Culture Guides

Immigrants – the Only Real Travelers Left

Travel was once the domain of the adventurer, the intrepid explorer who dared leave behind all he knew and set off into the Great Unknown with little more than his wits about him.

Today the torch is carried on only by the Africans, Latin Americans and Asians who risk everything to hit the road and seek their fortunes.

Travel was once the domain of the adventurer, the intrepid explorer who dared leave behind all he knew and set off into the Great Unknown with little more than his wits about him.

Today’s generation of travelers have guidebooks to tell them what they should see, do and find, travelers’ checks and credit cards to keep them solvent, networks of hostels and hustlers (ahem, agencies) to arrange their itineraries and a good old return ticket to see them back home safely in time for their new job/university course/Mormon initiation rites.

But the days of hard core travel are far from dead.

As a significant counterweight to the insipidity of consumer travel, there are whole new generations of young people hitting the road to countries where they have little idea of what awaits them, no guidebook and no idea of where or how long they’ll stay. Who are these bold adventurers?

They’re the immigrants who run borders across the world in search of a better life. From Latin Americans dashing across the frontier into the US, to Moroccans clinging to the bottom of trucks to get into Spain, to Africans risking their lives in boats that frequently sink off the shores of Italy, to Bangladeshis who leave house and home to squat on the streets of Bombay, the immigrants are the last great travelers left.

Unlike the smug Gap Year generation, the immigrants have no money, probably no education to speak of and certainly don’t own the kind of passport that gets an approving smile from the police officer who checks their papers. They get beaten up, raped and killed by the tens of thousands each year and are made to feel as welcome as cockroaches on toast.

They encounter cultures entirely foreign to them, look for work without speaking any of the local language and basically ride their luck as best they can, making use of their wits and whatever Fate throws their way. What courage, what determination.

And why do they risk all of this?

Because they have to. There’s no money back home because there’s no work and maybe war. There’s no work and maybe war because of their corrupt governments who do daily business with western governments and corporations, posing for the cameras as they sign new nuclear fuel deals.

The money sent home to families by immigrants abroad amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars and is way, way above all the international aid given by governments across the world.

And all this is done for love.

So the next time you consider the road’s been treating you a bit rough, light a joint and consider what the average Somalian might have to go through if he ended up hitchhiking through your neck of the woods.

Read more about immigration:

Mexicans running to the US and Mexican Immigration Issues and the BBC asks experts about immigration