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4 Reasons It's Still Way Easier to Be a White Dude While Traveling

by Matt Hershberger Jul 23, 2015

I AM A WHITE DUDE, AND THAT MEANS two things: first, that I am endowed with an insane set of privileges that literally no one else gets to enjoy, and second, that I am completely ignorant of those privileges. The ignorance of myself and my fellow straight-white-dude peers is what has led us into a world where “check your privilege” is a common saying, and where there are actual debates over whether white men have it better or not. We demonstrably do have it better in virtually every aspect of life, and this includes in the world of travel. Here’s how.

Virtually the entire world is open to us.

People from majority white countries, on the whole, have an easier time traveling around the world solely based on their passports. The passport power rankings are based off of which countries have unfettered access to the most countries — as in, countries that no additional visa is required for entry. Tied at the top are the U.S. and the U.K., and of the 30 best passports, 26 are predominantly white countries (the other four are all Asian).

While there are obviously people in all of these countries who are of different races, the point stands that powerful passports disproportionately go to countries typically perceived as “white.”

We don’t face any extra challenges.

Non-white citizens in the United States have an additional difficulty that us white dudes don’t ever have to deal with: racial profiling. It’s a frequent occurrence at airports, and it doesn’t just target people perceived to be Muslim: it targets African Americans and Latinos as well.

Once abroad, the world is generally more accessible to white males. As one writer wrote for us a couple of weeks ago, black women in places like Thailand face a constant onslaught of racism, while women in general face restrictions and threatening behavior while traveling alone in some parts of the world. Ernest White wrote for us a few years back about how casual racism and downright hostility can become a part of the everyday routine while traveling as a black American male.

This simply is not a worry for white men traveling abroad.

No one at home questions where we’re going or what we’re doing.

A few weeks ago, my colleague Alyssa James wrote about how she constantly gets shit for traveling solo without her boyfriend. One of the things she frequently hears when she tells people she’s going to travel abroad solo is the question, “How does your boyfriend feel about that?” The impulse may be to think that this is a more or less harmless question, but the fact is, it’s not asked equally of men. I personally have spent years traveling, three of which I’ve been in a serious, committed relationship, and I have never once been asked this question while traveling on my own.

In fact, last year, literally six days after I got engaged, I went on a press trip to a brothel in Nevada. You know how many people asked me what my new fiancee thought about that? No one. Not a single person. Everyone asked, “What was it like?” instead.

I’m not complaining about this response: it was a question that didn’t need to be asked, because our relationship is built on trust. But if it had been my fiancee going instead, she almost certainly would have been asked if I’d had her permission.

We even have a separate word for what we are when we move abroad.

I have long loved the word “expat.” It has an air of romance to it, an air of having been something but not of being that thing anymore. I was super bummed, then, when earlier this year, The Guardian pointed out that the word “expatriate” is reserved exclusively for white people, while “immigrant” is reserved for everyone else. When I travel abroad, I am having an adventure, I’m contributing to my new home. But when Latin Americans come to my country, they’re slandered by a vile talking hairpiece who is running for President — and gets a surge in the polls because of that slander.

There is nothing wrong, of course, with being a white dude and traveling — but it is important for us white guys to recognize from time to time that because of our whiteness and because of our penises, we generally have a much easier time while traveling abroad.

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