Travelling shite

Tupperwolf points out that being rich enables you to travel light. If she had my, er, “talent” for carrying on talking after the point is thoroughly made, she might have added that being rich enables you to travel at all.

The article she’s rebutting, Living with Less. A Lot Less, inadvertently supplies a perfect example of my point: the person who thinks that abandoning possessions and increasing travel is an enlightened-person choice rather than just a wealthy-person choice. The person who thinks that reducing possessions and increasing travel somehow means living a lighter life.

It’s true that if you travel a lot, you’re probably physically slim and you probably don’t have much in the way of visible possessions. But that’s just yet more evidence that we should stop using visuals to assess what impact someone’s life is having. Because if you travel a lot by plane, you’ll have an enormous carbon footprint, no matter what else you do. You might care about the environment and take steps to mitigate your impact – by “minimizing trips, combining trips and purchasing carbon offsets” – but you’re still doing a dangerous level of damage to the earth’s climate.

That’s why people who travel don’t like actually working out their carbon emissions. They’ll avoid using any of the many free calculators available. Because if you saw the figures in black and white, you might have to face up to the damage you’re doing. Aviation is the huge farting elephant in the room.

I think most of us know a person-who-travels. When you meet them, you can often mistake them for a normal person who just happens to be returning from, or about to go on, the trip of a lifetime. Only later, after several more trips-of-a-lifetime, does it dawn on you that travelling is what they do. If they’re back in this country, it’s probably because they’re trying to scrape some money together to go travelling again. You have to get out of the mindset of wondering when they’ll be “back for good”, which is hard.

People-who-travel often have a lot of stuff in storage, providing a convenient metaphor for the metaphorical hidden baggage they drag around like Marley’s chains. What I mean is that the behaviour of people-who-travel has a cost for others, for the people left behind.

I could give countless examples: the parents who worry when you don’t say you’ve arrived safe, siblings who take on your share of family-duty stuff, friends who look unprofessional because they recommended you for the job you said you wanted and then you turned it down to go travelling.

You turn up at Terminal 4 with nothing but a tote bag, sure, but the ghostly shapes behind you are your mum’s attic full of your stuff, your friend who subbed you lunch all week because you spent all your money on plane tickets, the tenants handing over cash to you because you bought a house then decided not to live in it. (That’s not forgetting the 300,000 people who die every year because people like you think a rich person’s right to convenient travel is more important than a poor person’s right to life.)

And let’s add some more unexamined privilege to the baggage allowance: the privilege of flying frequently in a world where most people have never boarded a plane, the privilege of being commitment-free enough to make the trip, too much other privilege to go into here.

Some people-who-travel are so unaware of their privilege that they even write self-congratulatory blog posts about how boring the people they left at home are, how sedentary we are, how we simply can’t understand the life-changing experience they’ve had.

And yes, maybe we have been boringly working for a living. Maybe it’s tedious being able to contact us when you want to, because we haven’t dropped our mobile phone off the back of a rickshaw.

We’re that awful brother who was around for Mum’s birthday and organised a present from both of you. We’re those boring friends who have kids and provide them with a stable home environment. We’re those predictable relatives who can put you up for the night because we’re renting a a flat with a spare room instead of sleeping in someone else’s spare room to save money to go travelling.

We’re that boss who started a company from scratch and inexplicably stayed around to watch it grow into a thriving business. Why didn’t she just sell everything, make everybody redundant and fuck off to Sri Lanka?

And we simply can’t understand that life-changing experience you had, the one where you got on a plane with a bunch of other rich white people and flew somewhere and stayed there for a bit and then flew somewhere else and got a funny tummy.

Sorry. We can’t understand it because we weren’t there, man. I guess you win. Oh, off again so soon?

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Explore posts in the same categories: dissing the visuworld

5 Comments on “Travelling shite”


  1. […] to say possibly be the thing I just pretended to hear?” Suddenly launching into a tale of your travels in China might make you appear boring and self-obsessed. But it’s way safer than pointing out the […]


  2. […] It seems I’m not the only person who has issues with people-who-travel. […]


  3. […] always-travelling friend who says he’s definitely giving up travelling: you can take his words at face value or think back […]


  4. […] really worth reading the whole thing. I linked to it in my post about the hidden baggage of people who are always travelling, and I’ll make the same point again that I made there: we need to stop using visuals to assess […]


  5. […] Travelling shite  On the hidden baggage of people-who-are-always travelling, often borne by other people. (March 2013) […]


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