On luck and privilege…

“It’s an irritating reality that many places and events defy description. Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for instance, seem to demand silence, like a love affair you can never talk about. For a while after, you fumble for words, trying vainly to assemble a private narrative, an explanation, a comfortable way to frame where you’ve been and what’s happened. In the end, you’re just happy you were there — with your eyes open — and lived to see it.” – Anthony Bourdain

A couple of months ago I was talking with my darling Granny, telling her about my next move to Vietnam. As we talked, she started to reminisce about when I was younger.

“You always said you were going to travel the world. When you were a little girl, you would say you wanted to go everywhere. And look at you now – you did it. You are out there seeing the world, just like you always said you would.”

I had genuinely forgotten my grand declarations as a child – but my Granny remembered it clearly. It turns out that the seed of seeing the world had been sown a lot earlier than I even realised. I wonder what that little girl would think now to of the places I have seen: the roof of Africa from Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro; the vastness of the Namib Desert; the stunning beauty of Victoria Falls; the waterfalls of the Ecuadorian Rainforest; walking with elephants in Tanzania and Thailand; rhinos hidden in the mist of the Ngorogoro Crater; Chimpanzees swinging through the trees in Mahale Mountains National Park. Many of these places took my breath away and leave me in stunned, amazed silence. My dad has since said that he would love for me to write down my travels in a memoir, ‘Mountains and Waterfalls I Have Known’. But some of these places have left me without words enough to describe what I have seen. Our planet is so very beautiful and I still, 30 years later from that little girl making bold declarations to my Granny, intend to see as much of it as I can.

Many people will say things like ‘Oh, I wish I could do that. You are so lucky!’. Luck has nothing to do with it. I worked hard to qualify and become successful in a career that allows me to travel and work anywhere in the world. I work hard to earn the money for my travels and I sacrifice other aspects of ‘being a grown up’ in order to do so. It is a series of conscious choices that have brought me to the life I now live.

I say luck has nothing to do with it. Privilege, however, has everything to do with it. I recently listened to the fantastic podcast ‘How Not To Travel‘, hosted by Dr. Kiona from How Not to Travel Like a Basic Bitch, and the first episode highlights the privilege that we have to travel. It made me think a lot about my privileges – one of which is passport privilege. As a British passport holder, the little burgundy book that I hold close everywhere I go to gives me visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry to over 100 countries in the world. Even in countries where I require a visa, my passport holds enough weight and power that I am rarely denied entry. This is not the case for other passport holder. My boyfriend is from Tanzania and often has to jump through bureaucratic hoops to gain entry to some countries. As Dr. Kiona said in her podcast, ‘While certain travellers have the freedom to roam about the world. Others can get straight up denied the right to do so… As travellers, we need to remember that we all hold some privilege and need to be mindful of the advantages we may or may not have in regards to others.

In continuing to travel and see the world, I count it a privilege but I also remember to check my privilege.

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