We’ve seen the headlines gracing mainstream media and the top travel blogs.
“Every Travel Excuse in the World! Busted!”
“Everyone can Travel, Here’s How!”
“Look at Me! Some Rich White Dude with No Responsibilities and a Trust Fund to Fall Back on! If I can do It, You can Too!”
I’m not going to be that person who flashes my white-privileged, USA-passport-holding, support-network-having smile and make the blanket statement of Yes! You can travel if you work hard enough for it!
Because that’s not always the case. Maybe you can’t travel now because of financial constraints, family responsibilities, passport restrictions, or other obstacles that I am not qualified to judge you on. Those issues shouldn’t be belittled by other travel articles that over simplify real complications. Fortunately, there’s a Pacific garbage patch sized amount of travel information for all types of people and circumstances.
The travel writing scene is dominated by one particular demographic (ahem, white, straight, affluent, Americans/UK citizens), meaning the advice you receive in the pages of the high-selling glossy magazines or on the top bloggers websites might not be as relevant to someone outside of the writer’s demographic. Seriously, look at this list of top bloggers. It’s a stretch to say more than 10% fall outside of the demographic I outlined above. Not that there’s anything wrong with this group of people *points finger away from self,* it’s just not very representative.
I’d love to inspire everyone in the world to travel, but I can only answer concerns that pertain to my demographic. I don’t know what cities in Europe are wheelchair accessible, how black people are treated in Asia, or what it’s like to globe-trot with kids, a disability, or lesbian partner. So, I’ve addressed what I can, and left other issues to the travelers who know best.
As a note, once I started diving into topics, it became so easy to find more. There are thousands of travelers out there who fit into every category. I could spend weeks adding to this resource, but after a few days of stop-and-go reading posts and placing them on here, I had to publish. This post is by no means comprehensive, but could give you a good start on where to find more about your interests and concerns. Let me know what I’ve missed.
Table of Contents
This post will provide resources on
Traveling to an unknown (scary) region
Traveling on a budget
Traveling as a person of color
Traveling with a physical disability
Traveling with mental illness
Traveling as LGBTQA
Traveling with kids
Traveling at all sizes
Traveling with a restrictive passport
…and more! This page will be frequently updated (especially with your help!)
But [Tragedy] Happened in [Area]. Isn’t It Dangerous?
I see this question coming from my American friends, at a time when the rest of the world is often terrified of visiting the gun-slingin’ Yankeedoodles. Don’t be fooled into thinking that where you are now is safer than elsewhere in the world. The media can often paint a disturbing picture of how a region is portrayed, one that’s likely to be different on how the locals perceive it.
Precautions need to be taken everywhere. Never walk alone at night in a strange place. Never leave your drink unattended. Always keep friends and family updated on your whereabouts.
But what’s media influence and what’s reality? My strategy is to read the government travel advisory, search for blog posts on travelers who have recently been there, and ask around. I do as much research as possible to gain a bigger understanding of the region, and trust advice from those who have actually been and have little financial interest in their advice. Who is making money by spreading a certain message? Travel agencies make money by portraying a place as safe. The mainstream media makes money by portraying a place as dangerous.
You need to use your best judgement and resist falling into the trap of relaxing just because you’re in a city with a safe reputation… or avoiding a city with a bad one.
Do a quick search of “[Place] News” for a quick understanding
I’m not in the camp that believes you should spend all of your money on travel. Oops. You should, however, live a simple lifestyle, maintain a savings account, and separate account for travel. To do this, I’ve cut off most of my unnecessary expenses. I don’t go out to eat. I don’t shop (often). I don’t subscribe to any entertainment, fitness, or non-business memberships. If you want a detailed post on how I save for travel, you can check out this post on some travel and money-saving strategies.
Many truly can’t afford to travel. But maybe you can, and you’re in the mindset that you can’t. Do you shop for clothes when you have a closet full at home? Do you eat at restaurants? Do you love a good ‘bargain’? Maybe you can afford to travel after all. $20 is a day of accommodation and food in many parts of the world. Are you throwing days of money away on random junk?
