What’s Keeping You From Traveling?
When most people think of travel, exotic locations and adventure spring to mind. There’s something so glamorous about the thought of jetting off to relax in a new corner of the world. Not everyone gets to make that dream a reality, though.
The very idea of booking a cruise or a weekend getaway brings a smile to my face and jubilation to my spirit. I almost enjoy planning a vacation as much as the vacation itself. Almost. It’s a relatively new thrill for me because I haven’t always been able to travel for leisure. In fact, it’s only something I’ve gotten to enjoy in the last few years. For much of my life, “vacation” meant trips to see family, and I was fine with that because it was all I knew.
When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was always the time that my immediate family would pack ourselves into a car and make the drive down to Virginia to visit one of my uncles and his family. I would get so excited to hit the road, even though it meant hours and hours in traffic. Trips to Chicago to visit my grandma were also lots of fun. We got to check out dad’s old neighborhood; on the first night, we would always drive around downtown looking at the architecture and riding by all of the landmarks. We had to pick up pizza from Unos and ribs from Carsons. The weather was vindictively cold in the winter and oppressively humid in the summer, but I was always ready for a visit. In grade school, there were few things more exciting to me than a field trip to New York. I have always loved to travel, even if it was just around the corner. There was just something about the thrill of getting away from my everyday routine in a different locale. It wasn’t exactly a trip to Dubai, but it was good enough for me.
A glimpse at Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat will make it seem as though everyone you know goes on some fantastic trip to places you can’t even imagine at least once a month. You scroll through your homepage or your timeline, and you might lose count of all the vacation snapshots. There they are living their best life on a sun-dappled beach or some electric city that buzzes with life and possibilities. You have no idea how anyone has this much time for all of these excursions, but the pics are gorgeous. It’s enough to give anyone a constant and nagging case of wanderlust. Unfortunately, a lot of us just never get to satisfy it.
Many of us take travel as a given fact of life. These days more Black women are making a concerted effort to link up and explore the world. It’s almost as if we expect that everyone we know has traveled on a semi-regular basis. Looking at the money generated around travel leisure is astounding. The U.S. Travel Association reports that American travelers spent nearly $718.5 billion in 2017. There were about 1.8 million trips logged last year alone. At 74 percent, most of them are traveling for fun. However, it seems that travel might actually be on the decline this year, so more people are opting to stay home than it appears. According to Travel + Leisure, in 2018, about 51 percent of people (roughly 129 million people) in the United States haven’t gone on a vacation in a year; 96 million of them haven’t traveled for leisure in more than two years.
I’m happy to say that I have gotten to see more of the world since I turned 30, but a lot had to change in my life before I was ever able to do it. Even with a full-time job, it was hard to save up enough money for a vacation in my last position because I was barely getting paid enough to pay for the necessities: rent, bills, student loans, commuting, and food. I was grateful to be able to cover my needs, but there was hardly ever enough to left over to save, let alone even think about traveling.
Even if I had made enough money for a vacation at that time, I didn’t really have the time or opportunity to travel for longer than a weekend (which would have been an overnight trip at best). Beyond that, I just did not know how to take a break. Of course, I understood the concept and how it works, but I never let myself take time off. I was always working because I felt like I had to. Before writing for MadameNoire and HelloBeautiful, I worked at a magazine. My publication had a 24-hour news cycle, and it was not uncommon for my publisher to call me at all hours of the day and night about posting a story to our website (days off, sick leave, and weekends included). It didn’t matter how late it was. There wasn’t much respect for time off, but that comes part and parcel with working in news.
In hindsight, I should have set boundaries. Deep down, though, I think that I also believed that I was still trying to prove myself (even after helping to keep the magazine afloat when the editorial staff was down to two full-time people). I didn’t believe that I deserved to take a break until I did that. My best friend once told me that it’s hard to get away with me because my mind is always on work. The demands of my job then compounded that issue. I could barely manage a relaxing day at the beach let alone an overnight trip anywhere.
My story is not that different from most people in our country. In 2015, The PEW Research Center found that the average American is working three weeks longer per year than we did in 1980. According to The Motley Fool, about 40 percent of full-time employees are working more than 50 hours per week for the sake of checking on work during their off hours and trying to get ahead on projects and handling work emergencies. With people working that hard, vacations are becoming an afterthought in the prioritization of our time. In fact, a Bankrate study from 2014 revealed that about 42 percent of people polled didn’t take any vacation time whatsoever. About 50 percent of people even wound giving up some of their vacation days.
Of those who do have the time, they might not make enough money to jet set like they want to. The U.S. Census Bureau found in 2015 that the average American was making just over $56,000 per year. Depending on where you live, that dollar may not stretch as far as it would need to for those workers to go on vacation. Taking into consideration that Black women are paid less than our White female counterparts (and certainly less than their male counterparts overall), we might not have as much to use for leisure in general.
All of that flipped when I left the magazine. It had to. My next full-time job paid me much more (there was enough money to save and travel), and I was only allowed to work a maximum of 40 hours per week. No exceptions. Suddenly, I had the time and the resources to travel. Of course, that wasn’t the first thing on my mind, but I was fortunate enough that my first trip out of the country came as a perk of the new job. Once I did take that weekend getaway, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I got to fully disconnect and relax. But I was only ever able to do that when the conditions in the rest of my life were just right to allow for it.