When the COVID-19 wave crashed onto the west coast and then rolled its way across America last February, folks were frantically and reluctantly cancelling travel plans. The novel coronavirus wasn’t just a new virus; it also meant we were forced to embrace a new way of life. Seemingly the most difficult adjustment was being told “no” to non-essential travel and social outings. Folks were big mad about not getting to see the Broadway play they’d bought tickets for. People were real cranky about being on hold with airlines. The disappointment of not getting to go to Disney was comparable to losing a limb.
I understand why people were upset that their vacations were cancelled, but I laughed and rolled my eyes when their tantrums included the words “deserve” and “need.” The underlying hurt for these people was that something they felt entitled to have was being taken away. They had desperately needed that escape and now it was gone. No one needs a vacation. Let’s see if we can unpack the privilege of that sentiment.
If your biggest heartache during the pandemic has been cancelling or rescheduling your vacation, then consider yourself fortunate. Oh, and shut up about it on your social media feeds. We can all agree that everyone wants a vacation, but the ongoing reminder that you have been robbed of what many people never get to experience is cringey AF.
I often remind my kids about the difference between needs and wants. They want a lot of stuff, and sometimes those wants fall under the need category: food, shelter, and clothing aren’t sexy wants, but they are desired. The real head turners are new LEGO sets, a cell phone, skateboards, or a trip to a water park. These are the items I tell them to put on their Christmas or birthday list. Or I tell them to save their money because those are wants; while it would be nice to have everything their hearts desire, that’s not how life works. I’m thankful and privileged to be able to give my kids what they need, and I’m not shy to point out to them the security in which they live.
Most of the time, my kids know not to tell me they need something that is actually a want, and yet some adults fail to understand this concept. I’m embarrassed for the folks who throw tantrums for not getting said wants, especially during a pandemic when so many people’s health is at risk and folks are losing jobs and living on suspension bridges with rotting boards without safety nets. The longer people long for their vacation homes and what they call a “much needed” escape, the closer many others get to losing everything.
We all need an escape right now, but for some folks, a fast food drive-thru instead of cooking, reading a book or going for a walk instead of doom scrolling, or putting the kids in front of a screen and taking a nap are the most escape they can hope for. Even those may be impossible for some people, so if you’re claiming a “need” to get away from it all with a vacation, you’re ignoring the actual hardships many people have faced. And when you plan a getaway and post photos of said getaway with captions talking about how much you “needed” this, you tell me and others that you are painfully unaware of your financial privilege. Having extra money to spend on travel or even time off is a luxury — please spare me your feelings of being victimized and shamed. Don’t tell me you deserve a vacation because you worked hard or made sacrifices. Don’t claim your mental health was too important to not get away.
I don’t doubt your work ethic or discomfort. And I will always advocate for taking care of your mental health. However, do you think people who don’t have money to take a vacation don’t work hard or make sacrifices? And if someone can’t take a vacation, are they to blame for their mental health struggles? The benefits of therapy, support, and medication are the roots to improving mental health, not a trip to your favorite beach. Sure, a vacation can reduce stress, but stress is much different than crippling anxiety and depression. Let’s not confuse mental illness with wanderlust.
Everyone deserves time to relax and recharge, but not everyone has the means to travel and be pampered at all-inclusive resorts in order to do so. Shuffling or earmarking money that is already extra is much different than going without or adding more work to your plate to save money. Vacations, even during the best of times, are often reserved for the upper middle class and the wealthy. Yes, people of all economic backgrounds take vacations, myself included and I’m a middle class earner. But I would never claim that I’m entitled to one. I’m grateful for what I have and recognize my privilege, but I also know how to read a room.
My advice is to avoid humblebragging or oversharing what to others could seem like an embarrassment of riches. And please stop praising Jesus for your good fortunes or claiming effort is all one needs to benefit from frivolity. Opportunity has allowed both, and if you still have the opportunity to plan a trip and travel during a pandemic, then I hope you have the time to do some self-reflection and use some decorum while so many people are struggling. Also, waiting until the pandemic is over to take your trip will make it safer for everyone, especially the most vulnerable folks who can’t think about a vacation because leaving their house is too dangerous.