My parents migrated from Vietnam in the 80’s. They arrived without knowing English, without money, and not knowing what to expect. They fled from Vietnam due to the Vietnam War and the communist government. I’ve heard bits and pieces of their stories, but never the full tale. It’s always been hard for my parents to talk about their past and their journey over to the United States. They consider themselves boat people, who ran away from their home country to create a better future for themselves and their family.
My mom came to the United States when she was 14 years old. My grandma sent her over with one of my uncles and my mom’s grandma. The rest of my mom’s family stayed behind in Vietnam and came two years later. My dad came over when he was 17 years old, with two of his sisters and two of his brothers. They first escaped by boat from Vietnam to Thailand and lived there in a refugee camp for six months. They were then sponsored to come to the United States. When finally coming to the US, my dad and his siblings landed in New York City, in the dead of winter with nothing more than one pair of shoes (flip flops) and one outfit (what they were wearing). Can you imagine going from a tropical humid climate in Vietnam to New York winters? Brutal!
I Am Privileged And Chances Are, YOU Are, Too
I’m sharing a part of my parents’ story to y’all because I have a confession to make. When they came to the United States, they were poor. They were not privileged, they didn’t have money, and they started working at a young age. I am privileged. I am not poor, I have an education, I was able to go to a four year college and graduate without student loans. My parents have made it possible for me to chase my dreams and pursue them. Not to mention, I am a United States citizen. That has a lot of weight on it, especially in regards to the strength of my passport. I’ll admit it again, I am privileged, and maybe even a bit
spoiled to be honest.
Lately, there is a big “trend” on travel. All of my colleagues want to travel, my family wants to travel, and there is an influx of articles on The Huffington Post and other publication websites about travel. I’ve seen countless articles from other United States travelers who have said in various ways “Just Travel!!” and other articles that say “If you don’t travel, then you’re doing it wrong”. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth thinking about these articles. It makes me feel like an “elitist” because I have traveled and choose to spend most of my money on travel. If you don’t want to spend all of your money on travel or feel inferior because you haven’t travelled outside of the country, stop. Although traveling is one of my passions and what brings me some of the greatest joy, it is different for everyone. Don’t feel the pressure to travel because there are thousands of articles telling you to do so!
The United States: Land Of The Free, Home Of The Brave
If you’re even able to think about “traveling” within the country or outside of the country, you are also privileged. If you’re from the United States, we have one of the strongest passports in the world. Our passports allows us to visit, live, study, and work in many countries! This, my friends, is privilege. There are times where I spew out “travel heals me” and other travel related knowledge, I am fully aware that not everyone has it as easy as I do. I don’t have student loans, I am in good health, my family is able to support me and MY dreams. My parents migrated to the United States so that I could do these things.
There are so many other people within the United States who may not be as privileged as I am. Others who have student loans, need to work to provide for their family, or came to the United States to create a better life for themselves. While living in Spain, I encountered people who had to flee their country because of war, the government, or to find opportunity. Often times, they came alone. Some of them are MY age or came when they were my age. It made me reconsider how privileged I was, to be able to “choose” to leave my country and create a life in a foreign country. The difference between me and the people that I met, I am able to return to my country if it doesn’t work out. For them, this is make it or break it.
That is privilege.
The thing with privilege is that, most of the time, we don’t know we are privileged. This goes for white privilege, male privilege, and so forth. I didn’t think about my privilege until I met others who wanted to travel, but couldn’t. It was either due to their passport, responsibilities to their families, and other factors. It made me take a step back and re-evaluate why I travel. I thought about my reasons for traveling and why I have this blog!
I travel to humble myself and meet different people. The reason I have this blog is to inspire others and have a creative outlet. The way you use your privilege is also important. For me, I hope to use mine to educate and inspire. My US passport, my parents’ immigration story, and the fact that I have no financial burdens makes me very privileged in the realm of travel. My parents came here and struggled to create a life for themselves and for their future family. They’ve come a long way and have provided my sisters and I with more than we could have possibly imagined or even asked for! We were raised privileged, middle-class, and with the ideal that we can do what we set our minds to. We were taught to chase the “American Dream” and create a better life than what my parents had. They wanted more for us!
My mission is to inspire change, inspire goodness, and inspire YOU. If you are privileged, like me, to be able to travel the world or the country, I hope you use your privilege to inspire. I hope you use your privilege to educate others, share meaningful conversations with strangers, and open your mind to new ideas. For me, I want to exchange dreams, build on relationships, and live in cultures to learn about what the world can offer. Creating change starts with one crazy person to think that they can do it, and then having the gusto to go forward with it. This usually starts with some sort of privilege or a work ethic that is incomparable!