Home > feminism, inequality, racism / white privilege, travel > Do I deserve to be travelling? Hard work or privilege?

Do I deserve to be travelling? Hard work or privilege?

I’m in India! Travelling through this beautiful sub continent for just over 2 more months. And its amazing. So interesting, challenging, fun, frustrating, intriguing, irritating, luxurious, uncomfortable … Really its constant intense experiences and interactions except when its a long boring wait for a bus, someone to do something they said they would etc. And its warm and the sky is blue and I can be outside and walking and seeing things and it’s January and if I were in glasgow it would be dark, cold, wet with icey pavements trapping me indoors. But I made this trip instead. Well, sort of.

So I’ve been planning this trip for about a year. There was a lot to organise and I had to work 2-3 extra shifts every week for months and months to save up to pay for it. I found this hard and tiring as I’m a bank nurse so I’m working in different wards all the time, meaning each shift is more challenging as I’m having to hit fresh ground running each day. And I guess that’s what friends and family and people I met through work meant when, as the departure date was approaching, they (you!) told me I deserved the trip.

But now I’m here, and I’ve met a fair few Indian nurses, and I know that yes I worked to come but it was much easier for me to save up to come to India than it would be for them to do it the other way round.

I was born white, middle class with a South East of England accent. This makes it easier to get taken seriously, for example in uni or job interviews. I am given the benefit of the doubt more than I would if I had a working class accent or wasn’t white. In general interactions with strangers are empowering as I am assumed, because of my social markers, to be more intelligent, respectable and trustworthy than average. This leads to me feeling more confident and less hesitant as I’m constantly getting messages from those around me that I am competent. This confidence in turn spirals upwards as I am then given ever more credibility.

Being female does detract a bit from this – I can’t begin to count how many times this has happened, but minimum of once a month it is wrongly assumed that a male nearby has more technical experience or knowledge than me. And of course that usual female experience of being talked over by men, and being expected to yield in interactions. This does damage my confidence and willingness to speak but as I said, in other ways I am privileged*.

I was born with an intelligent brain and a reasonably healthy body – I am very short sighted, clumsy, short and have rosacea but I’m definitely at the able bodied end of the spectrum, especially as I live in a time and place where I can get glasses! I’d have been much more disabled otherwise! Being smart and healthy and able bodied has allowed me to work and to travel – India would be about impossible for a wheelchair user, or someone with a compromised immune system. Working to save up, and the trip itself, would have also been incredibly challenging if I had chronic pain, poor mental health etc etc.

Being female does make travel more dangerous due to sexism and rape culture** but my other privileges protect me from much of that – eg being black would mean I was seen as less credible and therefore would be an easier target for a sexual predator. Being older as a female makes me less desirable in this society so I am less harassed and sexually assaulted now than when I travelled in my twenties. If I were transgender (rather than just androgynous and genderfluid) travel in many places would again be much more dangerous and there would be a constant fear of being discovered and in what brutal way I might be punished for not conforming to societal gender norms.

Another massive privilege I was born with is geographical. I have a passport from a white, high income country meaning I can get tourist visas more easily as it is not assumed that I am secretly an economic migrant (though actually specifically for India having a UK passport makes obtaining a visa much more expensive, though still cheaper than for an Indian to obtain a UK visa) Crucially, though I’m not high earning in UK terms (I make roughly £1400 a month when working full time), because the UK is near the top of the economic food chain and has a history of imperialism leading to wealth, I was able to save enough to live and travel in India for 4 months, in a way not accessible for the average Indian to do in reverse. So just by the luck of being born in the UK I have life choices in much of the rest of the world.

But this trip was definitely not handed to me on a plate. It was hard work to save up to come and to organise my life to enable that, by minimising expenditure and commitments. I could have not fought inertia, and then I’d still be in Glasgow now.

So do I deserve this? Was I able to come on this amazing trip of a lifetime to India because of my hard work or because I am so privileged by society?

Why yes. ;)

* the idea that everybody is privileged and oppressed in different ways by different axis (eg race, gender, class) is called intersectionality.

** rape culture is the commonly accepted ideas, systems, language etc that encourage and enable sexual assaults. This includes sexual objectification of women so that they are dehumanised and seen as things to prey on for sex rather than people with desires of their own and the right to their own bodily autonomy. Also ideas that females should be modest and have specific proven, displayed virtues (be it clothing, alcohol consumption, being out on their own at night, being a sex worker etc) or that otherwise anything that happens to them is their own fault and the actual perpetrators are let off the hook.

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  1. red
    February 1, 2014 at 5:02 am

    You one trilazillion percent deserve this. Just because other people don’t get what they deserve as easily as some people is shit, but it does not mean that you don’t deserve it. I hope you are having the best time in the world and I hope you are prepared for me to not let you go (physically, I’m just going to cling to you) when yoy get back :)

    • February 2, 2014 at 7:23 am

      :):):) Thanks for your sweet words :)

  2. May 15, 2017 at 5:18 am

    That’s a cunning answer to a chnnleagilg question

  1. February 2, 2014 at 7:19 am

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