Why does travel “flexing” bother you so much?

With only 36 percent of U.S. citizens in possession of a valid U.S. passport, it goes without saying that traveling is a privilege not everyone has the luxury of experiencing — cheap flight deals or not.

Passports are unattainable to people who don’t possess or don’t have the means to obtain proof of identity approved by the State Department, such as a driver’s license or birth certificate. The same forms of ID that hinder millions of black people from voting in elections are the same forms of ID elusive to those wishing to travel out of the United States. 

For many of my friends (and myself), traveling is a way to experience new cultures while giving those we left behind at home a glimpse of the larger world. Many of us are first-generation travelers — the first in our families to travel away from home, the first to fly out of the country. For us, traveling for leisure is a new phenomenon; not one we grew up experiencing, but one we’ve had the luxury of achieving because of stable jobs and PTO.

There’s a classism problem among some black travelers on social media

In the past, we’ve seen black travelers shamed for “only” traveling to Atlanta or Miami. We’ve seen black travelers disparaged for booking all-inclusive trips to the Caribbean because, according to them, luxury resorts don’t give travelers “the full experience” of the country; whatever that means. It doesn’t slip past me that five of the top ten countries most reliant on tourism are located in the Caribbean. It doesn’t slip past my mind that the cities and countries deemed inauthentic or “basic” by some online travelers are predominately black and Latinx. 

In 2014, after the Etihad Airways glitch fare sent thousands of travelers on dirt cheap trips across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia — many of them black, first-time international travelers — some folks scoffed at people taking advantage of the fares, calling them “broke.” More recently, Santorini became undesirable because “too many” black Americans were visiting. Ostensibly, Bali received a similar ranking of being “bait.”  

What does it say about you that spaces black folks frequent and contribute economically to lack exclusivity? What does it say about you that traveling to certain places is devalued and less sacred now that more black folks appear to be doing it? What does it say about you if you believe that photos posted on personal accounts or black travel pages lack “depth”? What does it say about you that you clock how other people choose to travel? 

The Abu Dhabi glitch, which I happily took advantage of, introduced me to the vast community of black international travelers. Nomadness Travel Tribe, perhaps the most significant organized black travel community with over 20,000 members, sent over 400 members alone to the U.A.E. Since that day, I’ve connected with Nomadness, Travel Noire, and other travel groups that indulge black travelers. 

I often consult my travel squad about new locations to visit, some of which we decided upon because of a dope photo or post we saw on Instagram or Twitter. Facebook and Twitter’s sizable black travel communities provides a personalized way to find activities on the ground that cater to black folks — such as the Little Africa tour in Paris or the Rebel Slave Museum in Cuba — both of which I learned about in my online travel communities. 

I’ve admired my fellow globetrotters and their photos all over the world. I’ve marveled at the flex: hiking at Machu Picchu, posing at the African Renaissance Monument in Dakar, and relaxing at luxury villas in the Maldives. I’m not alone in gaining travel inspiration from social platforms: the vast majority of millennials on Facebook say they use the platform for travel inspiration, and the #travel tag is the 29th most popular hashtag on Instagram. 

Recently, I’ve seen folks online shaming other travelers for “flexing” on vacations. It seems we’ve become too familiar with and too fascinated by what other people do with their free time and how they spend their money. There is a weird obsession online with people playing gatekeeper for regular activities, like traveling, while attempting to make them inaccessible to people of a different socioeconomic background.

Traveling is a transformative and spiritual experience for many, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun — and flex on the gram — while doing it. 

Why does that bother you?