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  • Writer's pictureEllie Friese

Unmasking Passport Privilege: A Path to Gratitude and Self-Discovery

I’ve felt inspired to write lately and need to be better about jotting down my ideas. I feel like it’s one of those things I keep wanting and needing to do, adding it to my list to get done, and then it pushing it down with other “pressing” matters. Like now, I have a to-do list that I wrote yesterday and haven’t crossed a single thing off yet today and it’s 9:35pm :).

Something that I just can’t get off my mind and that my husband and I keep talking about lately is how privileged we are to be doing what we are doing - and I mean this in very broad terms because we are in so many different ways.

In a very literal sense, we are in the top 1% of the population regarding freedom and financial stability. The fact that our U.S. Passport gives us privileges and access to different places around the world is one of the biggest blessings we don’t often consider when just booking a flight to X, Y, or Z.

We booked a one-way flight to Europe and have been traveling for the past 6 months with no return flight, very “up in the air” plans, and randomly booking excursions and smaller trips within our prolonged one. We crossed the border into England and were asked by border control if we had a return flight. I very light-heartedly replied, “Nope! Heading home for Christmas :)))).” Just absolutely beaming with ignorance and naivety. The officer just closed our passports and passed us through. How many people would have been questioned more deeply? We were two white U.S. Citizens in a little 2005 Volkswagen with a dog.

We were born into middle-class families tha

t could afford to help us through college, support us financially when needed, and give us access to travel at an early age. I received my first passport stamp at age 10. I have been to more countries in my first decade of life than the majority of people on this planet will ever get to exp

erience, and it was 1 country (Germany).

We are young and healthy with no severe health issues. We have access to health care and can afford it. We have the flexibility with time and money to choose which kind of apartment we want to be in and go “over budget.” We have family, friends, and jobs that not only support our decision to travel full-time, but encourage it.

I will admit that one of the draws of coming over here to Europe and the United Kingdom was we were very turned off by the social and political turmoil and way of life in America. We were craving some peace and walkability. If I had been asked if I was proud to be an American, I would have honestly said “no.” I felt stuck. I was wrapped up in hustle culture. I knew my cortisol had been through the roof for the past 3 years. I wanted more and also less for myself at the same time. When I think about coming back to the States and coming home, the thought of settling down is still very unappealing to both of us.

Now, I will also admit that I am more proud to be American than I have been in the past 5 years. It is specifically because I know that without my passport, I would not be able to do what I am doing right now - or at least without more obstacles. Do I still disagree and shy away from the thought of American politics and way of life? 100%. Am I more grateful for the blessings I have due to being an American? 100%. Now this is not to say that the folks over here aren’t also looking at the U.S. and thinking, wtf is going on?!

I have always said that travel will change your life. Outside of the cute Instagram posts and postcards, so much self-growth and realization comes from travel. I’ve learned that I will never go back to “my old grind.” I’ve learned that I can feel pride and also want change for my country at the same time. I’ve learned that my husband and I are not ready to settle down. I’ve learned that passport privilege is a real thing and should probably be reminded from time to time (hello clients that get P.O. at the slightest inconvenience). I’

ve learned that, man, my family is everything to me and I miss them every. Single. F*cking. Day. And most importantly, I think, I’ve learned to be more grateful. Now I’ll work on expressing it more ;)

Xoxo, Ellie

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