I know it’s a heavy topic and blog title but I did warn you, TouristyAF is not your average travel blog. As part of my goal to educate and walk us through people’s journeys, it’s important to talk about this multi-layer and complex topic — the journey, struggles and beauty of the life of a first-generation (fill in the blank). And yes, travel in the first-generation community will be addressed.
For the purpose of this blog and being that I come from a Mexican culture, I will be making references to first-generation Mexican-Americans but I’m sure all first-gens can relate.
WHAT IS FIRST-GENERATION?
The term, first-generation, has two meanings 1: born in the U.S. but of immigrant parentage 2: foreign-born but typically naturalized American. Why the emphasis on first-generation? The reason most of us proudly say “I’m first-generation (fill in the blank)” is to honor our parents and their sacrifice. The people who did an amazing job of raising us despite life’s circumstances.
I want to point out some common things we, first-generation, sons and daughters deal with externally and internally.
This is real people and far too common. Culture assimilation is when a “minority” group or culture tries to strip away from their own behaviors and beliefs to fit in with the majority group. Simply put, we try to be as Americanized as possible. From personal experience, something as simple and silly as hoop earrings was an internal struggle. I thought hoop earrings made me look “too Mexican”, so I wouldn’t wear them, now they’re my favorite…that’s called growth and acceptance!
Anyways, you get what I mean? It’s small things like hoop earrings to bigger and much more complex things obviously.
Most of us carry the pressure to make our parents proud and that’s often tied to a successful career. It means getting an education — which by the way, do you know how hard it is to get into a good university especially when you have no guidance? It’s not to say our parents don’t care or don’t support us but they don’t have the answers to all our questions, like ‘What’s an SAT?’ or ‘How do you apply for financial aid?’ etc. You get my drift?
It’s true, most of our parents came to the U.S. for a better life not only for themselves but selflessly for their kids and future family to be. The topic of immigration is not foreign. I’m always at awe when I think about how someone can leave everything they know behind, move to another country, not speaking the language, work laborious jobs, at a lower pay rate, and still manage to get their family ahead! That my friends, is beyond commendable. Going back to my previous point about pressure, it’s part of our belief that we have to prove that our parents sacrifice was indeed worth it.
There is beauty in everything and not all is a struggle. Let me quickly highlight the beauty of the journey of a first-generation (fill in the blank).
- Culture. We each have a culture that’s unique with it’s own music, language, food and traditions. My first-gen readers, share those and pass them along. Don’t be ashamed of them and what the “majority” might think. Embrace your culture!
- Higher Education. Often as first-gens we are the first one’s in our family to receive a higher-education, something most of our parents did not receive. It’s an honor and a great opportunity.
- Representation. Through education, we are able to be present in rooms where we can represent our people, our beliefs and more. We are beginning to diversify our education system, medical fields, congress etc. Let’s keep going!
- Advocacy. We have the voice to speak up for our parents and people that are not represented. So use your voice!
WHY DO I FEEL GUILTY TRAVELING AS A FIRST-GENERATION MEXICAN-AMERICAN?
Alright, here comes the travel part, because after all, this blog is all things travel too! Let me lay it out for you.
I could write an entire novel on this topic but I won’t. In most first-gen households, we’re taught at a young age to work hard to have money to buy the things we need and want. But from my personal opinion, those things are usually material things. Yep, I said it. People are too worried about showing others that they’re getting ahead so they have to buy that new truck or Michael Kors bag (no shade, all shade).
Anyways, we’re not inspired enough to go beyond having material things like traveling — which is just as enriching, if not more! Now that’s not always the case, there’s also families where we’re taught to save, save, save. Wasting money on things like travel is seen as unnecessary and throwing money away. We’re made to think that we need to work hard, save, get the house and car first, then when old enough, maybe travel. No thanks. Not for me.
Lucky for me, I have a supportive family but I get those subtle comments from family members now and then saying ‘I’m traveling too much, that’s a lot of money and I must be rich if I’m traveling’…another misconception.
Have I felt guilty before thinking I may possibly be wasting money on travel? Not really. But I do feel guilty about how it’s easier for me to travel — thanks to my parents’ sacrifice which involved moving to a new country and working hard to give me opportunities they never had. Therefore, I take my career and role as a first-generation Mexican-American seriously. If it weren’t for them, I would A) never be born B) get the opportunity to go to college which opened me to a career that allows me to support and enjoy my love of travel. It’s a full circle, I acknowledge that and I’m grateful.
Lack of Representation
This is a big reason why I started TouristyAF. The lack of representation in the travel community is real. I started to become more aware of this when I joined an international remote-work program for a month back in March 2018. This program invited people from all over the world and career backgrounds to travel from country to country while working remotely. Out of the 20+ people in the program, I was the only Mexican-American. Why this matters? Well it shouldn’t I suppose, but physically, since I look Latina, naturally people asked me “Where are you from?” and when I’d say California, I’d get a “No, where are you really from?” You see what I mean? My point is, there’s not many people like you or me being represented in the travel community. It needs to change. Traveling needs to be encouraged and promoted in first-generation households.
Yes, I feel guilty that for whatever reason(s) I’m usually the only Mexican-American when I travel or join specific travel groups. I want to see more people like you and me traveling!
I’d be ignorant to say that immigration is not one of the big reasons why diversity in the travel community doesn’t exist. There’s millions of people that don’t travel. It’s not because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t. In many communities, especially in Latin communities, immigration is a real and common thing. People are limited to where they can go, and international travel is often out of the picture, for years if not forever. As part of becoming citizens, people must stay in the U.S for years to make it a reality. It’s a long and not easy process, and when the moment finally comes, it’s joyous for everyone. But there’s also the other side, where that reality may not easily exist.
Why do I feel guilty? Because as a Mexican-American, I am privileged.
I’m privileged to be able to travel the world with no worries about any legal status, while there are many people in the Latin and other communities of course, that can’t travel. As much as they may dream of it, it’s not in the foreseeable future.
I don’t want to leave this travel part on a somber note, on the contrary, we should be happy of what we do have control over! Here’s the thing, travel doesn’t have to be for the rich only, for the retired or just international. Have you seen the local beauty around you? Travel is exploring your own backyard, your local city and your own culture. There’s adventure in everything we chose. Let’s promote travel in ALL communities and explore within our homes.
First-generation (fill in the blank) that is reading this, I hope above all, you’re proud of yourself. After reading this blog, that you can relate and feel like someone sees you and gets you. Most importantly, as first-generation we have the power to change things that our parents couldn’t out of fear, resources etc. We have a voice, let’s use it. Let’s be advocates not only of matters that affect our own community but of others too. Let’s extend our help and support our fellow neighbors.
Don’t lose touch with your culture, embrace it. Show your parents, yourself and the next-generation the world — and it’s not always international, sometimes it’s exploring your own backyard. Comment your thoughts below.