Flexible working. Feminism. Fun.

Here’s the thing about travel and privilege

Here’s the thing about travel and privilege

My three-year-old has already been to eight countries. She’s also been all over Scotland, including the Outer Hebrides, Perthshire, Fife, the Borders and Argyll. This kid has seen more of the world as a toddler than I saw until I was in my 20s – and up until recently, I was pretty proud of that fact.

I’m a firm believer in the benefits of travel, both for kids and adults. There’s evidence that travelling can activate parts of the brain related to play and exploration that often don’t get exercised enough at home, as well as build concentration skills, reduce stress and increase adaptability and flexibility. All good stuff. I posted about this on Instagram and no one disagreed. Travel is great! Let’s take our kids all over the world and expand their little minds!

But then, a few days later, I was riding a trolley through the picturesque town of Frigiliana in Spain with my daughter by my side, and it hit me.

I am so lucky.

View of a picturesque mountain town

Not in a #blessed kind of way, but in a I’ve-had-a-lot-of-advantages-in-life-that-have-allowed-me-to-be-able-to-take-my-kid-travelling kind of way. To be honest, I felt like a bit of a dick. Here I was, extolling the benefits of foreign travel with a pre-schooler, not even considering the fact that a lot of people will never be able to give their kids that opportunity.

Let me be clear – my husband and I aren’t wealthy. We’re middle-middle class skilled professionals, the kind of people who can’t afford to buy a house but don’t have to worry about whether or not we can pay our bills. We go out to eat at least once a week and replace things when they break. And yes, we take a few holidays a year. They hurt our bank accounts but don’t devastate us. We’re getting by okay.

You could argue that our moderate success is due to hard work, which has opened up professional opportunities, and yeah, that’s part of it. But we both grew up in stable households, with educated parents who actively encouraged us to read and get involved in extracurricular activities. Neither of us ever questioned whether or not we would go to university – it was a given. We both received the emotional, physical and financial support that we needed that allowed us to succeed in school. Get multiple degrees. Pursue careers. Become the sort of people who listen to NPR and occasionally waste money on artisan cheeses.

I’m grateful for the support that we’ve had and the opportunities we’ve been able to give our daughter because of it, but I also feel like I need to recognise that I’m one of the lucky ones. If I was a single mother on benefits and I read someone talking about how taking a small child to Spain is good for their brain development, I’d want to punch that privileged jerk in the face. When you’re not sure where your next paycheck is coming from or how your going to feed your family tomorrow, a jolly on the Costa del Sol isn’t even on your radar. You’re surviving while people like me are banging on about thriving, because we’re surviving so hard we don’t even have to think about it.

I guess this is me trying to check my privilege, if that’s still a thing. I get that my position as a white, English-speaking, middle-class woman is an advantaged one. I’ve been given access to the world, and now I get to give it to my daughter. As we sat together last week, sipping cold drinks on a hot Spanish beach, we both had a lot to be grateful for. One day I’ll make sure she knows it.

Here's the thing about travel and privilege

Mum Muddling Through

8 thoughts on “Here’s the thing about travel and privilege”

  • I am so tired that after deleting 4 previous comments I just can’t word it right without my comment being able to be misinterpretted by someone but I didnt want to read and run so I’m just going to say that of course you are absolutely right.

  • You’re absolutely right, something I’ve probably (definitely) been very guilty of too. It’s a hard one to get right as this is your blog and your life and that’s what people reading are reading about, and I suppose in that way it becomes inspirational to them. (I’m also sat here cringing at somethings I’ve probably written about that are very ‘middle class’ ? hoping I didn’t alienate too many readers) x

  • I sometimes think that blogging itself is quite middle class isn’t it? I have cringed a little at my stay at home Mum, look at our kitchen renovation type posts, but then again, I too have worked hard from humble beginnings and made some tough choices. I think on the grounds of travel, we are all made of different stuff and with a finite amount of cash (if only money was no issue) we all have to make choices – some may prioritise travel, some may prioritise fashion, others owning a home, others making that home perfect. I love reading and dreaming about travel, so keep doing it please!
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub

  • I really enjoyed this read and totally agree with you. The only thing I do think Is yes you’re lucky in who your parents are in that they gave you the support in all the ways you need ( education etc) to be able to achieve the luxury of travel with a toddler but I imagine your parents also worked hard to be in the position they were in. I’m not saying people without this privilege, and it is a privilege, don’t work hard or don’t deserve it but equally those who have it shouldn’t feel guilty for it either, if that makes sense?! Even if they choose to express it in a slightly irritating way. I mean I agree travel is good for the Brain type post is a bit much but equally I guess it is good for brain… eeek difficult one. Either way I really enjoyed this post, as always and you’re definitely on to something xx

  • I didn’t go abroad til GCSE year (choir tour with school) and A levels (France because I’d never been and was doing french A level – with the family). I first flew age 23. My mum couldn’t afford to take us, but we didn’t miss out on travelling. Tbh, I’ve been to most places in the UK vs a lot of other people who only visit Spain each year for their holidays. I can afford to travel now, but don’t take my son, because I don’t want to take him abroad alone – the OH refuses to holiday. The thought of buying 2 passports for an occasional holiday is just awful so we’ll stick to UK holidays for the time being. I do agree it’s important children realise what they have vs others, but I don’t think it’s just about travel. It’s about everything, and learning that they can’t have everything. #coolmumclub

  • It’s such a tough one. On the one hand, I totally get your discomfort with the ‘white middle class privilege’ thing. On the other hand, I don’t think you should apologise for the chances you have in life through upbringing/your own initiative. #coolmumclub

  • Such a great poit and now you have made me really think about some of the things I have written. I believe it’s so important to take stock every now and then and be grateful for the good things in our lives. We try and do that briefly every evening with our kids. Enjoy your travels this year and btw, I don’t think you can ever waste money on artisan cheeses 😀 #coolmumclub

  • Beautifully said, upbringing comes with it’s benefits and privilege if you will, but working hard and playing to your strengths will move you along too ?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: