The by far most frequent words I hear and have heard the last year are: “Oh, you are so lucky!”. I get this from people online and offline – from people that I know and total strangers. They are of course referring to that I’m traveling the world. But does it really have anything to do with being lucky? On behalf of myself and other world travelers out there, I would say NO – and here is why!
First of all; what does being lucky actually mean?
This is of course individual as different people appreciate different ways of life, but what goes for everyone are two basic fundamentals which I think being lucky is all about.
Firstly, health is the greatest wealth. To be born without any diseases or disorders is a gift. To wake up every day and live your live without any, is an even greater gift. I’m not talking about the flu, but real diseases that can and will affect your life in one way or another. For example cancer might send you to hospital and treatment for years stopping you from studies, living your everyday life or enjoying your hobbies.
Secondly, to be born and able to live in a part of the world without poverty, starvation, corruption, frequent natural disasters, lack of water and last but also worst; war. We are at the moment 7,5 billion people on the planet. Half of these live in what the World Bank consider as poverty – on less than 2 dollars per day. 1,5 billion lives on what’s called extreme poverty – less than 1 dollar per day. Today 15 000 people die due to starvation, just as yesterday and unfortunately a few more tomorrow. Most of my readers (not that I have many) probably live in Europe, the US or Australia where in contrast to poor countries overweight and obesity is growing day by day – too much food! Some of you even might get some rain perhaps a little too often – but at least it’s not raining bombs.
My point with these two basic fundamentals is that it’s really hard to have a good life without them and most of us take them for granted. If you call me lucky for traveling the world; remember that in the “sperm lottery” there is a 50 % chance you get born in a poor part of the world. We are talking a 50 / 50 chance! Ending up on the “right” side here, THAT’s being lucky!
Am I lucky because I’m able to travel the world?
So, now when being lucky is defined – let’s get back to the topic of traveling the world. Even though I’m born in a safe and wealthy part of the world and without disorders, I was not born into a life of wealth or travel at all. In fact, my father never sat his foot in an airplane – and I’ve by age 30 visited all continents in the world multiple times and soon been to 100 countries. Sadly my father died way too young at age 52 and I know what some of you are thinking now – but I didn’t inherit a single dollar. I don’t like talking about money, but I will however get back to the financial part a little later in this post.
The reason I’m able to travel the world is because of me and the choices I’ve taken – nothing else. In the same way that I’ve chosen a way of traveling – I’ve had to say no and to sacrifice other things in life. It’s called priorities and it’s the one and only reason I’m able to live this kind of life. If you take a look in my wardrobe you’ll understand. It’s mainly full of either clothes from H&M or sports clothes. Even though also I think that Ralph Lauren clothes look better, I don’t fall for the temptation of buying them – I would rather spend the money on a flight ticket instead. Or buy some stocks or put them into my savings account so I could afford an extra apartment to rent out. This mindset and these choices has brought me to where I am today.
It has nothing to do with luck. It’s basically only priorities, money management and street smartness and therefore I think it’s well deserved that I’m able to have this life now. Let’s compare to a guy with a really good job and high salaries. He probably worked hard in school, studied for many years, put in a lot of effort in order to get good grades and eventually a good job. After years of hard and dedicated work he becomes a manager and receives high salaries. Would you call being lucky? Or just a result of priorities, hard work and smart choices over a long time? It’s not being lucky – it’s just being smart and the result is well-deserved.
I very rarely speak about money with other travelers or local people, but every once in a while people say: “Oh, you must be very rich!” and to a certain extent, compared to the average man on earth, that is true. Anyways, I always answer by saying: “It’s not about how much money you have or can make – it’s a about how little you can spend!”.
There is one great fallacy among people when it comes to private economy and money management and it goes like this:
We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have in order to impress people we don’t know or in some cases don’t even like. Last but not least; they probably don’t even care.
The perhaps even worse and ironic result of this is often that the things you think that you own end up owning you. So what do I mean by these “smart ideas” of mine? Here is an example: some people are taking big loans to buy a brand new car. I understand and respect that some people need a car, but I don’t agree on that they need a brand new car – or a fancy one at all. A 5 year old Toyota could do the same job! Also, if you can’t even afford it – why do you buy it? This will only limit your economy and unfortunately in many ways also your life. A perfect example of someone buying something he/she doesn’t really need, with money he/she doesn’t have and the car ends up “owning” him/her because of the commitment of the loan.
To be clear; consuming is not the problem. Without consumption the economy and also the world stops. The problem is overconsumption!
Traveling is not only rainbows and butterflies – would you handle this?
If you believe that traveling the world only is about beautiful sunsets, paradise beaches, cosy cities and might misty mountains – think again. There are for sure lots of this too and that’s what I like to share in social media, since I like to inspire, be positive and show the best of the countries I visit in order for them to attract more tourism and hopefully the people there can achieve a better life since tourism contributes with money which again gives food, education and a way out of the poverty.
There are however endless of unpleasant things and situations that you have to struggle with and handle being a world traveler on a budget. And if you still think I’m lucky – ask yourself if you could handle all of this?
- 8-15 hour bus rides with sometimes zero comfort, no toilet, very warm or extremely cold.
- Sleeping in hostels and share room with 4-15 other persons almost EVERY NIGHT for one year.
- This also means NO privacy what so ever! No where to “hide”.
- People snoring every night (earplugs doesn’t always help unfortunately).
- Low standard. Sometimes really dirty and nasty showers, bathrooms and kitchens.
- Almost never feel really fresh due to heat or sweating after walking and carrying the bags.
- Simple just quit your job without any guarantee at all for another one when (if) you get back home.
- The lack of good food. Don’t get me wrong, you can have amazing food many places, but there are also times where you can find anything but Snickers and french fries. I don’t even wanna know how many nights I’ve had Snickers for dinner after arriving places late in the night when nothing was open.
- Get food poisoned and diarrhea. Trust me, you will.
- Not seeing your friends and family for a very long time. Of course you meet a lot of people, and that’s perhaps the best part of traveling solo, but sometimes you simply miss the people you have know for a lifetime.
- Be away from all the holidays like Christmas, Eastern etc.
- Carry all your belongings and your entire “wardrobe” in just two bags. Very limited!
- Waiting.. Trust me, if you travel to poor countries they don’t have as good infrastructure, technology and systems but on the other hand often more bureaucracy and a “mañana mañana mindset” which means A LOT of waiting in airports, border crossings and bus terminals.
- Use a lot of money, in my case around 37 000 EURO, on something that gives you nothing but “just” memories and experience. That could save you many years on your mortgage or a nice car.
- Get totally soaked in the rain without any chance to dry your stuff – or your self for a long time.
- And endless of other more or less unpleasant or frustrating situations. If you have back-packed yourself, you know what I’m talking about.
Don’t misunderstand me, traveling is loads of fun as well – but there is a dark side of it and here I mentioned some of the situations and things. Even though it’s sometimes tough, I would never change and I also find a bit of charm in living like this for a limited amount of time. I will definitely appreciate the luxury of just normal standard when I come home.
So to wrap this up and answer the question of the headline if I’m lucky: yes, I’m very lucky – but not because I travel the world. It’s solely thanks to myself, my own choices and priorities.