Trekking across the globe and soaking up all the world has to offer is a luxury. We, who travel are privileged. Even those of us who have to get a visa for almost anywhere. Jamaicans need one for many places. Many people will not be able to enjoy this experience because of the simple fact that they do not have the means to do so.
People in many countries just do not have the means to travel even to do a bare bones budget trip. I think many of us who enjoy this privilege lose sight of this fact or live in a vacuum.
I know many Jamaicans – even family members who studied hard at university and have jobs where they work hard everyday but make just enough to live. This is a reality. Would they love to travel and see all the places we learned about while we were growing up? Of course. Priorities are priorities though, food and shelter trumps everything else.
Quite a few Jamaicans visit America, Canada and England. Those who manage to get a visa – after applying a few times in some cases and being rejected -will usually go to one of these places and stay with family members for a few weeks. Paying for accommodation, however cheap, adds up. When you visit family members in these places you often don’t have to worry about spending copious amounts on transportation, food and so on. Jamaicans take care of family members well, for the most part, so when visiting those who live abroad they will pitch in and help where needed.
Why don’t Jamaicans travel more widely you ask?
- Flights are costly when measured against the average income one earns. It does not help that many of the visa free countries for Jamaicans, nearby, may require a transfer somewhere in America. I have been looking into visiting Cuba which is only about an hour away. I have not be able to find a non-stop flight. I see where people can fly from Florida there for $200 or less. The cheapest flight I have found, out of Montego Bay was over $400. I do understand that airlines fly where there is demand.
- Paying for hotels, excursions and such also require money.
- Some people have no interest in travelling abroad – yes there are people who like to just stay at home. I am sure there are people like these in every country.
- Applying for visas is costly, time consuming and there is often no guarantee that you will get one after paying over $100 in many cases.
- Other needs are a priority: food, shelter, clothes, education for kids and so on.
Jamaicans who can travel should be understanding
It is mind boggling when I hear a Jamaican who lives and works in a developed country questioning why more Jamaicans don’t travel widely. Lest we forget, those of us who live abroad and earn in excess of what we need ought to not make careless statements about our privilege. We all know many hard working and educated people who do not earn a great salary just because of where they live right now. They want to travel. They also have dreams of seeing the world and many also have bucket lists and live vicariously through us who get to do it. Many save bit by bit for years to even be able to afford to buy a ticket to go experience any of the big three countries Jamaicans frequent.
I hope I am more sensitive and never lose my sense of gratitude for being able to fulfil my wanderlust and see the world that so may others have to put on the back burner.