Travel; A Right or Privilege?

“Travel is a right for those with the means and opportunity”

If asked, most would probably and quite rightly vigorously defend the right of every individual to travel. The accuracy of this has been the subject of a few of my online conversations recently.

Travelling is considered a right in the ‘developed’ countries of the World, however for the vast majority of the human population it is not an option. Most cannot conceive of travelling beyond their communities and certainly not beyond the borders of their countries. They do not have the means or opportunity to do so and those able to travel are indeed considered privileged.

Waiting for the Hydra ferry at Piraeus port, Athens, Greece on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

They don’t appear to be feeling privileged

Emerging economies

India is one of the emerging economy, with rapid growth and industrialisation two key factors in its growing importance as a major power. There remains however a huge disparity in the distribution of this new found wealth with over a third of the population living below the poverty line.

It is an amazing country to visit as almost any traveller that has had the privilege to do so will testify. The spectacle of colour, noise and aromas that assail the senses combine to provide an incredible experience. However there are few that are not affected by the abject poverty that is widespread and impossible to avoid.

Brazil is another rapidly growing economy and yet 16 million people are defined as living in poverty, some earning less than $45 a month.

The question whether travel is a right or privilege is probably never considered by those merely struggling to survive.

Beggar/performer in Marrakech, Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Considering his travel options?

Extended travel

Many modern day nomads consider travelling a way of life and definitely a right, on the road for extended periods of months or even years. Most people however hold down jobs and only travel once or twice a year.

Reports show that many western civilisations have relatively few holidays now, especially in the United States. Vacation allowances are reduced and the full entitlement often is not taken. The reasons include the pressures of work, peer competition, recession, rising debt and in some cases pressure from employers. Whilst a company may provide an adequate holiday allowance it is possible some employers do not always look favourably on those that take the full entitlement.

Greek fisherman at Kaiafas Lake, Greece on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Dinner is the priority here

“The ‘right’ to travel is being stifled in some quarters”.

Cultural divide

Travelling to certain cultures where begging, hawkers and touts are common often leads to a jaded view of the destination. India, Morocco and Egypt are a few countries where the constant bombardment from locals that see tourists as a meal ticket. This can result in a loss of patience and weary travellers seeking some form of sanctuary.

This is a perception often expressed, with many stating that they actually hated visiting these destinations.

In our own societies we may not be affluent, however when we are immersed in a culture where most cannot conceive of travelling half way around the World, we are in comparison rich. It is easy to forget this at times but it is the traveller that is alien to the culture, perhaps a little more tolerance should be exercised.

“Travel is a right and yet to many it is not even a consideration”.


Fiscal restriction is only one reason for travel not being freely available to all. Cultural or political restrictions can also prevent a citizen of the World exercising their ‘right’ to travel. Saudi women are only permitted to travel after receiving permission from a male guardian and it is only recently the United States removed restrictions for travel to Cuba.

There are also a number of sensitive regions which provide the traveller with a dilemna, poor human rights records, supporting corrupt regimes, conflict zones and disputed territories can give the conscientious   food for thought. Whether to travel and if doing so, will it benefit the governing regime or the local population? These are complex and difficult topics to tackle, which ultimately come down to individual choice.

“Equality is an extremely rare commodity”.

A French chateaux in the Haute-Pyrenees on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Views like this are a privilege

Freedom to travel

Travel is a right for most of us living in the so called ‘developed’ World, it is something we often take for granted, as we have the means and freedom to do so. The majority of people that inhabit our great planet however are not so fortunate.

We should enjoy our freedom to travel, it’s availability to us and our ability to choose where, when and how. It should not however be taken for granted, we are privileged to have the availability to travel as a right.

“Travelling is escaping the mundane, replacing our daily routine with an unfamiliar routine. Embracing the unfamiliar is the essence of travel”


Comments 14

  1. Katy

    Very thought-provoking post. I believe that travel is a privelege – I am aware of how lucky I am every time I travel. I think many travellers do get jaded, but in South America, I met lots of young, successful Argentineans and Brazilians – the first generation to really be exploring places outside of their own countries. They were so amazed and excited by the travel experience. That was so refreshing compared to the herds of European backpackers just checking things off their hitlists.

    1. Post

      Thank you Katy and very glad it caused you to think a little. I really hear what you are saying about the blase attitude that travellers can sometimes have, it really makes me freel sorry for them. We should travel like kids and always be excited with the prospect of experiencing a new destination and culture. I really like that it is what your site is about retaining that ‘starry-eyed’ wonder at the world.

  2. Laurel

    You bring up so many interesting questions. Besides the money, many people from different countries struggle to get visas for traveling as well. I was allowed into Germany for 3 months, no visa required, then rather easily given a 1 year German language study visa, which was not available to my fellow German student since she was from Guatemala, even though she was a doctor. She had to marry her German boyfriend before even setting foot in the country. It makes me feel very privileged that I had other options not available to her.

  3. Stuart

    Nicely put and good to pause and think about. Travel and the opportunity to do so are great privileges and ones that perhaps we do not even realise here in the developed world. It’s such a ‘norm’ it is easy to fail to see it as privilege and mistake it for right. I particularly like your last quote ‘“Travelling is escaping the mundane, replacing our daily routine with an unfamiliar routine. Embracing the unfamiliar is the essence of travel and how adventures will be realised” Now that’s a great thought to hold in those moments of physical or psychological discomfort when travelling, when your assumptions about the world are challenged, and you realise how privileged you are to be able to travel. A great reminder, thanks.

