Stop raising funds for your travels and other selfish pursuits.
[I originally wrote this post for Huffington Post and it was first published here.]
Sonia is watching her screen like a hawk. The amount on display is changing by the minute. It’s $6000 shy of fulfilling her wish of going to Antarctica on a privately-led expedition to purportedly learn about global warming. The solicit pitch on social media is complete with a photo of hers with two smiling children from an underprivileged background. Her Facebook feed is full of relatives and friends pleading their friends to “help her in her noble cause”
Two days later, the required amount has been reached. Sonia has managed to scoop up $18000 or about 12,00,000 Indian rupees from well meaning (read: rich) friends doing their bit for her cause. Never mind the fact that the same trip when done individually costs 1/4th the amount, but lacks the glamour factor of having been “the chosen one”.
Am I jealous? Of course, a little bit. I mean I have only been to 2 continents, other than my own. Am I happy for her? Yes, that too, I bet Antarctica is going to be life changing.
Am I resentful?
Yes and not because she’s going to Antarctica, and not me. And that I’m writing this from my bedroom after having clocked a 12 hour day at work, while she’s probably busy packing away her thermal wear for the big trip. But because the idea of raising funding to fulfill your personal wishes and fancies, unless you or someone you love is dying, is wrong on so many levels. Since when is the collective milk of human kindness being used to further people’s bucket lists, so that they can check off a country, an experience, and gain bragging rights for posterity.
Don’t get me wrong. I get the whole deal with “to each his own”, and also understand that it’s not in my place to dictate what someone to chooses to do with their money, or money raised from others.
We have seen enough news of X startup getting X million in funding. Someone’s investing in a business because they believe in the idea, and someday, hopefully, it’ll pay them back, manifold. But, when you raise funding for your travels, or to procure other material possessions, you’re giving noone but yourself back.
Going on an overpriced trip to the far end of the world for “Global warming” is as much cause as is “liking” a photo on facebook to save a dying child is. If you think that a 15 day package trip in a group to see glaciers will help deal with Global Warming, well done, you’ve managed to kid yourself. The trouble begins when you manage to make the generous, if gullible, people buy into the idea of needing to fund you for it.
In a world where reports of millions of dying of hunger, disease, farmers committing suicides by the thousands, floods and cyclones ravaging and uprooting villages, refugees in war ridden countries having nowhere to go are as frequent as a status update on social media , the biggest fund-raising worthy cause we’ve decided to go with is, traveling?
There’s a thing about travelers. Most of them harbour this misplaced notion that they’re doing the world a big favour. As a traveler myself and as much as I love traveling, I’ve never considered my hobby of going to different places, experiencing different cultures as particularly philanthropic or noble. In fact traveling is one of the most selfish things one can do. When you decide to leave whatever it is you have back home, leave your work so your colleagues have to chip in, go away from your responsibilities, so that you the traveler can cure that itch, that wanderlust. Your experiences are own. Pleasing your own senses is your own.
Sure, you do help the local economy and aid tourism as a byproduct of this hobby, but to present this as a noble cause that other people should contribute towards is but a misplaced sense-of entitlement.
Again, as someone who’s traveled a fair share myself, I’ve made a few sacrifices and I traveling for sure isn’t cheap. But nothing that’s as self-indulgent is. A massage at a spa costs a pretty penny, because it feels so damn good. So does traveling. And so we work hard, sometimes do work that we don’t really enjoy, deal with the everyday struggles of a big city, so we can afford to travel, escape into a different world and have ourselves a little luxury of traveling. In fact traveling shouldn’t be enabled by presence of money and limited by the lack of it. As this couple who was in the news recently for having worked their way through their travels, including scrubbing toilets and toiling in the farms would vouch. Surely, they didn’t think their cause was worthy enough to just ask for donations instead.
Sonia isn’t the only one though. I’ve had an acquaintance personally get in touch to help fund “his move to Australia, because he’s a globe trotter and would like to experience living in a different country for a change.”
But at least there was no pretence of a higher cause here, just a sense of entitlement that he deciding to leave the 3rd world country of India for greener pastures in Australia is a need everyone around him should immediately attend to and contribute “minimum $20 to”.
As though the idea of needing to crowdsource funds for traveling wasn’t deplorable enough, I happen to know another couple that for an art project which involves them traveling around and painting walls, managed to raise funding to buy a 2nd high-end bike so each person could ride one, instead of you know, riding pillion like the plebs. Never mind the fact their much-publicised “cause” flies in the face of the other bigger cause, the environment, you know because there’s absolutely no need for two people, especially a couple to be riding a pollution-spewing bike each in the name of street cred each and contributing double the carbon footprint when one just does fine.
And these are some educated, young, physically abled people who have their entire life ahead to work hard, save up, earn their trips. But no, that perhaps isn’t as easy as creating an online campaign and urging your friends on social media to “help”. And then gaining celebrity as your popularity is validated when you do get the funds, and buy yourself that trip or that object.
This makes me wonder. Who are the people people who contribute towards making someone’s selfish, self-indulgent dreams come true? What moves them more? Helping a perfectly healthy, financially sufficient person to fill up their Facebook with travel photos, or helping someone whose only alternative to your kindness is death, or destruction.
And I only hope your answer is the latter or “both”.