Why I Am Not One Lucky Bastard

One Lucky Bastard?
One common thread I’ve noticed when people interact with me is that they will often refer to me as being “lucky”.

“You are so lucky to be able to travel that much!”

“You are so lucky to have visited Fiji!”

“You are so lucky to have gone to the Rugby World Cup!”

With my latest trip to Antarctica the “lucky” cries have grown even louder.

I understand that no one intends to be disrespectful when they say I’m lucky, but I want to make it clear that luck has nothing to do with it.

Luck implies some sort of random chance. Luck implies circumstances outside of my control.

Everything I’ve done I did because I wanted to do it. I made a conscious effort to travel around the world. I made hard decisions about selling my house and moving away from my friends and family.

I will be the first to admit that I have been very fortunate to have done all the things I’ve done, and I’m grateful every day to live the life that I do, but it isn’t a matter of luck.

The only people who are lucky in travel are game show contestants. Everyone else needs to make a choice.

If you desire to see the world, you need to make it a priority in your life. You can’t just wish that “someday” you will get to travel. As Creedence Clearwater Revival so eloquently stated, “someday never comes“.

Once you make the decision that you are going to take that big trip, the hard part is done. The rest is planning and saving.

Don’t rely on luck.

86 Replies to “Why I Am Not One Lucky Bastard”

  1. What a great post Gary! I just came across your blog and this post. Simple and to the point. I remember when I wound down my life in San Diego and left with two suitcases to move to China, so many people said the same things to me. But there was really very little luck involved, and required a lot more deliberate focus, determination, and willingness to fail that enabled the transition to be a success.

  2. I just found your blog and have enjoyed looking around. I know what you mean, I get this all the time. I think you are really “lucky” though – you were born into circumstances that allowed you to make the choices you did, and to have citizenship that lets you travel easily. There are the people that could travel, but choose not to, and to them I say that I am lucky to travel just as they are lucky to have big families, or jobs that they are passionate about – whatever it is that is their priority. Luck is, after all, mostly hard work, but there’s also opportunity. There are also the people, that desire it as much as I do, and work harder than I do toward it, and have no chance in hell. What do you say to a girl in a backwater town in Burma when she says that you are lucky to travel? Yeah, lucky. Lucky I wasn’t born somewhere where I was forced to marry as a child, lucky I was educated, and could earn enough money to put my dreams in place. Just appreciate it and keep living the dream!

  3. I totally agree too! Travelling is a conscious decision to put seeing the world before friends, family and a secure life. When people say that I am ‘lucky’, I really want to say tell them what’s in your post. Thanks so much.

  4. My sentiments exactly. I hate when people say I am lucky to have traveled so much – luck has nothing to do with it. You said it so nicely! :D

  5. I absolutely love this! It is certainly something I’ve heard a lot of, and it annoys me. I agree- none of it was “luck”- maybe “fortunate” could work, but not lucky.

  6. “You were so lucky to obtain that promotion”

    “You were so lucky to win the Nobel Prize”

    “You were so lucky to buy a car”

    Said no one ever. It annoys me that people cannot understand that we can afford to travel because we work hard and make sacrifices. A trip to a far away place is OUR promotion, OUR Nobel Prize, OUR car.

  7. I agree completely. Most things in life is our decision. Luck is a bonus factor. Way to go Gary!!! Keep up the good work and keep inspiring us. :)

  8. I’m also part of the “lucky bastards’ club”.
    Some people are full of envy when they use the “lucky” term, but traveling is more about what I call: travel literacy.
    If I’ll ever have the possibility, I’ll open a “lucky bastard traveler’s bar” and invite you as a “guest of honor”, Gary!

  9. I’m in the “lucky bastards’ club” myself! It’s been bothering, offensive and hilarious, but I started enjoying it lately.
    Quite often unsupportive green-of-envy people use this “lucky” term. But I just feel better for enjoying life more than them.
    If I’ll ever have the possibility, I’ll launch a “lucky bastard’s bar” or something with a very similar name and invite you Gary as a “guest of honour” :D Ha ha ha

  10. Touché!

    Although you (and all of us here who have the ability to type on a gadget that we can afford) are lucky that we have these abilities and facilities (as compared to 90% of the world’s population), this luck has nothing to do with the conscious decision that you have made to dedicate your life to travelling. At the end of the day, this is also your work, and that is what these people don’t understand :)

    Carry on doing what you do best – exploring !

    Cheers

  11. I agree wholeheartedly! I understand and appreciate the sentiment behind the “lucky” comments, but it undermines the hard work and deliberate action this sort of lifestyle requires. Some lucky opportunities have come across my path, for sure, but for the most part my nomadic life has been fueled by a little dreaming and a lot of elbow grease! Thanks for the post.