  4. The World of Deej

    I think I feel that travel is a privilege, but it should most definitely be a right. As the world becomes more interconnected, there’s no reason why more shouldn’t be able to connect with this great planet in person.

  5. ciaraysabel

    “I want to exercise my right to travel!” Haha.. Seriously, I really do. But coming from a third world country like the Philippines, it is indeed a privilege. I’ve always envied people who can so easily go beyond their countries’ borders and explore the rest of the world. For us from developing countries, it’s either you’re filthy rich or just plain lucky (very lucky, in fact!) to get to travel the world over. Working yourself to death can be another option. Though you might be too dead tired to travel by then. I thank you Iain, for this thought-provoking post for everyone. It’s a wonderful reminder for people to never take traveling for granted no matter if they found the place disappointing, the experience bad, nor how much they got used to it already for there are way more people out there who never even got to set foot outside their countries’ borders. 🙂

    1. Post

      Thank you Ciara there are so many things we should be thankful for and yet take for granted. It is especially gratifying to receive your comment, it is great to hear it from a point of view from somebody coming from part of the ‘developing’ world. I am glad you appreciated this post, having read a few comments recently it seemed appropriate to post it.

  6. Jeannie Mark

    This stirred a lot of emotions in me. My first instinct was to distance myself from the “right to travel” camp. I was financially stable, but by no means luxuriously wealthy prior to travelling, so every penny I earned involved some adjustments that weren’t always comfortable. However, my earnings were still astronomical compared to the developing world. I alway saw the delight and wonder that travel can invite in me. I have courted some jaded moments (Moscow left me feeling sour), but even in my most annoyed fits, I know how lucky I am that I get to do this period.

    My second instinct was to wag my head in agreement with The World of Deej. Travel is currently a privilege and shouldn’t be, it should be a right for anyone, just as education is generally viewed. Sadly, you then reminded me of the truth that can be applied to not only travel, but education all over the world: “Equality is an extremely rare commodity.” The idealist in me has to face reality.

    Finally, I wholeheartedly agree with the overall message of this piece. Stop whining, the world isn’t always equal when it should be, and be grateful for the opportunity to meet other citizens of this planet. Not everyone has that chance.


    1. Post

      Thank you so much for your comments Jeannie, I am gratified that on the whole you agree with the conclusions of my article. The world is a long way from being a fair place and you are right to trust your instincts they are often correct and yours seem to be spot on. We can only enjoy our own opportunities and whenever possible do what we can to help the less fortunate.

  7. Luxury travel blogger

    A very interesting look at travel around the world there. I think it’s important to remember that for a lot of people the need or want to travel is either very low or non existent in the culture. I’ve spoken to a number of local people in differing countries and they always find us foreigners a curiosity. They enjoy that we come to their country and want to learn but find it an oddity that we would want to do so.

    Whether we with money and the will to travel have the right to do so or not, I’d say yes, everyone has the right. We’re lucky that after so many wars we can still travel to most of the world. Tourism is such a big business, it’s less of a privilege to us and more of a necessity to locals that we come and support their businesses. Sounds arrogant but that is the position of many smaller countries with no natural resources.

    1. Post

      Valid points the fact that some cultures do not have any real conception of travel is very true. I often stay with a friend in Salford in the middle of an Orthodox Jewish community although they do go on holidays whenever the subject of my travelling is brought up they just look blank and cannot comprehend anybody choosing to do so.

      Supporting local economies has been a subject of a couple of posts recently especially in countries where corruption is rife. Whilst corrupt governments maybe helped by some of the money that tourism money brings in but if the money is spent in a local shop or restaurant then the owner will benefit. Of that there can be little doubt. Tourism is one of the largest industries in many coutries and can provide financial stability not only for developing countries but will become the main source of revenue for Greece, Spain, Portugal and maybe even Ireland.

  8. Bobbi Lee Hitchon

    Interesting post. I wish it was a right, but really it’s such a privilege and I always forget it until I speak with locals from the place I’m traveling to. I’m a bit jealous of a lot of island nations, such beauty they have at their doorstep. But a few times I’ve said that to locals of certain island places and they just looked at me and pretty much said, “Are you kidding me? I wish I could see the world.” It’s so hard for people of certain countries to even afford bus fare to a local destination let alone air fare across the world and I think people from Western nations forget that. I write a lot about how anyone can travel, but the truth is, anyone actually can’t and it’s for a million different reasons…It’s such a privilege, one that people must work for and one that some people don’t even have the means to work for.

    1. Post

      All very true Bobbi we need to appreciate our advantages many just do not have them and we take them for granted, believing it is always better o the ‘other side of the fence’. Being able to travel is and seeing the World is one of our greatest privileges making the most it should be our highest priorities.

      1. D'Arcy

        What you need is to realize that you can travel because others cannot. Your advantage only comes at someone disadvantage. you should not appreciate the fact that you can travel , you should be ashamed of it. it is a statement to travel. What you’re saying is that you travelling is more important than equality for all.

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