Addressing Travel Privilege As A Nomadic Family

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I want to take a moment to acknowledge what a blessing it is to be able to have the experience of being a nomadic family. We know that it’s a travel privilege to be able to lead this lifestyle. And we also know that we have responsibilities as travelers to ensure that what we’re doing is sustainable, both for ourselves and for the world.

The concept of nomadic family travel has been growing in popularity in recent years. As more people begin to work remotely, they are realizing that it opens them up to traveling and experiencing the world. But as more families descend into the far reaches of the world, the more important it is for them to acknowledge their travel privilege and ensure that they are responsible in their travel practices.

This post was updated on August 25, 2021.


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An airport terminal, truly a travel privilege for those who can afford to travel

The travel privilege intrinsic in this nomadic lifestyle

As we’ve met people throughout our travels, I’m reminded of how lucky we are to be able to do this. Although we have worked hard to get to this point in our lives and our careers (developing the skills that will allow us to make money remotely and planning all the details that go into an around the world trip), we realize becoming a nomadic family affords us a lot of travel privilege.

Rick Steves talks about privilege in travel in his book, Travel As A Political Act. And for families, especially, it’s important to acknowledge this privilege in order to model responsible behavior for our kids. Sometimes this acknowledgement can even include giving back to the communities we visit during our travels.

We know not all families can do what we do. We also know that even the act of travel itself is a privilege. I wanted to take a moment to unpack and acknowledge some of the travel privilege that comes with family travel. Hopefully, throughout our three or more years of travel, we will remain mindful of this privilege.

Click here to get age-appropriate strategies to talking about privilege with your kids.

A couple walking into Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA
Pike Place Market in Seattle (July 2018)

Being able to afford travel

We are not independently wealthy, and neither do we make high six figure incomes. In actuality, we are making our travel lifestyle work because we have skill sets that allow us to be location independent. That’s the reality of our digital nomad family life.

Having remote jobs allows us to make money while we’re on the road. But even when we were more location based, we were still able to afford to travel as a family, and for that we are grateful.

Some families have jobs that are more location based and some families aren’t able to take time off for travel. We certainly are lucky to be able to do both.

Paper money from Paraguay, that families can use, an example of travel privilege for a nomadic family
Paraguayan money (April 2013)

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The value of a passport

In the grand scheme of things, the American passport is very valuable. Even though the American passport doesn’t rank number one in allowing the most visa-free travel in the world (that designation currently falls on Germany), it definitely ranks in the top 20.

Having a passport is a travel privilege, and we are appreciative of the freedom of movement it affords us.

passport, journal, and sunglasses
My passport, sunglasses, and journal (May 2018)

The standard family unit

In many countries, the idea of a family is simply a mother, a father, and children. Any other configuration of family – single parent, two fathers, two mothers, unmarried parents – is not even considered, and sometimes even looked down upon.

As we travel, we won’t need to worry about some of the challenges that our single parent friends or gay friends may face, and that certainly puts us in a position of privilege.

Enjoying the Ride the Ducks tour in Seattle (July 2018)

Being able to blend in

In America, the color of our skin sometimes puts us at a disadvantage. But in some of the places we travel, our skin color actually helps us blend in.

When we’re in Puerto Princesa, Philippines, for example, people hardly bat an eye when they see us walk by. And in places like Guanajuato, Mexico, we often get mistaken for being a Mexican family.

In destinations where locals generally have a darker complexion, our skin color doesn’t attract as much attention as other families with much lighter or darker pigmentation. This ability to blend in helps in some ways to keep us safe while we travel. In turn, this helps us have more positive experiences.

Dive deeper into the topic of responsible family travel, and how to travel more ethically and sustainably.

The kids playing on a jungle gym in downtown Seattle (July 2018)

Going beyond just acknowledging our travel privilege

I write all this not to brag about how lucky we are, but to point out that there are many advantages that we hold as travelers. But acknowledging our travel privilege is only the first part.

The second part of travel relates to our role as responsible travelers. Rather than hoard all the privileges to ourselves, let’s help make travel more equitable for others.

While you can’t change the color of your skin, you can work to influence how people treat others based on their appearances. If you see preferential treatment (or discriminatory treatment) happening to travelers based on their appearance, call it out. Address it, rather than turning a blind eye.

Work to normalize travelers of all abilities, ages, and family configuration. As part of your travel planning process, ask travel companies if their services are inclusive and accessible. Support companies that are women owned, POC (people of color) owned, or LGBTQ owned. Read travel stories that come from members of marginalized communities.

There are many simple tasks you can do as a consumer to help push the needle towards a more inclusive, accessible, and equitable travel industry.

Enjoying our time together in Mexico (February 2021)

Being mindful of our privilege

As we move in this world as a nomadic family, I want to make sure that we remain mindful of that privilege in our interactions with others. And I hope that we can also use our privilege to advocate for and support others who may not be as lucky as us.

What kind of travel privilege do you hold when you travel? How do you remain mindful of your privilege and not misuse it?

Dreaming of a big family travel adventure? Use my ebook, Hey Kids, Let’s Go Travel! as a resource for tools, advice, and action steps for planning your trip.

Acknowledging Travel Privilege as a Nomadic Family | The Wandering Daughter

Need help thinking through how to budget for a family trip? My Travel Budget Worksheet is just the tool you need! Click here to receive your free copy by signing up for my newsletter.

Want to connect with me on social media? Find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. And for those of you who are dedicated to traveling more responsibly, sustainably, and ethically, join over 200 like-minded families on my Facebook group, Responsible Family Travel.

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