There’s shaming of all sorts now a days: fat shaming, skinny shaming, and slut shaming. One that I’ve seen recently is a sort of travel shaming. As the name suggests, it consists of shaming people who don’t travel. With articles like “Date a girl who travels” and sayings like “To travel is to live”, it gives the impression that somehow my decision to travel has made my life better than that of a woman who has never left her home state. It is simply not true.
To be clear, I am no better than the non-travelling person, nor are they better than me. It doesn’t even make me braver or more courageous than them. It makes me a person with different goals and desires in life. This doesn’t make me any less proud of my accomplishments of living, studying, and working abroad. It’s hard work and has required a lot of sacrifices. But, other people have also sacrificed a lot for their lives in their hometowns, home states, or home countries.
The important thing to do is to see life through a lens that is not your own. Typically, this happens very naturally while travelling because we’re placed into a completely different culture and asked to survive there. Through this, we realize that the world is bigger and smaller than we’ve ever imagined and that’s what’s important. We are on this gigantic round planet with billions of other people, and yet I have run into someone in a Switzerland hostel who went to pre-school across the street from my home church in Pennsylvania. How does that even happen?
We should meet people with different backgrounds and beliefs than ourselves and try to experience life as they do. Gain empathy. Does that require travelling? No. Is that one of the easiest ways to do it? Yes. Are there other ways to experience these things that doesn’t involve travelling? Yes. You can volunteer with local refugees who are just settling down and hear their story. You can work with the homeless in your city and learn from them, too. You can even go to the town over from you and learn something new, like a different way of making sandwiches or slightly different fashion styles. Anything that gets you a bit out of your comfort zone and widens your perspective on life a bit.
Yes, I believe that travelling is life changing and teaches you amazing things. Yes, I recommend it to many people. But, no, I don’t think every single person on this planet needs to have travelled to have fully lived. And no, I don’t look down on people who decide to not travel. And neither should you. We all need to teach each other empathy, that the world does not revolve around them, and that other people live just fine in a completely different way.
That’s what matters in the end. Not whether you travel or not.