The likelihood that the people you know will have the same schedule, budget, and interest in going on the trip you’re planning is often low. If you wait for someone to join you, you could be waiting forever. The ironic thing about traveling solo is that it’s rare to be truly alone, especially since solo travel is gaining popularity, and solo travelers tend to draw towards one another. If you travel with a friend to rely on, you’re likely to meet fewer people. If you’re in a relationship, you can read my (yikes, so personal) post on why travel isn’t the death of a long-term relationship for tactics on how to cope with missing your loved one at home.
Strategies for overcoming loneliness:
Stay in a hostel. Hostels can be noisy and disgusting, but they’re your best chance for meeting other travelers, or joining up with a group. Even if you can afford a hotel, you might want to opt for a hostel stay because of the community. Join walking tours and don’t be afraid to invite a hostel-mate out for food. Remember, eating is the universal bonding activity.
Join a group tour. I know, you’re a solo traveler, which means you’re supposed to be brave and scoff a things like group tours. Not so fast. There’s nothing wrong with having someone knowledgeable show you around a new city. This is a great way to meet people without the awkwardness of instigating the activity or conversation.
Try Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is my favorite way to combat loneliness and see a city from a local’s perspective. Unfortunately, the website is infested with weirdos, but I’ve written a guide on how to weed out the creeps. Never stay with someone who doesn’t have a reference, and scan to see that they’ve hosted all types of people. Couchsurfing is amazing when used for its intended purpose.
Attend meet-up groups: Couchsurfing meet-ups, MeetUp.com, and Facebook events all have opportunities to find friends in a new land. Search for “(City) Backpacker” to find fellow travelers, and ask locals where they go to make friends.
Tag along with a local: Especially in Asia, my favorite question to ask a tuk-tuk driver or daily tour guide is, “Where would you go if you had the day off? Can you take me?” followed of course by, “I’ll pay you.” You’ll make a friend and see places in the world that only locals know to go.
Look for travel buddies online. There are so many Facebook groups created to chat with others and meet people. Search for “[Country] Backpackers” or the “Girls Love Travel.” Big Travel Nut also offers plenty of ways to meet other travel friends online.
Other Topics: Inspiration From More Qualified Travelers
Other worries centered around skin color, sexual orientation, physical ability, and more also surface in the minds of travelers. Here are my favorite bloggers and writers who will inspire you to see the places you’ve always wanted to go, no matter what your concerns might be. Many bloggers cross sections, and fall into multiple categories though I might have only placed them in one. (If I’ve missed an issue you’d like me to cover – I know I’ve missed a lot – please let me know.)
As a general resource, Wanderful has hundreds of posts tackling travel issues that go outside of the mainstream, especially for women.
Traveling as a Person of Color
Bani Amor is a journalist interviewing many travelers of color in a Dispatch series.
Cory from Curb Free with Cory Lee has been rolling around the world for some time. In between travel stories, he posts practical guides on wheelchair travel and has an interview segment with other wheelchair travelers.
Have Wheelchair, Will Travel is written by a traveling family of four. The mother writes about all the nuances that come with traveling with their 20-year-old son who is nonverbal with cerebral palsy. (This could also go into the family travel section below! Particularly if one of your family members is disabled.)
Not all passports are equal. Due to economic and political reasons, your passport might be the one thing preventing you from going where you want to go. For example, passports from Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Lebanon only allow access to less than 40 countries — compared to a U.S. passport that allows access to 174 countries.
I Am Aileen: Aileen is a superhuman entrepreneur, blogger, and traveler from the Philippines.
This is a small, not-very-thorough post on the topics above. Help me make this page better. Do you have any favorite bloggers I’ve forgotten? Are you someone who focuses on these topics? Throw ideas in the comments, or send over an email. If you know someone who could use some inspiration, send this their way.