I have read lots of posts about how everyone can travel, how each one of us can save up and travel, and that it’s not impossible to live the travel dream.
Actually I sometimes feel there’s a rivalry going on between the travel bloggers about who’s traveling on a tighter budget than the other one.
On each travel blog there’s an 80% chance you’ll find at least one post – if not more – talking about how much that blogger spends per day, per month, and how much they started traveling with in the first place, which of course wasn’t much, but they somehow were able to keep going.
Let’s get back to this last sentence: “…Which of course wasn’t much…” I should have added … “according to American standards”.
How many of you make less than US$ 7 per hour?
That’s right, none.
And that is why, money wise, I don’t get how some of you still complain about money and budgeting! You can afford it all, yes you do.
Well, at least I know if I worked for US$ 7 per hour, I know I’d be making a fortune in no time – and before you disagree, one friend of mine worked for 3 months in the States at US$ 7 per hour, he came home with US$ 7,000, approximately EGP 42,000, an amount that I would do working 2 years straight and spending literally nothing.
He’s not the only example, I know many people who work during summer vacations in the States and UK, and the least they do is cover their flying costs, approximately US$ 1,000.
Then how much do I make?
I’m a pharmacist, a graduate of pharmacy school, and I’m working for my father which gives me the privilege of getting paid even more than if I worked in any other pharmacy; I make less than US$ 2 per hour. I work for 12 hours per day, to make US$ 500 per month.
PS I’m middle class Egyptian, and I’m considered one of the very lucky Egyptians as well.
Now consider someone who isn’t working in the fancy industry of pharmacy, someone let’s say, working in a supermarket, or in a restaurant, I can tell you they make a maximum of half what I make per month, working the same hours as me or slightly more.
Most of the posts I’ve read about how anyone can travel claim that on long term traveling you tend to spend less than you spend at home. The lowest number I’ve read so far was US$ 23/day.
Only US$ 23/day? In Egypt, 60% of the population lives on less than $2 per day! $23/day per person that adds up to $25,000 per year, which is a fortune for a high class Egyptian family!
My question here is, when the travel blogosphere mentions that anyone can travel, do they mean only North Americans and Western Europeans? Well I’m sorry but that is not exactly ‘anyone’, that is hardly 15%* of the world’s population.
Now that I am done with the main issue, I should also mention that, even if given enough to travel, you are not guaranteed to go anywhere outside your borders.
EU, USA, Australian and Canadian citizens are granted visas upon arrival to almost everywhere in the world, except for some few destinations, like Russia, China… which makes the ‘travel challenge’ thing. You buy plane tickets and go, and buy your entry at the airport, with the added fun of collecting stamps on your passport pages.
A good read on this issue is Earl’s (WanderingEarl.com) post ‘Long-Term Travel: Does Nationality Play A Role?’ Also skim through the comments for a clearer view of non US citizens…
Another thought provoking post, which would be third world’s heaven is Anil’s (FoxNomad.com) post ‘Would Traveling Be Quite As Fun Without Borders?’
To the rest of the world, however, you need a visa to travel to almost anywhere on planet earth. And no, you don’t just send your passport to the embassy, they stamp the visa and send it back over to you. It’s far more complicated than this. You actually have to apply for an interview first, visit the embassy in person, fill in a 3+ page application, and make the interview; which is basically composed of a couple of main questions:
- Where do you work?
- How much money is in your bank account?
- Where will you stay in your destination?
- How long do you plan on staying?
All these questions have only one main point behind them, “How do I know you will actually come back to Egypt?!”
I applied to the American embassy some 5 years ago to go visit my uncle, who is an American citizen. I said I would stay there for one month, me and my sister, at his house, we showed them our bank accounts, our parents’ bank accounts, papers proving we own two pharmacies, a flat and 3 cars, and papers showing we were both still in university with a couple of years to go. To me, that was enough reasons to come back to Egypt, I wouldn’t simply throw away all of this to go start from scratch in the States, illegally.
Did I mention I had an official invitation from my uncle? And both my parents’ passports which has USA visas already in them?
Yet we were rejected, and for no apparent reason. “Reasons are confidential; you are perfect candidates for the American Visa but not at this moment.”
An excellent example on this, with even greater ties than mine to the home country, or in that case, to any other country other than the one he was visiting, is written on this post by Barbara about her husband http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-adam/france-is-antifamily-and-_b_1451562.html
We were, however, able to get a Schengen visa that same summer with the same exact papers from the Spanish embassy. It pretty much depends on the interviewer’s view of you.
I have to agree that a Schengen visa is much easier than a USA visa, all Egyptians will agree on that, especially the ones that tried for both.
But can I backpack around Europe?
Again, given the assumption that an Egyptian has enough money to travel around Europe for two or three months, can they actually do it?
A short answer is No.
One of the main papers you have to have with you for your visa interview is a booked flight to and from your destination, and the other very important document is hotel reservations for your whole stay!
That summer we applied for a Spanish visa, we planned 4 days stay in Madrid and 2 in Palma de Mallorca, and we had hotel reservations for both places, flights to and from Madrid and the internal flight as well. We were granted a visa for the exact 6 days included in our reservations, no room for error!
So it is actually doable, I can travel around Europe, but I’ll have to pre-plan exactly on which dates I’ll be in which cities, and have reservations for those cities, and have pre-booked transportation as well.
And as you travelers know, those pre-booked vacations are almost always more expensive, and would eliminate all the chances of finding the cheap deals and cheap transportation.
Where did all the fun of unplanned travel and leave a city or stay more in it depending on how much I like it go? Well, you’re Egyptian; you’re not allowed to have that kind of fancy fun!
*This figure is calculated according to 2010/2011 figures, with the use of an average number between the population of Western Europe and Europe to compensate for the poorer countries in Europe.
Author’s note: Having said all this, I have nothing against you, travelers, on the contrary, reading your blogs everyday is what keeps me alive, and gives me a goal and hope that I will see all those places someday.
Special thanks go to Theodora from http://travelswithanineyearold.com/ for inspiring me to write this post through a conversation we had, as well as Derek from http://theHoliDAZE.com and Kit Whelan from http://www.seeknewtravel.com