The Privilege of Travelling for Pleasure

The Privilege of Travelling for Pleasure

An article was recently published in the journalistic dumping ground that is The Daily Mail, lamenting the fact that migrants were destroying the picturesque island of Kos in Greece with their homelessness and uncouth appearance. Kos has seen an influx of migrants recently, with as many as 7,500 descending upon the island in the last year. However, unlike the other suntanned travellers that visit the island, these migrants are often forced into leaving their home countries, whereby they take to the seas for a dangerous journey in which there is no guarantee of survival; a little bit different to boarding an Easy Jet flight for a week of cocktails.

While I’m loath to discuss anything penned by a publication better known for its sidebar of shame than its line-up of Pulitzer winning journalists, in this case I’m willing to make an exception, as this story has begun to pop up in other media outlets all with a similar theme of: “Migrant crisis puts off holiday goers”. Now, while it is quite clear that this is the stance of an ignorant few, and not the majority of travellers, it still begs to be commented upon as the divide between people who travel for pleasure and those who travel because they have no choice is widened, the privileged few commenting on the unlucky many who dare to impose on their sun-drenched holiday.

The following is an example of a comment included in the Mail’s article: “If I was booking today l would book another Greek island and not Kos. This is because of selfish reasons as while I do feel for the refugees it won’t be the carefree holiday destination l’ve been dreaming of all winter.” And another: “We have been coming here for almost ten years; we like to eat, drink and relax. But this time the atmosphere has changed. It’s really dirty and messy here now. And it’s awkward. I’m not going to sit in a restaurant with people watching you.”

After reading these comments, I really struggled to convey the bile I felt rising in my throat in a way that wouldn’t come across as sarcastic or bitter towards the poor fools who clearly cannot comprehend a world beyond their pre-packaged resort holiday. A world in which travelling across the ocean from Syria or Afghanistan is done not in order to make use of the all inclusive buffet, but to flee from war-torn countries where homelessness awaits and the idea of travelling for a holiday is an inconceivable concept.

Aside from the inability to determine what is an appropriate sound bite to give a journalist, these Bermuda short-wearing tourists are forgetting one very simple thing: travelling the world for enjoyment – not forced migration – is a privilege. And while these tourists may have earned the right to enjoy their holiday, they should at least have the good grace to show a little compassion when enjoying the island sun.

For the lucky ones, travelling is an escape, a way to slip out of the mundane jet stream of everyday life and ease into a relaxed state of mind for a couple of weeks. For others, it’s a way to break free from the expectations of a 9-5 job and the prospect of only four weeks’ holiday every 12 months. Travelling is also an escape for the unlucky ones, where the destination is most certainly what counts and the road less travelled is the only one to take, as traditional routes are paved with risk and persecution.

Those who are fortunate enough to be able to use travelling to explore the world, relax and get away from their everyday routine might want to remember that holidaying on the island of Kos doesn’t make them better than the migrants arriving by broken-down boats; it makes them luckier. Luckier that they have the privilege of coming from a country where an island holiday is a possibility and not a dream; luckier that their travel itinerary includes a snorkel tour and not days on a leaky boat with little food and water; luckier that at the end of a week away, they still have a home to go back to. Not everyone has the opportunity to travel but not everyone has the opportunity not to, a truth which the ignorant journalists of The Daily Mail and their loose-lipped quoters would do well to remember.

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Photos by Intime/Athena

Rowan still hasn’t finished War & Peace, but she did use it to balance her dinner once. Living in London, she’s steadily working her way through the Europe’s great cities and hopes to try every wine in England before her visa expires.