Yes, I’m Lucky to Travel the World. and so Are You. Here’s Why

As I kayaked to the middle of the lake to watch the sunrise, I realized something: I had made it. No more self-doubts, no more soul-searching, no more nights of wondering about my financial future.

It was at this moment that I realized exactly who I was and what I wanted. I’m not saying this path is for everyone, you just need to follow your own personal dream, your own journey of wonders. And yes, live life to the fullest. You deserve it.

Do you want to know the secret behind my success? Talent, hard work and luck, lots of luck.

The importance of accepting that you are a lucky person

Most people at the top will always have the arrogance to claim that they made it there all because of themselves and will actually get defensive if you start to imply that luck had anything to do with their success. And trust me, they are wrong.

Today there are many people more talented than I who are complete unknowns thanks to the fact that they are not lucky enough to have obtained the same opportunities that I had. And the complete opposite is also true.  Still not convinced?

Just think about it for one second. Did you choose the country where you were born? Did you choose the family that raised you? Did you choose your mentors during your growing years? No, you didn’t. Those were all random acts of fate. Luck, if you want to call it that way.

For every baby born to a wealthy family, there are millions of babies born in the ghettos of poverty. A small percentage of them will rise and become wealthy themselves, the majority of them will not. And it’s not because they are worse people than the rich ones, it’s simply because they were unlucky enough to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I cannot understand how people can say “I’m proud to be (insert country name here)”. Did they really choose that nationality? Or was it just a matter of luck? Would you dare to say “I’m proud to have red auburn hair?”, “I’m proud to have white skin?”, “I’m proud to have wealthy parents?”, “I’m proud to have been born without any genetic defects?”.

It sounds stupid because you didn’t choose to have red hair, to be white, to be born wealthy or to come to this world without any genetic defects. It just happened. It was pure luck. Deal with it.

Why I’m not offended when people say I’m lucky to travel

I get it. We travelers have made a lot of sacrifices to do the things we do and yes, some of us are easily offended by comments such as “you are lucky to travel the world like you do” because we feel that it somehow diminishes our sacrifices but hey, think about this for a second:

I am lucky to have been born in a country that doesn’t have as many visa restrictions as other nations. I am lucky to have been born into a family that prioritized education over pointless luxuries. I am lucky to have been born healthy and without any genetic defects that could have affected my upbringing.

I am lucky to have been born in a society that doesn’t value talent and hard work, thus, giving me the incentive to carve my own path. I am lucky to have had amazing mentors that educated me about the importance of languages and culture. I am lucky to have been able to master a specific set of skills that allows me to work from anywhere in the world.

I am lucky to have the complete support of my friends and family in this journey of mine. I am lucky to have the encouragement of my readers. I am lucky to be alive.

So yes, I am very lucky to have the right circumstances that allows me to travel all year-long without having to worry about money, visas and health. Not many people have the same luck and it’s important for us to understand and respect that.

I get e-mails all the time from readers asking for advice about how to have the same lifestyle I have and my answer is always the same: “It depends on your specific circumstances, nationality and marketable skills”.

There is no magic formula and yes, some people got unlucky in the lottery of life so traveling the world is way more difficult for them than for the rest us… but far from impossible.

Whenever someone tells you how lucky you are, don’t get mad. Embrace it. And yes, it is always important to give some luck back to the rest of the world because in the end luck is that special moment where talents meets opportunity and yes, there’s always space at the top for more than one.

Today I’m feeling lucky. How about you? What are you thankful for today? :)

Fake smoking a Cuban cigar. Why not?

Fake smoking a Cuban cigar. Why not?

36 Responses

  1. Alli

    Hmm… I understand what you’re trying to say here, Raphael, especially how we are lucky to be born with some clear advantages over others (health, wealth, etc). But I disagree with your point in not understanding how people can say “I’m proud to be _______ (nationality).”

    I am extremely proud to be Canadian. I didn’t choose to be Canadian, but I am. I wouldn’t want to live in any other country but Canada. I love everything Canada stands for and I feel I have the right to exclaim the pride I have for my country. (Obviously days like Canada Day, Independence Day, and Cinco de Mayo are days that commemorate this . . . and I see nothing wrong with that).

