When people hear about how much I travel, I get a few predictable comments in return. On the list is the classic, “Wow, you’re so lucky you get to travel!”
This is how I want to respond:
…but instead, I just smile and gently explain that luck has nothing to do with it. With few exceptions, no one “gets to” travel–they choose to travel. All travelers, short-term and long-term, make a series of decisions starting with “I’m going to travel to [insert exotic local]”, and ending with getting on a plane. If you never make that initial decision, then you’re never going to leave home.
To illustrate my point, here’s a list of situations that would qualify as “lucky to get to travel”:
- Inheriting $10,000 from a dead uncle, redeemable only as plane tickets
- Tripping and falling into a wormhole that transports you to a beach in Thailand
- Being diagnosed with a disease than can only be cured by soaking in Icelandic hot springs
- Being kidnapped by Carmen Sandiego
In contrast, here are some of the choices made by long-term travelers:
- Fixing a budget and sticking to it
- Working multiple jobs
- Not owning pets
- Selling plasma
- Not growing attached to house plants
- Not committing to long-term relationships
Does that sound lucky to you? Because it sounds to me like the normal sacrifices I make for the thing that I’m truly passionate about, the thing that makes my world go ’round.
Fortunately for short-term travelers, the list of decisions is much simpler:
- Pick a date
- Request the time off work far in advance
- Tell everyone you’re going so you can’t chicken out
- Figure out how much money to set aside every week or month to reach your goal
- Do that ^
- Buy a plane ticket
- Buy a guidebook or research your destination online (or wing it!)
- Find a neighbor or college student to feed your chinchilla and water your plants
- Board the plane
See, it’s a series of decisions, and not one of them is contingent on a bizarre inheritance or falling in a wormhole.
Now, I will readily admit that in one regard I am “lucky I get to travel”: I was raised in a stable and supportive middle class American family, and that has opened doors to me that may have otherwise remained closed. But the people who tell me I’m “lucky I get to travel” aren’t people from different socioeconomic situations–they’re my peers, my co-workers, my friends and family, my neighbors.
Despite this rant of mine, I don’t begrudge them their point of view. In a society where a life of travel is viewed as a decadent luxury most can’t afford, no wonder people look at my lifestyle with awe. But instead of agreeing with them, I want to educate them, to show them that no one “gets to” travel–they must choose to travel.
The moral of the story is this: if you sit around waiting for travel to happen to you, you’re never going to go anywhere.