Travel shaming is lame
Have you ever been excited to tell someone about your trip and their response to your passionate storytelling is in the lines of "well, if you haven't been to [insert museum / landmark / restaurant] you haven't really been to [insert city / country]? Has a world traveller ever made you feel less than because you haven't travelled enough or at all?
Well, my friend, you may have been travel shamed.
I say "may" because I'm leaving room for nuance, namely tone and intent.
The first time I was travel shamed—because there were many [insert an eye roll and a sigh]—it was by none other than my father.
It was that summer in 1989, I believe, when Little Sis and I spent a month in Jersey without our mom. (Freedom!) She'd later come to "pick us up", and we'd drive to Boston (road trip!) to visit a family friend.
It was my first time spending the night in a state other than New York or New Jersey. My aunt who now lives in Connecticut hadn't immigrated yet. I remember being excited. Our stay in Boston was short: 2 nights. But my mom managed to squeeze in a visit at the museum—I want to say the science museum, but I could be wrong.
Upon my return to Haiti, I excitedly recounted the epic trip to my father. He was the cool parent. The one we'd spend every other weekend with and do cool things with. Like eating Corn Flakes and milk for lunch or playing badminton. I told him about playing with two other kids, Maria and Enrique, who only spoke English and Spanish. I was proud to explain how Little Sis and I had fun regardless of language barriers. I told him about the amazing day we spent in New York: museum in Manhattan, Coney Island and dinner in Queens. I told him about Boston. I must have talked for a good 5 minutes. Non-stop. Until this day, I'm a fast talker. And I'm very talkative.
He listened, nodded and smiled. But his words stung: "Well, if you haven't been to [insert museum] you havent really been to Boston. I instantly felt small and inadequate.
And, what does 10 year-old me do when someone hurts her feelings: I tell my mom.🤷🏾♀️
By 1989, my parents had been divorced for a good 5 years. My normal was 2 parents living in separate houses. I knew they didn't get along, but I had never seen them argue. My mom had never spoken an ill word against him—she never really does; my opinions of my father are my own.
That day, my mom sat us down and explained that our father had no business saying that to us. And she broke it down for us. Until this day, I try my very best to live by these principles.
1. If you have nothing nice to say, shut up. She didn't say shut up, I am.🙃
There are many ways to suggest that a person visit a particular place without belittling them. One way would be to suggest that they do during their next visit.
2. You don't get to tell people how to spend their time, especially when you're not footing the bill.
See, my father hadn't contributed to the trip, financially or otherwise. Not only did he insult my mother's choice, he also belittled her efforts—paying for three flights on one salary was no joke.
Her telling us that our father didn't contribute to the trip was the first (and last time) I got mixed up in grown folks business. All I know is that they had a conversation about his comments.
End of story.
There are many reasons why people don't travel often or at all. Among them: budget, physical ability, interest, ability to take days off.
Shaming people because they are unable or unwilling to partake in a lifestyle they cannot afford or aren't interested in doesn't really serve any other purpose than making the "shamer" feel better than. And, quite frankly, I don't get the appeal.
I see why one would like everyone they know to experience the joys of travelling. But I also believe in letting people lead their lives as they see fit.
What makes the behaviour even more annoying is that even among travellers there seems to be some sort of a class system. (Welcome elitism!) I've heard of Facebook groups where you must have visited a number of countries to become a member. As though travelling to more countries makes people more...experienced, I guess... (I'm not completely immuned to this. Remember that I only really felt like a world traveller after country #30. People have been referring to me as such for a while now. *SMH*)
I've seen people shame others because they fly Spirit or because they fly economy. The behaviour is pervasive. And people will become down right ridiculous in an effort to appear more well-off.
Travel shaming is one of the reasons why I don't believe that the act of travelling alone garanties that the traveller will be open-minded. To me, open-mindedness implies a level of awareness and acceptance that people live differently and that their choices, regardless of them being in line with ours, matter just as much.