    No, we didn’t CHOOSE to be a certain nationality, even if it IS what some would call lucky, but we are who we are. We can’t do anything to change that.

    Even if someone wasn’t born “white,” or with “wealthy parents” and in fact born with “a genetic defect,” they still have the ability to be proud of who they are!!!

    • Yvonne

      I am little confused by your statement about having the right to be proud for your country and then you give the examples of Canada Day and then Cinco de Mayo and Independence Day …. Are you are aware that these days are not in celebration of anything remotely Canadian?

      • Alli

        Yes, of course I am. I gave those as examples of national holidays for citizens of Canada, US, and Mexico to celebrate their country.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      There’s a big difference between embracing who you are and being proud about it. Pride is a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of one’s close associates, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired (according to the Oxford dictionary).

      Being born in a certain way is no achievement by itself. I could understand you saying “I’m happy of being Canadian” or “I’m proud of Canada’s achievements” but saying “I’m proud to be Canadian” is, quite frankly, silly. You did nothing to earn it. It was pure luck.

      • Alli

        I suppose I just don’t feel the need to justify the feelings I have so objectively word for word from a dictionary.

      • Raphael Alexander Zoren

        It seems to me that you’re confusing pride with another type of feeling (happiness perhaps?). Remember that pride is one of the seven capital sins according to a certain religion ;)

  2. Tim

    I am very proud to be a Kiwi and very proud of many things in my life; some were in my control, some were not. Luck is often, more than not, the result of hard work, effort, and persistence and I think you would agree with that. Luck is the sidekick of passion and it is passion that must come before anything else.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      How can you be proud (a sense of achievement) about things that were beyond your control? I think you’re confusing pride with happiness. You’re happy to be Kiwi, I’m happy to be Mexican.

      And yes, I agree. Passion is vital to a life of success! :)

      • Vesper

        As you correctly stated earlier, pride is defined as pleasure or satisfaction, but it does not need to come from one’s own actions, achieved goals, etc. Although it can, the satisfaction can also come from ‘qualities or possessions that are widely admired,’ as well as ‘the best state of something; the prime’ (in definition 1.2 of PRIDE in the Oxford Dictionary). Therefore, one could be proud to be a Kiwi, an Australian, a French woman, etc. in virtue of the qualities widely admired that are associated with such a country. Taking the former, one’s feeling of dignity as associated with widely-admired qualities could swell a sense of pride based on positive qualities (especially in the foreign/travel arena) that have nothing to do with one’s own personality, individuality, and achievements. Things such as: the love of wine, cheese and work/life balance (France); standing up for what you believe in, patriotism, loyalty (USA); stoicism, frugality, and good sense of humor (Germany), etc.

        Obviously there are widely-admired qualities of many different countries and to derive satisfaction from such qualities or otherwise to believe as in the latter definition in ‘the prime’ of one’s country…this is a good sense of pride. (Also not as you suggest the kind of pride discussed as a deadly sin in both the Torah, the Bible, and many other religious articles that discuss the fallibility and weakness of human kind.)

  3. Yara Coelho

    I hear that all the time… How lucky I am to travel everywhere all the time.

    I have a mix of lucky and serious hard work going on for me.

    I’m lucky and privileged to be European, therefore I have basically no visa restrictions. I’m healthy, well educated, speak 3 languages fluently which opens a lot of doors, but… I’m traveling extensively and working at the same time to support my expenses, nothing comes for free. Sometimes I work 10 hours a day, getting a minimum wage, just because it’s a job at a specific location I want to live or experience.

    Probably an Indian or African wouldn’t have the same opportunities because of their nationality and most doors would be closed for them. I think about that a lot….

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      Very good points, Yara. You’re lucky to be born in a nation part of the biggest mobility program ever to exist, you’re lucky to be born female and healthy too.

      I cannot help but feel bad for the hypothetical Muslim Sub-Saharan African young woman who wants to be an au pair in Europe but gets rejected time after time due to the color of her skin, her religion and her nationality.

