“You are SO LUCKY!” We hear this phrase repeated constantly throughout our travels… from family and friends, people we run into in different countries, and comments on facebook and blog posts. Hmmm… “Lucky”?
Folks, IT’S NOT LUCK.
The word “luck” in the dictionary is defined as, “Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions… The things that happen to a person because of chance: the accidental way things happen without being planned.”
Our decision to travel was not a question of chance. We didn’t buy a lottery ticket or throw a set of dice. The “luck fairy” didn’t fly through the window one night and waive her magic wand over our heads and “poof!” we were on an airplane. Nope.
Our travels around the world all came about from many choices and sacrifices we both made, and a HECK of a lot of hard work and struggle to make it all happen. If our travels have occurred due to “luck,” then we consider luck to be when HARD WORK meets OPPORTUNITY.
I do understand it when people react the way they do to our travels and easily blurt out, “You’re SO lucky!” because from the outside they just see two people who don’t seem to have a lot of responsibilities at the moment, are able to take off work so “easily,” and seem to have a lot of money to afford to travel for an entire year all over the world… we seemingly have this wonderful and lucky life, right? If you don’t know all the facts or try to really understand the situation, I GET that people would think that way. And I try to always remind myself that everybody comes from different backgrounds and they may not necessarily have the knowledge, understanding, or tools it takes to plan and then “survive” an around-the-world trip… but sometimes that phrase really comes off as a bit offensive. Saying that we’re LUCKY is pretty much implying that it just came easy to us and there was no personal work involved in the matter. As if somebody handed us a stack of cash and an around-the-world trip on a silver platter and we were magically whisked away on an airplane in first class, with all hotels, trains, and planes booked for us, and then country after country we clink our champagne glasses in a little outdoor café as rainbows fill the sky and birds surround us in song. Hah… yea… I don’t think so! Traveling in general, and this round-the-world trip has only happened for us because of the hard choices and sacrifices we’ve personally made.
So when we hear, “You’re SO lucky! (to travel),” we just tell that person, “It’s NOT luck.”
However, we WILL admit this: We are FORTUNATE that we have been given the opportunities and blessings in life that have gotten us to where we are now: born into loving families, having good morals and ambition to pursue higher goals in life, having the brains, ambition, and financial backing to be able to attend college, having the personalities to be able to network and befriend a variety of people in different social circles, being taught throughout life to be frugal with money and learn where our priorities lie, and to be keen enough to spot opportunities in life and take advantage of them when they’ve come our way. We are FORTUNATE in life, but that’s different than LUCK. And if there’s anything we’ve learned so far from our travels, is we are SOOOOO FORTUNATE to be born in our country with the freedom and opportunities that we have here, because A LOT of other countries and people around the world do NOT have the same.
Just a little background on us: both James and I come from average middle-class families; we weren’t extremely rich nor were we extremely poor. Our parents worked damn hard in life to teach us good morals and give us a wealth of opportunities in life, and we’re very appreciative of that. We both worked hard in school, college, and our jobs to work our way up our career ladders over time. We’ve had fun, and yet we’ve made mistakes along the way. We have always been pretty frugal in our everyday lives, working hard and saving money, cutting corners when possible, and refraining from purchasing extravagant or unnecessary items (for the most part.) We have both put ourselves out there a LOT when it came to jobs and social circles in Los Angeles, which, in turn, created more lasting friendships and career opportunities down the road. We’ve both struggled with career choices and relationships, and have taken risks which have lead to both failures and successes, but have learned from these experiences and have become stronger and more knowledgeable in the end.
Most importantly, we took advantage of good opportunities in life when they were presented to us. We aren’t lucky, in theory, but I believe we all can “make” our own luck. And if you sacrifice and take smart risks, then you often will be rewarded for that. I recently read a really great article about serendipity and how there is scientific proof now that you make your own luck. Serendipity is defined as “a chance encounter or accident that leads to a happy—sometimes life changing—conclusion.” Without these encounters or accidents in life, along with somebody who saw the opportunity and took advantage of it, many of the most important inventions and discoveries would not have been made. When Alexander Fleming by chance noticed that there was mold in his Petri dish killing off the surrounding bacteria, penicillin was created… and when one man was attempting to invent a very strong adhesive and accidentally made a very weak one instead, Post It notes were invented. Both men were not planning to invent or create such unique items, but they were open minded and sharp enough to see an opportunity when it was presented, and they WENT with it!
So here’s the question: why does it seem that some people out there are just “luckier” than others? Well, chances are they were not luckier—they were just more willing to take risks, quicker to spot and seize opportunities, and more relaxed and open minded in general. According to this article I read about creating your own luck, “Unlucky people miss opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. To create more luck in life, be more outgoing: the more people you are in touch with, the more chance encounters you are likely to have. Also, be prepared to deviate from plans. Unlucky people hate to break their routine. Serendipity smiles on people who try new things instead of worrying about what could go wrong.”
So I guess if I really think about those statements, then I can say that in many ways, James and I have both created our own luck throughout our lives and also with this around-the-world adventure.
But that also goes without mentioning the hard choices and sacrifices we had to make to take this trip. We had to quit and/or turn away jobs, surrender our apartments and vehicles, leave all of our friends and family behind, walk away from everything normal, routine and familiar to us, and abandon ourselves to the “black hole” of uncertainty that lie ahead. After only a year and a half of dating, James and I had to take a leap of faith in each other and just BELIEVE that we would–and COULD–make it through in one piece, TOGETHER. We had to miss many holiday gatherings with our families, watch our friends’ kids grow up over facebook (instead of in person), and James continued to turn down important jobs back home, questioning over and over if these were the right choices to make. And since travel exposes you to a wide array of cultures and beliefs and gives you a LOT of time to think about your life, we often struggled—or you could even say we suffered—from that “lost” feeling of, “What do I want to do with my life?” and CONSTANTLY questioning past failures and decisions in life… which can be pretty troubling and worrisome day after day. And all along the way, we were faced with the fact that we have NO IDEA what the HECK we’ll do with our lives once we return back to the U.S. and have to attempt to assimilate back into everyday life again.
Yes… it’s a lot. But that’s life. And the point is: nothing in life comes to you without a bit of risk and sacrifice. Good things in life and luck, in general, are not things that are handed to you for free; you have to work for them.
You can do anything you want to do in life, but doing great things takes great sacrifice and risk.
Now get out there (and maybe make it your upcoming New Years Resolution!), let your guard down, and abandon yourself to serendipity… you never know what great adventure it will lead you to next!