More rage about rich travellers

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

It’s like we think we are all Clark Kent. At home we slave away and work hard to be useful in our jobs, but then we enter a magical phone booth and – ta-dah – we take off to a far-away country and somehow our Superman suit, or our volunteer T-shirt, gives us all of the power and knowledge we need to save the world.

We must stop volunteering abroad from becoming about us fulfilling our dreams of being heroes. The travellers are not just missing out on learning the lessons that lead to more sustainable changes in themselves and in the world, but they are also often negatively impacting the people they are meant to be “serving”.

…those middle-class gap-year Christians who go to Africa for 10 days to take photos of themselves putting three bricks onto the foundations of a half-built classroom. Their iPhone pics of giggling groups of little black children feeling their blonde hair, and being held, smiling, in WWJD-bangle-adorned arms, to be revisited in later years like snapshots from an outing to the petting zoo or the local museum, in the knowledge that, for a while, they really slummed it; really experienced.

There’s not much I can add to this that I haven’t already said. We all need somewhere to develop our work and social skills, but there is no intrinsic value in going halfway round the world to do this. Particularly when the climate damage you’re doing with your flights there and back will outweigh any good you do.

Also, don’t expect a level of responsibility and power you wouldn’t merit at home.  You don’t earn that just because you’re from a richer country; you earn it by earning it.

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