    • Antara

      Not sure where you got the ” most doors closed for Indians” bit. I just returned from a trip to Scandinavia yesterday. I have had the opportunity to travel to many other countries in the past as well. Never faced any closed doors as such. Agreed there is a visa requirement to visit most countries, its just another step like buying flight tickets. Once that is out of the way we can travel where we want.

  4. Suzanne Fluhr

    I think I’d describe the way I feel as “grateful”. I guess feeling “lucky” is part of feeling grateful. Grateful is more subjective. Some people might not be grateful to have my life — 25 years in the crash and burn lane of full time lawyering — but, married to the right person (for me) whose job provides us with many travel opportunities where I get to be a happy, empty nester, trailing spouse. And, yes, grateful to have been born in the US of A. I’m not sure we’re more eff’d up than other countries, but whenever we screw up, you can read about it (or watch it on CNN) all over the world. (Quick: name the prime minister of New Zealand. If you drew a blank. I rest my case. Did you even know that New Zealand has a prime minister?) And now, maybe I should go remove that red maple leaf from my back pack :-)
    PS: The PM of NZ is The Right Honorable John Key. He has been PM since 2008. He was an investment banker. (What did we do before the internet? It probably would have involved leaving one’s house for a trip to the library to find this out.)

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      I did know that NZ had a Prime Minister…but I don’t think anyone outside of Middle-Earth knows who he is! Most people would probably just say Peter Jackson since that’s the only world-famous Kiwi! :D

  5. Jasmine

    nice post !
    yes i feel that i am lucky to have been born in a country where it is possible financially and visa wise to travel almost anywhere that one wishes.. lucky to be healthy enough to travel – lucky to have supportive family who after uni did not ‘push’ for me to follow a 9-5 career but to follow what makes me happy.. lucky that when i travel i am not questioned or needing to provide my financial details because of the passport i have..
    but proud ? i would not say that i am proud to come from the country i do – for many reasons but mostly because i am ashamed of government actions and of the waste of foods/resources that occurs here .. i am lucky yes, proud of my achievements yes, but proud of where i come from – no. great post as always – i really enjoy reading

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      Awesome thoughts, Jasmine! It really adds a new dimension to the whole pride argument. Can anyone be truly proud to be part of a country that has done hurtful things to its own citizens and to others? Great food for thought.

  6. Rob Tullis

    Some of your points are valid and some aren’t, being proud of things you didn’t achieve or things that you just happened such as nationality and physical features is silly.
    However saying your lucky because you have a travel lifestyle is ridiculous. I had this very same argument with a young lady telling me we were lucky to travel, obviously we made a lot of sacrifices in order to have this lifestyle. Her biggest argument as to why we were lucky and she wasn’t, was because of where we were born and were she was born. She was born in Mexico. Same place where you were born, yet you travel and she doesn’t. There is nothing lucky about you mastering the skills you needed in order to live anywhere, you worked at it, you found amazing mentors, you were open to even having mentors, you choose your friends you didn’t luck out.
    There are many people in Australia, Canada, US, Mexico, the Euro Union, about 1 billion 500 million, are as “lucky” as us but very few are doing things that they truly want to do and living a life that they truly want.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      I think the point she was trying to articulate is that it is way harder for her to achieve the same thing that you have already accomplished. And that’s a very valid argument.

      I never want to paint myself as a underdog (which I’m definitely not) but the truth is that being a successful digital nomad from a developing country is very hard when it comes to crossing borders since all officers are trained to think of visitors from developing countries as potential illegal immigrants.

      It sounds extremely ridiculous to think that a skilled freelancer would ever consider to move illegally to a developing country such as Belize (yes, Belize) to work in menial minimum wage jobs but if said freelancer is from Mexico…it sure raises more red alerts than if said freelancer was from Australia or Europe.

      There is a social stigma associated with genetic (gender, color of the skin) and socio-political (nationality, religion, sexual orientation) factors that are out of your control. That is, pure bad luck.

