If the whole world — aka Instagram — is telling us that traveling is super easy and that the world is just waiting for us to book a one-way ticket and chose a new bathing suit; it must be true. Spoiler alert: it is not.
With social media and the place it took in our lives so quickly, we have to make some space for that new, and for many constant, little voices we hear and read daily. We listen to that voice when it tells us to buy this amazing product; it is working since that person we love is telling us so. We listen to it when it tells us how much we are loved on Instagram; it is true since our picture has 174 likes. We listen to it when it is telling us that traveling is the easiest thing to do: we simply have to pack our bags and keep following our dream, because after all, we are the writer of our own life. Are we though?
POV: You are not a travel influencer with a strong passport
When I was younger, scrolling down my social media feeds, I kept watching videos of travel influencers exploring the world, traveling from country to country, island hopping, enjoying Business Class, backpacking through Europe with a few euros a day, living their best life in Asia and discovering the wildlife of Africa.
I grew up thinking that traveling was easy. And for a long time, I believed it. I was told the most complicated part was to sync our schedule with our travel pals or to find the strength (ironically) to go discover this or that country on our own.
Your reality is not the reality
While strong passport holders have the chance to just be able to pack a bag and explore the world, feeling like they belong to that beautiful planet that is ours, others have to face a whole other reality. A reality made of Embassies’ appointments, visas denial, paperwork, and other checks on passport index to see if their next destination is going to welcome them or not. While a French passport holder can visit 117 countries visa-free, an Egyptian one can only visit 17 visit 17 of them. And among these countries, you won’t find France, the US, the UK, Canada, or Australia. “Strong” countries are for strong passport holders. But when a small part of the world wonders what kind of SPF to take for their vacay to get a great tan while protecting the corals, the majority is struggling to figure out which documents they have to gather in order to prove that they are not going to fly out of their country forever to try starting a new life. Payslips, proof of a job back home, letter from their employer, letter of invitation to the country they want to visit, bank statement, proof of paid accommodation, insurance, return ticket… and the list goes on. Sometimes shorter, way more often, quite longer than that.
Fancy trips are for wealthy people. Expensive ones are for the poor.
Going from Paris to Berlin for the weekend to stay at a friend’s can be cheap if the tickets are booked in advance and if we are willing to stay away from the 14€ cocktails ordered on a hype rooftop. But when someone from Hurghada, Egypt, wants to visit Germany, not only do they have to take the required visas into consideration but also the expenses of acquiring said visas. Expenses such as the trip they have to take to go to the Embassy in Cairo which is 14 hours by bus, one way. Everything is made to be more complicated for those who already have great difficulties traveling the world.
How can one prove that someone from a so-called “third-world” country will have enough money to travel to Europe for three weeks? How would they, when in a mining company in Egypt, two engineers doing the same job are paid different salaries? Same hours, same diplomas, same responsibilities, same title. A different reality with an average of 11.000€ per month for an Australian and a bit less than 700€ for a local.
The world is not an oyster for citizens from most parts of the world, more like an urchin, ready to stab your passport when you just wanted to have it stamped.
The security doors syndrome or the fear of being caught for something you did not do
You know that feeling when you leave a shop, afraid you are going to beep at the security doors even though the last thing you stole was candy from a shop when you were 11 years old? That is the feeling that comes with you at every airport when you need to show a file as thick as a thesis, before boarding any flight. Ask two people what airports mean to them: A solo traveler from France will tell you all about buying some perfume at the Duty-Free, getting a book for the flight at WHSmith and enjoying some overpriced food from Prêt à Manger at their Boarding Gate. Ask a Jordanian then: the fear of having the Authorities telling them they needed to have proof of accommodation, the suspicion of immigration, the cold sweat at every gate, the relief when the flight takes off, yet knowing they will still have to go through the same process after landing. The majority is not the writer of their own stories. Embassies and other High Authorities are.
Let’s pack our bags and our privileges
Traveling the world is a marvelous thing that the majority of people love.
3.4 billion passengers are projected to fly in 2022, up from 2.3 billion in 2021, but still down from 4.5 billion in 2019. Traveling makes us feel happy, develops our curiosity, quenches our thirst for adventure and allows us to discover amazing new cultures. But it also is a privilege only some of us have, without even realizing it. While hoping on a plane to go on a girls’ trip can be something as simple as that, it can take months of planning for others.
Let’s never forget that when sharing travel experiences. Safe travels to all of you.