June 4, 2012

"You're So Lucky..."

It seems like an innocent statement - "You're so lucky to be able to take this trip." And it may seem strange or unfair that I take issue with it, but I do.

I live far away from my family and closest friends, which is sometimes a tough thing. But I live where I do because I love the lifestyle and culture here in SF. It's expensive to live in San Francisco, and we work hard to support this lifestyle. This kind of hard work is no different than the kind of hard work anyone puts into their lives and priorities. You decide to have a family, so you work hard at that. You decide to buy a home, so you work hard to buy that home or to maintain it. No one would tell you that "you're so lucky" to live in your own home. They would congratulate you on working hard towards that goal and achieving it.

I don't believe in fate, so maybe that has something to do with my opinion on this matter, but I think attributing someone's successes to "luck" is an insult. Maybe it's not meant that way, but I think it's sometimes said pointedly, and I don't like it. I've dealt with this kind of comment for the past 8 years, as I've chosen to make my life elsewhere than most of my close friends. (Note: my close friends don't make these comments or, if they ever did, they understand my feelings on the topic now and don't any longer.) "You're so lucky to live in California." "You're so lucky to take vacations." "You're so lucky to be able to take this trip."

I agree that, compared to much of the world, I'm fortunate...but I'm not fortunate because I live in this place or experience the things I do. I'm fortunate because, while my childhood wasn't perfect, it established a pretty decent baseline for life. I'm fortunate to be in a place where my hard work can allow me to live in this place or experience the things important to me, just as most of the people in my life are fortunate that their hard work can allow them to live how they live and experience the things important to them. I'm fortunate to live in a time that gives me options for my life and that provides me with infinite possibilities.

The life I lead is a result of my priorities and of the choices I have made - the same as every other person. To live in this city and to travel to new places, Tom and I have, at times, both worked hard at jobs that don't fulfill our dreams or make us incredibly happy. We don't have cable TV, or new cars, or big screen TVs. We don't own a home or a boat or have a trampoline in the backyard (we don't even have a backyard). And we don't have kids yet. We choose to do without those things because living in this place, in this culture, and traveling to new places is a priority for us right now - they're higher priorities to us than those other things. It's 100% fine if you choose not to travel or not to live in a "fancy" city because you want a split-level home with a 2-car garage, a new vehicle every few years and 200 different TV channels...or because your children are your priority (which, if you have them, they should be). Those are awesome, understandable (and sometimes enviable) things to have. You've made that choice to achieve your version of success. So I'm offended when "luck" instead of "hard work" is credited for me achieving my version of success. And, if this version of success is so great that you can't imagine how anyone could be so "lucky" to live it, then maybe you should consider rearranging your priorities.

Put another way, when a friend has awesome, well-behaved, interesting kids, I don't say, "You're so lucky your kids are so well-behaved, polite, and interesting." I say, "YOU'VE done such a great job with your kids! They're polite, well-behaved, and interesting. Congratulations!" Calling it "luck" is an insult to all the late nights and early mornings, to all the life lessons and constant reminders to say "please" and "thank you" that that parent has surely had to do in order to raise such amazing children.

When we decided to plan this trip, we had to prioritize even more. We moved into a MUCH cheaper apartment that we didn't really like (though it's grown on us). Neither of us have purchased new clothes or gadgets in almost 9 months (unless it's for The Trip). Our Christmas gifts to each other were things for the trip and we didn't exchange birthday gifts. A "special night out" these days consists of a taco stand and a Netflix movie. Our entire summer plans revolve around free or very cheap activities, like camping. And, in addition to living on a tight budget, we are putting a lot of effort into our personal health (getting as healthy and fit as possible before we put ourselves through the ringer on The Trip), the health of our marriage (we're going to be spending A LOT of time together), and the health of our friendships (that we very much want to survive a one-year hiatus).

And the prioritizing doesn't stop when we leave for our travels. Our goal on this trip is to experience as many new things as possible, and we're doing so in a way that few people ever travel. We'll be in hostels and homestays much of the time (for $3-20/night). We won't be eating in restaurants...hardly ever (maybe for my birthday?!?!). We're traveling over land as much as possible to avoid costs of airfare, which means hours on old busses, bouncing down awful roads. We aren't taking this trip on a whim. This is something we have worked very hard for and that, even while traveling, we'll continue to sacrifice for, because we have made it a priority to have these experiences.

Now, I know that some people are in much different circumstances than me, and I'm not talking to those people. I'm not talking to the people who are living in poverty and struggling to rise above it. I'm not talking to the people who have been afflicted with poor health and have limited options in life because of it. I'm talking to the middle class (which is exactly where Tom and I reside). I'm talking to the people who, like me, have chosen their priorities and have busted their asses to make their lives work.

I do live an incredible life. It's the perfect life for me, right now. I'm pretty happy with my priorities and the choices I've made to create this life. It comes with bumps, but it's pretty damn good. And luck has nothing to do with it.


  1. Hi Stephanie!
    While I have never been on such a long trip (and actually on a side note decided it was not for me) I have travelled a lot and have experienced the same comments "you're so lucky to travel to ... (any country)" while few people realise that is a priority and it's how I decide to use the money and time I have.
    Travel is still seen as a privilege and not as a life choice. And specially not as an opportunity to learn, grow, manage, deal with stress and conflict and get all this amazing skills that help us in life.

    I wish you guys the best of luck for you amazing year!I'll pop here to follow your trip.

    Ps: Have you considered "couchsurfing"? I am in the network and must tell you it's a really really great way of travelling and meeting new people.

    1. Hey Sara! Thanks for your note - happy to know other travelers feel the same way! We have considered couchsurfing and would still look into it. However - there are 2 of us, which can make it difficult. Not to mention, lodging in many of the places we're going (India, for example) can be found for so cheap. We are looking at homestays quite a bit though - not just to save $$, but to be more immersed in a culture while traveling. I.CAN'T.WAIT!!!! 26 days!

    2. Hi Stephanie!
      Well try to give it a try. We are usually 2 too, it was never a problem. It's not only for the budget control is really for the experience of living with someone local!
      But yeah, homestay is a similar experience.
      Have fuuun!

  2. I just saw a comment you posted on oh happy day about the "im lucky" thing and clicked over. i am excited to read more of your posts, especially once you travel!
    you are certainly not alone in feeling annoyed when someone tells you that you are lucky. i am 23 and while a lot of young people travel, from the small town where i went to high school, it is highly uncommon to move abroad (i moved to australia for a year in december..only a few months left unfortunately!). i have heard that comment so many times. i want to scream when i hear it!! i am "lucky" that i have amazing parents that have supported me through university but since then i have been on my own. but i am not lucky that i got a job, an apartment in a new city, saved my money for a year while i worked, and then moved abroad. i worked hard. i researched a ton. i was nervous. i was scared (the days leading up to it i kept thinking "ohhh my god what did i get myself into. i have made a huge mistake"). i am SO PROUD of myself for doing this. a lot of my extended family is from small towns, havent traveled, etc. and they do not understand. i know my parents and grandparents are very proud of me (my grandpa said before i left- " i CANNOT believe im gonna have a granddaughter that lives in australia...i just cant believe it". it was such a good moment.

    this is way too long. but congratulations on making your trip work. cannot wait to read about it!!

    1. Hi Caitie! Congratulations on your year in Australia! That's awesome! My husband did a year in Australia and New Zealand between high school and college, so he's particularly fond of the area. You should be very proud of yourself and, I'm sure that your successes (in travel and otherwise) won't end here! Thanks for reading!