Yesterday I was on a boat travelling across the breathtaking Lake Atitlan… I was on my way back to my hostel for a nap after climbing a volcano only days previously. Sounds amazing right? It was – even the being exhausted part was amazing! On this boat I met a 20 something lady from the USA. We got chatting and hit the usual backpacker topics “where have you been?” “where are you going?” “which volcano have you climbed?”. My new boat friend was taking a year backpacking and was only in her first two weeks… she was nervous and excited. She kept saying how “lucky” she was to have this opportunity.
After we parted ways I thought a lot about her, something irked me about our conversation. I loved her enthusiasm for travel and positivity – but I didn’t consider her lucky. Just as I don’t consider myself lucky. I made choices and I worked very hard to be sitting on a boat exhausted after climbing a volcano half the world away from home. Luck had nothing to do with it.
Since I turned 18, I have travelled extensively across the world – paying for each trip myself. There is no trust fund to finance my way across the globe. While my fellow class mates bought cars and houses, I saved every penny and bought plane tickets. Like my friends who were saving for a house deposit, I didn’t go out and party my money away, I rarely bought clothes and my family got home-made presents for christmas more than a few times. At times it was hard, especially when I wanted to go and see the new blockbuster or buy that little black dress that was WELL out of my price range. But at each temptation I made a choice to save those pennies and see the new James Bond film in New Orleans, to eat out at Tapas bars in Spain and buy two cute dresses at a market in Central America.
Now, yes in some senses I am very lucky – lucky to have been born in a country that gave me education and health care so that when I got a job there was some left over for travel after paying the bills. And I was also lucky to have parents who plonked me down in front of David Attenborough documentaries and answered my questions about the places he showed by pulling out an atlas. However, most of the people who tell me I am “lucky” have had similar advantages in life/birth. It is to them that I say – travel is about choices – you either choose to sacrifice something and travel, or you don’t.
I am generation Y – but I definitely don’t think I will ever have it “all”. I know that my life choice to travel will impact me entering into the property market for quite some time. A car is a useless expense to me, and most of my possessions are in my parents and friends garages. One day I will want a house, a car and stuff that fills more than 8 boxes – but right now my priority is to see as much of the world as I can.
As the new year approaches and you scroll through travel images on Instagram – ask yourself, what would you give up to travel? Would you stop partying every weekend? Stop buying clothes? Would you sell your car? Would you put off buying a house for a couple of years? If the answer is yes, then open a travel savings account and start hoarding those pennies. Every year I complete THIS TASK to work out what my top priorities are for the year ahead, try it and see what yours could be. Soon you too could climb a volcano, sip cocktails on a beach, learn to tango, eat steak tartar under the Eiffel Tower or swim with sharks. The world is a big place – and it’s a long life, make your own choice to be “lucky”.