  12. Could not agree more! I’m still in the planning stages, but continue to hear how lucky I am….my usual response is, “you could do it too!” I don’t think people realize how much money we spend on insignificant materialistic items or how many excuses we tend to make for ourselves. It isn’t luck that you carry, but drive and passion!

  13. Gary this really hits home for me, you nailed it. We live by the choices we make. I made the very touch decision as a single mother to abandon my career as a surgical technologist in order to pursue my passion for travel. I work at a high end restaurant part time where I make a decent living which allows me to invest in my dreams. Setting that example for my 4yr old is empowering.

    A simple thing I tell everyone that will listen, “Invest in yourself, pursue what you love, and you will do great things.”

    Thanks for posting this Gary, people need to wake up and be accountable for their lives. Maybe you inspired someone through this to get off their ass and live. What a cool thing to do.

    Best,

    Christa Thompson

  14. Freedom – what an amazing adventure :) continued happy travels.

    Sweetie
    Merimbula, Australia

  15. Yes. I feel the same, whe n they el me Im lucky. Sorry, but luck did not come to me to have a life that makes me very satisfied every day and night. I went for it. Totally agree!!! well said!

  16. I agree with you; It is not about luck, it is about desire and the ability to do something about it. But at the same time: You were lucky enough to meet inspiring people, people that made you feel it would actually be possible. weren’t you? At least that was the case with me; I am a frequent traveller and I put almost all my free time into travel and food – planning, executing, and going through and documenting the memories afterwards, while i am planning for the next. It is a passion. But I was lucky in the sence that I met the right people, people that impacted my way of thinking. It is not until now I am daring to fully cut the work-likeline and go out to travel and learn. It’s been a process, even though I have been travelling since I was very young; But then in a different way.

  17. By citing luck as the reason you’re able to travel, people absolve themselves of responsibility for doing what it takes to travel (or execute on anything by the way) It’s an innocuous turn of phrase but I think it reinforces stasis in one’s life if you’re not careful.

  18. Hi Gary, I am part of mr grays GCSE year 10 class, i really like your blog mate it’s really good. One question – how much money do you have left?

  19. Hear, hear! I also have traveled a lot and I get the same response. Jealous! Lucky! You made your choices, and I made mine. There are things they have that I would also like to have in addition to my travels but life is sacrifices and choices and I certainly don’t call them out on it. Fortunate and grateful, sure. Lucky to be born where I was and not in Nigeria or Ethiopia or Iran for that matter, ok, but , well, you already know. Thanks for the excellent post.

  20. First the so lucky question, then the ‘don’t you miss home’! Since I’ve started the nomadic lifestyle, I don’t think I’ve worked harder!

  21. This is a great post, Gary. You do a nice job making a clear argument in a concise format.

    But I have to agree with a few other commenters that for a blog about the whole world, not mentioning that maybe only 1/20 people is born into a middle class background in the developed world, or probably less, is an important omission.

    Great work with the blog. I’m subscribing.

  22. LOVE IT!!

    I was just reading this allowed to my current travel companion and she asked if I wrote it!! We had recently had this same discusion regarding the ‘luck’. Luck has nothing to do with it….hard work and determination are my foundations.

  23. I agree, you make your own luck in life. It’s not like you were sitting around and someone presented you this blog with a pot o gold to pay for your travel. The word ‘luck’ annoys me in this context – winning the lottery is luck – working your butt off to achieve something isn’t!

  24. I agree 100%. You wished, planned, and seized your opportunities. I try to do the same thing, even if it is a short trip. Life is short and when those times present themselves you must take advantage. Carpe Diem!

  25. This is so true! Whatever sitaution we are in, we have the 90% to change it and it is just 10% for the surrounding factors. :)

  26. Hi Gary, I understand how you feel about luck. I’ve been married 20 years and have a good life. We have enough for our needs and have sent our kids to good school and have travelled some and plan to travel more. People say we’re lucky, but we have worked hard and grabbed our luck when it came. Yes, we are lucky, but we’ve reached for it and grabbed with both hands! Good on you Gary!

  27. True, we make choices based on our own sense of autonomy and socio-economic circumstances. Of course, not every had a house (capital) to sell and front load a wonderful life of carefree adventure. There are also many who cannot obtain visas freely like an American first- world citizen; think of the displaced, refugees, dispossess and ordinary migrant who seeks bare survival in the rough and tumble of globalization and warfare. Most immigrant based diasporas were historically fueled not by the love of adventure or living to learn – but from living up to norms of mutual obligation and remittances to support less fortunate folk at home….. But your point is well- taken. If you have the means and have better control of your destiny, go see the world and learn how the increasing majority of our human neighbors live barely while they struggle on less tha $ 1 a day…. Ciaobella!