      • Alli

        I find it offensive that you would attribute the phrase “pure bad luck” to the certain variables you mentioned above: gender, skin colour, sexual orientation, etc.

      • Raphael Alexander Zoren

        It’s bad luck because they were born with social handicaps that makes them target to discrimination and stigmas as well as making life harder for them.

        I’m all for accepting who you are but that’s not to say that the majority of economically successful people in this world all fit one criteria: White straight males that were born in first-world Christian countries. If you were not born like that, you have bad luck since life will be harder for you.

        Think of life as a videogame. White straight males born in Christian first-world countries start on the easy setting (if they’re also wealthy, they automatically start at the winning post!) while any other gender, minority or preference start in the medium to hard difficulty.

        A Guatemalan bisexual Muslim handicapped girl starts in the extremely extra hard almost-impossible to win difficulty.

  7. roadrunner

    Thank you so much for sharing your feeling and point of view. I’m a traveller too and I feel just the same way, I’m so glad to feel identified. It is not easy at all to find this balance but totally fulfills you when you do. Enjoy the journey and wherever it takes you, I always say: nothing ventured, nothing gained! :)

  8. Karisa

    Nice post, Raphael! I feel extremely lucky that I have a family who encouraged me my whole life, who valued my education and who now accept that I live a life of travel rather than a normal American life!

  9. Justin

    I going to have to basically disagree with this whole thing. Unless you’re a trust fund baby, or just have rich parents that will pay your way to travel, luck has nothing to do with it. I grew up in a middle class family and was never given anything free or excess. Same with all my friends. I believe to be a hardcore budget traveler, you just have to have the right state of mind. My friends back home, who grew up in the exact same circumstances, all say “wow you’re so luck to travel the world”. I ask them how?? I make it happen on my own. No help. We have the same opportunities. No money. No help. No special skills that are sought after all over the world. But i make it happen. I left home 4 years ago with $400 to my name and never returned and never received help from anyone. Can’t call that luck. I would’nt tell my readers that its all a matter of luck, because they like to make the excuse that I am just luckier than they are. I’m not.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      You grew up in a middle class family in the USA. That’s already privileged enough if you compare your situation to middle class families in the Latin World, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia or South East Asia.

      Yes, you are not luckier than your peers from back home. But you are luckier than your peers from other countries. 400 USD is already more than what a Cambodian middle-class father earns in 6 months.

  10. Victoria

    You’ve touched a nerve here Raphael as I know lots of people feel guilty about their “fortunate” circumstances. I would describe myself as both lucky and proud to be a British person. It’s true that I had no control over my sex, genetics, or creed but I certainly took advantage of it LOL! My parents were upper middle class, I went to an independent private school, and I never had to work until I left university however, that does not bring you success, it only pathes the way, but it doesn’t keep the door open, if you know what I mean.

    In the world that we live in, you still have to make your own choices and hope that they are the right ones. To live “a full, interesting life”, you need to take risks, uphold challenges, and feel a sense of achievement, and self-independence. In that wise, I’m lucky that I have a family that allows me to do that, a nationality that enables me to travel pretty much wherever I want to, a skin colour that breaks the ice, a sex that attracts attention, and a character and personality that is so independent; it borders on arrogance.
    Thanks for sharing. :)

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      Well said Victoria, it’s all about taking risks although I am fortunate enough to understand that some people simply cannot said those risks since they have so many responsibilities and previous commitments that drags them down. If life were a Videogame, 90% of the people of the world start playing in the “very difficult” setting just because they were not born in the “right place with the right family”.

  11. Ruth

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been stressing on the fact that as a Philippine passport holder, I’ve got all these visa restrictions. If I could buy ‘citizenship.’

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      I agree Ruth, for some nationalities, backpacking around the world is not easy even if they have the same qualifications and money as backpackers of wealthier countries.

  12. Bronwyn Joy

    Love this post. Sure, luck is rarely enough on its own, but it’s certainly hard to get by without any of the stuff.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      A wise man said: “Luck is when opportunity meets talent” and I fully agree. Luck alone will get people nowhere unless they know how to take advantage of it.