The Truth About Traveling in a Third World Passport

Few weeks ago, I came across this article, I Can Travel Because I’m Privileged, written by a 22-year young American who’s currently roaming around Europe. Nah, it could be just another story of how she “quit her job to travel the world” or “bought a one-way ticket to live the life of her dreams”. Like every other viral article written by a first world citizen.

Thankfully, it’s not. Someone finally admitted why a lot of them can do it. It’s called PRIVILEGE. And this brings me to list the points why most Asian’s or third-world passport holders can’t travel on a whim.

While these types of articles are both enticing and inspiring, what the writers fail to mention are their citizenship and mighty passports. As first world citizens in North America, Australia, Western Europe, Singapore and Japan, they can travel extensively without visa in over 150+ countries. Whereas third world countries like Philippines have to go through expensive and tedious process of getting a visa that requires a consistent source of income (i.e. full time job) and a return ticket.

We can’t work anywhere either because even if we do get an approved tourist visa, we’re not allowed to earn money from the country we are traveling to. Those lists of odd jobs and teaching English abroad to earn money while traveling don’t apply to us unless we have a valid “work visa” that is much harder to acquire.

There’s familial responsibility – it is common in Asian culture to give or send money back to our parents to help out on the house expenses or support a sibling or a relative to go to school. It’s a major priority and I believe that this comes first before any luxury.

There’s also the cost of living. If you’ve been working and living in the US, Europe or Australia and you decided to travel around Asia, hopping temples in Cambodia, shopping in Bangkok or wandering in India, the worth of your dollars and euros could stretch for months. But for third world passport holders, the small conversion and value of Asian money to these first world countries might not even last a month.

third world passport

On the bright side:

I am not trying to label nor am I feeling bitter (okay, maybe sometimes :p) about this thing called ‘privilege’. In a way, I am privileged too, because as an expat in Singapore, the visa process and approval is way more lenient here.

I’ve got nothing against the first world because we need them, too. Rules and processes are in place for a reason and while I’m at the disadvantage side of it, I truly believe that it’s not personal. Countries have agreements between them that enable them to help each other’s citizens. That’s just what it is. Laws aid in peace and balance whether you’re privileged or not. If everyone could go anywhere at their own liking, security will be compromised and will be harder to manage. As travelers, we want safety. We want our families to be safe. We want our nation to be safe.

You’re a third world citizen. You can’t quit your job and travel on a whim. Does one give up?

No. Don’t let anyone talk you down about your dreams. If you want to travel then by all means work hard, save more and reach that dream. Slowly. You don’t need to do it at one shot. These places in your bucket list will still be there in the next 5, 10 or 20 years. 

Take your time. Just because people are doing it so easily doesn’t mean you have to. 

Don’t let others make you feel like you’re living a less wonderful life because you’re not doing it the same way that they do. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

So take confidence my fellow risk takers, dreamers and doers. It might take a while. But trust the process. You’ll get there. Eventually.