Is Travel A Right?

Inch Beach Ireland

A couple of years ago I read an article that at first confused, then intrigued me. A lot. It was about an initiative by the European Union to classify travel as a basic human right. I’m not talking about the freedom to move as one pleases, that’s obvious. No, this was questioning whether or not going on vacation (or holiday for my Euro buds) is an honest to goodness right of the inalienable kind.

As an American my first reaction was to laugh uncontrollably, followed immediately by a series of patronizing thoughts. But the more I thought about it the more I kind of thought that it makes sense. Sort of.

The premise for the EU discussion was that the act of travel is so important to one’s mental and physical well-being that we as civilized society must do everything we can to help others enjoy this act of exploration, especially those who don’t have the money to take a vacation.

Stop laughing.

This is all true of course. Travel is one of the best things anyone can do for themselves and the ones they love. Even if it’s a simple overnight stay two towns over, travel is by its very nature an enlightening experience. You always will learn something and that in tandem with the physical act of leaving one’s abode and doing something can only be considered positive. I think we’re in agreement here.

The question is do we help those in our society achieve this goal if they are unable to do so on their own accord? In other words, do we add as a social entitlement the act of going on vacation?

This already happens to a certain degree. Kids bravely fighting cancer have available to them charities to make their wishes come true. The great majority of Make A Wish requests involve travel. There are other charities out there that work with disadvantaged kids to extend to them the benefits of travel. Whether it’s by taking them out to the country for the day or across the world, these groups have realized real differences made in the lives of others through the power of travel.

Travel gives us a sense of accomplishment, we are emboldened and empowered and these qualities can never be undone. It is a very good thing for everyone, but arguably a great thing for the most disadvantaged. But should it be institutionalized into a government-backed movement?

Personally, I say no. My suspicious nature leads me to believe that if the government were to control these programs they would be in some way abused; but that’s my skeptical American-self talking. Instead I believe that we should embolden groups already doing this transformational work. Give them more resources to help larger numbers of people, aid them in every way imaginable. But let them control the process. As we’ve seen lately, governments are unpredictable and at best their assistance is often too weak to be effectual.

What do you think? Should travel be classified as a human right?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

6 thoughts on “Is Travel A Right?”

  1. In a way it should be considered a Human Right. Nonetheless I agree that it should not be in the hands of the government completely. I like the idea of a charity that helps children that don’t have the opportunity to travel. Aside from that, travel should be stimulated in general. There are many families that can afford it, but still don’t travel.

  2. That’s a novel idea, to be sure. But I wouldn’t consider it a human right either. People have different priorities in life and some are happy enough with having traveled at all. I don’t have any voting rights in the EU, but if I did and this was put to the vote, I would really much rather the money be put to something else. Surely there are some places that could benefit from better infrastructure or libraries that could use more books.

  3. Travel is *already* classified as a human right: It is guaranteed by Article 12 (“Freedom of Movement”) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the few human rights treaties that has actually been ratified by the US (as well as all the members of the EU).

    The meaning of that right is discussed in General Comment No. 27, issued by the UN Human Rights Committee:

    1. No, you misunderstand. NOT the right to move freely, but literally the ‘right’ to go on a vacation. Two VERY different things and I acknowledged the right to travel as in movement in the intro.

  4. This intrigues me but I don’t really know what I think about it, to be honest. I had the opposite reaction to you – on first thought, it sounds great! But how on earth would it actually work? How would ‘travel’ be defined? By distance from home? Length of trip? Difference in cultures? In my country you can take a five hour flight and be around people exactly the same as back home – is that travel? To me, no. And who gets to decide who is worthy of receiving a travel benefit? I just can’t imagine it working in a way everyone is happy with.

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