Purposeful Travel by Shakeena Johnson

The Many Hurdles Of Travelling With Purpose

@iamshakeena

"The intersectionality of travel can sometimes see individuals face unique modes of discrimination due to their race, gender, disability, class, age or sexuality."

For many purposeful travellers, the privilege to partake in sustainable tourism is both expensive and excessive. Finding ways to maintain travelling purposefully can be extremely difficult, especially when the travel industries status quo of options on offer, do not consider your impact on the many cultures, communities and environments around the world. Yet how accessible is purposeful travel to everyone?

A social life abroad means experiencing and understanding different cultures, languages, customs and new environments. Whether you’re a city-breaker, cultural deep diver, or more of a reset-and-recharge type of tourist, the expense of your trip plays a huge part in the ecosystem of the destination you are visiting and your own personal carbon footprint.

Having passport privilege gives you the freedom to journey wherever you want, allowing you to enhance your experiences of the world. For example, if you are a tourist from Europe and America, your passport allows you to travel to most places. The same sadly can’t be said for travellers elsewhere. In an article the Telegraph, Charity Atukunda, a young artist from Uganda, said “In the moments when I fill out visa applications I envy the ease of being able to travel wherever you want, when you want, without having to prove to someone that you are worthy”. Atukunda reinforced the fact that travel is indeed a privilege, one bound to countries with clear colonial pasts. This in itself creates a westernised narrative, distorting western perceptions of how accessible travel really is.

Travel, which ironically should be intrinsically diverse, often is a place where diversity is lacking. A good example of this can be found in much of the storytelling around travel; according to Nielson, research from last year shows that less than 3% of overall advertising showcased African-Americans. Travel content is supposed to make your idea of tourism more relaxed and enjoyable, encouraging you to visit the destinations it promotes. However, it often does the complete opposite with all-white narratives depicted through the images of happy families enjoying quality time; these often appear uncomfortable and non-inclusive. A lot of the time people of colour appear as secondary characters in white travel stories, highlighting the failure to accurately represent the many different types of travellers who explore our world. If this is the primary form seen, with only one particular group of people represented, it’s no wonder they play a significant part of why many non-white travellers possess negative mindsets about exploring.

The intersectionality of travel can sometimes see individuals face unique modes of discrimination due to their race, gender, disability, class, age or sexuality. Intersectionality identifies advantages and disadvantages that are felt by people due to a combination of factors. For example, a black queer woman travelling might face discrimination from a local that is not distinctly due to her race, nor distinctly due to her sexuality, but due to a unique combination of the two factors. Many travellers, specifically non-white travellers, struggle with adapting to the social constructs of the new destinations they visit. The racist realities of travel are real, however this can become even more of a negative experience if you are also queer. Considering intersectionality abroad requires you to stimulate self-reflexivity and have social awareness while making sure safety is your number one priority. It also is vastly different depending on which country you visit.

With this in mind, there are multiple questions you can ask yourself as a fellow traveller regarding your own position in the travel sphere. Here are some thought starters you should always keep in mind with every trip or journey you start planning out…

1. In retrospect, what kind of challenges could I face? What kind of traveller do I identify myself as?

Firstly, it’s imperative to know where you stand. Be pragmatic and frank with yourself; what kind of obstacles will you face?

2. What types of environments could I face?

Minority groups will, sadly, already have to think about this before they travel, but as part of being purposeful travellers, it’s important to be culturally conscious and sensitive to the environment you are entering into as someone who should respect a space that you are technically an ‘outsider’ in. This includes not only the physical environment, but the social and political climate you are going into.

3. If need be, how can I navigate these spaces?

Who can I look to for guidance? This will apply to spaces that might be socially and politically charged. If you’re looking to travel somewhere that might be in a state of flux, ask yourself what is at risk, for yourself and for the community you’re visiting. If you’re feeling lost on what to do, ask friends, families or look into online travel forums for people in similar situations. Here at Trippin, our guides are curated by like minded locals to give you an authentic experience of a place. Starting the conversation with peers is always a good place to start.

4. How can I make my own space open to others?

We’ve said before that purposeful travel to us also means uplifting other travellers to learn and explore in an environment that’s open and accepting. This also means looking to our own homes to create an environment that allows cross-cultural education and acceptance. If you want to make travel more meaningful for all, a good place to start is at home - somewhere you’re most likely to affect the most change.

What is clear is that these things start with your mindset. There is no blanket rule for any traveller. Maintaining respect in a space you’re visiting for personal or business reasons is essential. Here at Trippin, we actively encourage you to think differently about travel and the start of this is by asking yourself these questions. At the end of the day, change starts with you, but together we can make a bigger difference.

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