class signaling through recounting travel tales
i luv finding out which of my acquaintances are trust fund kids via “so last year i was in nepal…”
"so when you went to the Dominican Republic you went to a resort area? well, when I went to the Dee Ar I went on a mission trip to, you know, the villages there…”
I know a lot of exchange students who went on scholarship or because they got jobs to pay for themselves to go. Sometimes the class signaling is correct, but poor people travel, too.
I wanna clarify that there’s nothing wrong with getting to travel and also nothing wrong with sharing your experiences if you do it in the right contexts and with a reasonable attitude BUT
there’s also some contexts and some attitudes where it is clearly a boastful thing and people are showing off, and that sort of showing off has a lot of class stuff behind it. yes, it’s possible for people to travel even if they don’t have a lot of money, but it’s a lot easier if you do, and bragging about it relies on classist values, you know? having gotten that opportunity, even if you worked hard for it, grants an unfair sort of cultural capital, so bragging on one’s worldliness for having traveled is just kind of scummy
like, conversely, I know a lot of people who have been abroad, rich or not, who don’t talk about it in prideful ways. I certainly count you among them! I’ve enjoyed hearing you talk about your time spent abroad because it never felt like you were holding it over me. but the people in class were playing a very specific kind of game, and it felt very different from listening to you or one of my other well-traveled friends. less fun recounting of stories among friends, more name-dropping more-sophisticated-than-thou, knowwhatImean.
I do know what you mean- maybe my point of view is skewed as well, because most of the travelers I talk to couldn’t class-drop if they wanted to! They’re exchangers who really made their homes in their host countries, or people who worked abroad for the chance to live there- or people who immigrated. Or people whose families sprang for a school trip and it was a really special experience, but not a light financial undertaking that they brag about. I do think that it makes a difference whether you had to earn the money first. I see way less class-dropping from people who had to think about their budget and/or go earn the money first.
I kind of look down my nose, too, at people who just jetted off to foreign locales like it was NBD, but they’re a serious minority in my life- my friends who went on mission trips worked hard and saved up, and my exchange friends really made homes in their new countries. I’ve been lucky to know people who took that experience for what it was really worth.
And come to that, all the people I just listed off are, like me, probably more likely to raise eyebrows at the people in your class, because our traveling wasn’t a “look how rich and speshul I am” sort of thing, but way more important to our lives than that. My “when I was in Latvia” stories, or Chelsea’s “when I lived in Portugal” stories (You don’t know Chelsea, but you two would like each other immensely, and you ought to follow her tumblr- palavra-valise) aren’t just “let me tell you about how I was someplace other than here- they’re more about who we are as people. It’s not name dropping, and it’s sure as hell not class dropping, because it’s not sheer wealth that let us just carelessly jet off to some tropical beach to speak English and live the good life.
Exchange is a privilege but… I also got picked on and kicked out by my first hosts. I had to do homework. I couldn’t get by without the local language. These aren’t things that happen to tourists, who can put themselves in a position to pay the travel agent to handle arrangements for them if need be. It’s a lucky thing to be able to do, but it’s not unmitigated ease and pleasure. The difficulties of travel are a much shinier ballpark than the difficulties of an exchange, (and I’m lucky enough to be able to compare) so while both are a privilege, they aren’t the same thing at all.