  28. It is not about luck, it is about whether you are prepared to break out of the standard norm, leave your social circle and break those routines. Some people expect chances to fall into their lap and because of this, they actually miss all the chances that are smack bang in their face

  29. This part of your post made me laugh so hard: “With my latest trip to Antarctica the “lucky” cries have grown even louder” I can only imagine how much work it has been to create a life for yourself that has let you travel.

    When I was younger I had no money, but wanted to see the world so I worked on a cruise ship. It was HARD, but so worth it. Sometimes it just takes a little (or a lot) of determination to get to where you want to get to. Kudos to you for having that determination. You serve as a great source of inspiration for many of us.

  30. I think you’re not lucky! Well…you’ve build up your luck! You probably had a drem, that is travelling worldwide, and tried to realize it and you succeded in it!! So!! you’re very lucky bastard :)

  31. Hey Gary… I’m new to the blog and I already love it. (I’m an avid traveler and adventurer and look forward to reading more!) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten the, “you’re so lucky” or “of course you got to do that… you always luck out…” phrases for opportunities that I worked hard to CREATE. And even if “luck” was at all involved (most of the time it isn’t), it was because I put myself in a position to raise the odds in my favor. Its like four numbered balls represent four different “contestants” in a lottery drawing… and the more you work toward your goals, the more balls you’re allowed to submit into the drawing…. At the end of the day, you have 500 balls (because your worked HARD for what you want) and the other three people have 2 or 3 each. At this point, the other three contestants are the only ones depending on luck.

    Either way… touche, Gary!

  32. Thank you for all this words. It’s really inspirational.
    I’ll suggest you to visit Montevideo, It’s not far from my house (about 800km) and it’s a very nice city, with good food and history as well.
    Best wishes.

  33. Great post and site. I live abroad now and travel a tremendous amount, and when I go home I get a lot of the “you’re lucky.” As many others have agreed with you, luck really doesn’t have much to do with it. I worked hard to get a role abroad, I save money to allow me to travel and I make the effort to do the things I want to do.

  34. I completely agree. Luck has nothing to do with where we end up! It’s about the sacrifices made to get what we want.

  35. I don’t really see the point to this post. You are not going to change people’s mind that think you are a lucky bastard. Honestly you may have worked hard to be able to follow your dreams but my personal belief is anyone that is able to achieve their personal dreams is a lucky bastard. I would just see it as a compliment and get on with your dream life. I was able to take 2 years off work and see the world even thought I sacrificed a lot to do this I still consider myself a lucky bastard. Personally travel makes my lucky bastard feeling even stronger when you see the hard life of so many people in the world have just because where they were born.

  36. I’m sure every traveler feels a resonance with this.

    I always find it interesting by the way when I get the same “lucky” comments about moving to my current city of Amsterdam (doing an astronomy PhD here). I’m obviously happy to end up here because I love it and applying for a PhD feels very luck of the draw, but I’m pretty sure my hard work and experience counted for a lot more when my adviser picked me to work for him!

  37. Gary, you identified a significant component of the sheer enjoyment of travel: planning. Sure, the journey, the arrival, the sights, the people, and the food are exciting, but it is the child-like anticipation that thrills me just as much. The more I plan, the better time I have. Plan. Go. Return. Repeat. Keep feeding us with your perspectives and we’ll keep sharing ours. Best regards, Dave.

  38. You are 100% right! I get sick of people saying I am lucky! I worked incredibly hard for 30+ years to be able to travel far and wide now! I am fortunate and grateful but luck has not played a part!

  39. We make our own luck in this world, it’s up to the individual whether they grasp their opportunities or not.

  40. Wow, what an adventure…I say you are lucky but you have heard that enough, lol. Ive been to Europe, Australia on a great white shark excurion with Rodeny Fox, and throughout the USA. Including twice on a BOSS, boulder Outdoor Survival School, trip and once kayaking the everglades in Florida for a week. But your adventures blow mine away, just so much and in so many places. One day I hope to travel more, until then Ill live thru you :).

  41. Well said! I certainly will admit that I have not had a lot of bad luck in my life. But I worked really hard too and got to a position that I was able to take the travel sabbatical I desired.

    Where I see luck coming into play is with the people I have met on my travels. When I think about those special experiences and those new friends, I do feel lucky.

  42. Hey I have to agreed with you because I don’t rely to much on luck. I always make my own effort to achieved want I want in my life. Like you said save money, pack and go for travel.simple as that.

  43. Excellent post. I’m so happy I found you. I too am preparing to embark on an around the world exploration and your words feel like they are coming from within me, only I had no idea they were there. Thank you for helping me understand what I have been unable to put into words.

    Luck is a lazy man’s excuse.

