I’m not Lucky, So Please Stop Telling me That

I’m not lucky, so please stop telling me that.  My decision to travel was not a question of chance.  No dice were thrown, no cards lain.  This life of travel is all me: my lifestyle, my decisions.

When I was ten, my parents pulled my brother and I out of school and took us camping through Europe for six months.  They used to grumble about the people who remarked how lucky we were to have that experience.

“It has nothing to do with luck,” my Mom would respond.  “It was years of stringent saving.”

I can vouch for that.  While all my friends were going to Disneyworld or Cuba in the years leading up to that trip, my family went to B.C. for vacation, and while other kids got Gameboys in their stockings, Peter and I received homemade gifts or books.  (Maybe this spawned my future career choice?)

At the time, I couldn’t understand why it mattered if people called us lucky in regards to that trip.  It’s just a word — who cares?

But now, when you stand there with your venti Caramel Macchiato and the keys to your brand-new truck in your hand and then tell me that I’m so “lucky” to be able to travel, I want to laugh.  You probably make more than double what I make, and you’re telling me that I must be rich to be able to travel so much?!  Life is all about the choices we make. 

Where do you dream of traveling?
Where do you dream of traveling?

I look at my younger brother for an example of this.  In the past year, Peter’s cooking career has gone international, bringing him to competitions on four continents.  “You’re so lucky,” I’ve heard people tell him, “to be in a job that lets you travel for free.”  What these people fail to remember is that these “work trips” are the only form of vacation he gets in a year, outside of a day off for Christmas, and maybe Easter.  On top of that, he’s been slaving away in a kitchen since age 14 to get to this point, often working up to 14-hour days during competition season.  Great, right?  He must be making the big bucks.  Well, certainly not when you’re a cook, which is considered the country’s second lowest-paying occupation.  Yet he does this happily, because he chose to follow his passion.

Yes, life is about choices.  In my case, I chose to forgo my career opportunity with the City of Edmonton to pursue a travel dream.  I saved.  Saving is a challenge, but anyone can do it if they’re determined enough.  It too is about choices.  Do you need to eat lunch in the food court at work today?  How about that new dress that you’ve been eyeing?  Saving does not mean that you need to punish yourself to meet a goal; it’s teaches you to cut back on the non-necessities.  It’s about home-cooked meals, taking transit or walking or biking when possible, and limiting your shopping habits.  In that sense, it can even make you a happier, healthier version of yourself.

What’s actually tougher than finding the money to travel is making the decision to travel, and committing to it.  Don’t fill yourself with the empty promises you make to yourself.

How many times have I heard the following?

“Oh, you went to Brazil?  I’m going to go there for the World Cup.”

“Europe?  Yeah, that’s my plan for this summer.. backpacking it.”

Good for you — it truly makes me happy to hear your travel plans.  But if you make these plans, stick to them!  Make travel happen.

If you try (and really try) to make it work and it doesn’t happen, so be it.  But so many times, I’ve watched your travel dreams fall by the wayside.  More often than not, it’s not because you have no money.  You may tell me that, but I see what you’re spending on, and I see what changes you could make.  Instead, it’s because you’re not committing yourself to this goal.  Set your mind on travel, and watch the obstacles fade away.

I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking that it’s not all about determination and perseverance.   You’re right.  Of course, luck (or fate, or God — whatever you’d like to believe in) does play some role in our lives.  If we put a dream in our sights, paths will open up for us, and we’ll often find that the roads that take us towards our goals are paved with yellow bricks.

Having young children is no excuse not to go abroad.
Having young children is no excuse not to go abroad.

I don’t have a car.  That’s probably the smartest (and hardest) decision I’ve made to support my lifestyle.  Not owning a car prevents me from spending money on gas, insurance, and parking.  However, I won’t hesitate to acknowledge that I’m extremely fortunate to have friends who will offer me rides, especially when the buses aren’t running.  But I bet your friends would do that too.  I’m also very blessed to have a best friend whose wonderful family invited me into their home for a few months while I came back to Edmonton.  This was fantastic for me, but if that invitation hadn’t been there, I would have figured something else out.  When you have a goal, you learn to be resourceful and savvy.

Now, I’m not telling you to quit your job and voluntarily turn yourself into a charity case; I’m saying that small acts of kindness and generosity from others will probably help you along the way.  I don’t go begging my parents for money or to others for goodwill, but sometimes these are offered.  I accept them, as long as I think I can find a way to “pay it forward/back” later on.

So go travel.  What’s stopping you?  Probably a basket of insufficient excuses.  Can’t get time off?  Quit your job.  There are plenty of jobs that let you earn money while on the road.  Have a house?  Sell it and use the money to travel, or, if you’re trapped in a mortgage, join a House Swap organization.  Have kids? Definitely bring them with you.  Unless you’re on 24/7 duty caring for a chronically ill family member, or are severely ill yourself, I can probably come up with a hole in your excuse.  So, really, what’s stopping you?

I made travel my choice.  Now, go make it yours.