes.

Once I tossed my bad attitude, Jonathan and I had a decision to make. Keep saving the money for a “someday” trip, or go for a shorter, domestic trip instead?

We weighed all our options and decided that more important than the destination was making memories together. I hate phrases like, “You only live once” (YOLO!) but at the same time we looked death in the face last year. While I refuse to make all our life decisions based on what ifs, I also love spending quality time with my husband.

So with our Europe saving funds we booked a long weekend trip to New Orleans. The location and timing worked better with my pregnancy, and it’s a city we’ve both longed to see. It wasn’t Italy, but it was still a more extravagant vacation than most people in our world will ever get to take. I am humbly grateful for the time away with my sweet husband. (In fact, I can’t wait to tell you more about it soon!)

After our most recent trip I am again reminded that I love traveling and I believe it’s an extravagance worth saving for. BUT, I also believe travel isn’t owed to me nor is it key to my long term happiness.

I’d love to hear about your perspective on travel. Have your views shifted as you’ve gotten older? Is it a priority? Does my spoiled attitude resonate with anyone? 

Related reading: Why I’m afraid to tell you where we’re going on vacation by Micha Boyett

photo credit: Scott Ingram Photography via photopin cc

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