  44. Have read through all these comments and I’m moved to say … To travel around the world is wonderful but not everybody has the courage or the finances or the life’s circumstances to do it. They refer to us as lucky because maybe we have what they wish they had. We ARE lucky that no sick parent or other obligations keep us at home. We ARE lucky that we were brought up to love adventure and take chances. We ARE lucky that we have the financial backing to do what we do. And in 10 years when some of your commenter’s circumstances change and you might not be able to travel like you are doing now, you just might be saying to yourself, ‘Damn, I was so darn lucky to travel when I could.’ I’m 72 years old. I’ve been travelling and writing about it for 30 years and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t understand how lucky I am.

    1. Evelyn, there is a difference between being fortunate and being lucky.

      Many people have all those things you listed, but still don’t travel. In fact I would say most people in the developed would could travel much more than they do, if they just made it a priority. At least at some point in their life, they have the ability to travel extensively, yet they don’t

      They don’t because what limits them isn’t their circumstances, but rather themselves. It is usually those people who are the ones calling me “lucky”.

      1. Evelyn and Gary, you are both right.

        In most cases it is just the matter of our mind, luck of imagination and possibly this “just-do-it-later” approach. Let me quote here one of greatest minds:

        Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover …

        Mark Twain
        If you want to check on my travel experience please visit:

        Amazing World…
        Tom

  45. Wise words!

    I have a question re: the Scottevest contest. Have you decided on a winner? Now THAT would be a case of luck.

    Cheers! Glad you got to go to Antarctica!

  46. YESSS!!!! This post is spot on. ‘You’re so lucky’ is usually followed by, ‘I’d love to do that but I can’t because [fill in the blank].”

    No. You can’t because you chose not to. End of story.

  47. Great perspective. We make our own choices in life and shouldn’t look at someone else’s life and think that we do not also have the opportunity to make the same choices. It also diminishes the hard work — saving money, working hard, leaving home and loved ones, etc. — that you put in to be able to reap such rewards. As great as your experiences have been (and ours, too), none have come without some level of cost and sacrifice.

  48. These comments drive me nuts. They usually come from people who don’t want to admit they have the same choices and just haven’t been brave enough to do anything with them.

  49. So true!

    Sustainable action leads to success and you’ve taken the action required to lead the life you’re leading! As Friedrich Engels once said “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” – Fair play to you!

    -Craig

  50. I totally agree Gary and have mentioned this a number of time. There is a bit of luck in my life, but where I travel certainly has almost nothing to do with luck (winning a trip to Costa Rica AND Peru last year….yeah, that was luck). All the rest of my trips are first thought up, and then planned out.

    Luck would be walking into the airport with a packed bag and hoping someone magically buys you a ticket just for standing there. For the rest of us, we buy a ticket after figuring out where we want to go. I get offers for press trips because I have put years of effort into writing valuable content (and have many years to go) and making meaningful connections.

    When people tell me I’m lucky, I politely tell them they can do it to if it is a priority and if they set it as a goal as I have.

    I feel the same way when people, who typically don’t have their own kids, say, “You’re so lucky to have such a thoughtful and kind daughter.” I put conscience effort to raise her well (and so did her Mom). It took consistent, unwavering effort to raise her to be a great kid, not luck.

  51. I couldn’t agree more! We will be leaving for our RTW in 155 days, with our dog, planning on travelling and “working” on the road for a minimum of 3-4 years, living like “modern nomads” and people often say to us “You are so lucky!”. Nop, we’re not! We made the decision to sell everything we own, our house, cars, furnitures, everything, to travel around the world and live the life we always wanted.
    No luck here, just conscious choice of following the dream with all the hard work it takes to do it.

  52. Nice work, Gary. I like this quote:

    “I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often.” -Brian Tracy

    By that standard, you and I are both lucky bastards.

  53. Well said! I often say this to others as well who comment on my ‘lucky’ lifestyle… no luck involved, Just some conscious choices to make it happen. “you too can buy a ticket to … no luck, just a credit card”

  54. I understand what you’re saying, and I empathize when people tell me how “lucky” I am to be a full-time professional writer.

    But, to play devil’s advocate here, you are still very lucky: Lucky that you were born in a country where sanitation and education are a right, not a privilege. Lucky that you were able to acquire enough financial assets that you could sell them off to finance your trip. Lucky that the circumstances of your life allowed you to become a permanent nomad without severing any personal ties.

    But I agree with Amy. I love having my house, my lady, my child and my dog to come home to. And I love having time to relax and recover from our last adventure while we begin planning our next one.

  55. People kept saying that to me when my husband and I drove the Alaska Highway to live there for a decade. The prep to get there took 8 months. People said it when we left Alaska to fulltime in our RV. The preparation for that took 13 months. It’s NOT LUCK. I hate that word!!!!! It’s drive, determination, visualization, and just plain hard work. And focus. It has to be the only thing (almost) that you think about day and day out. Oh, yeah and you have to get off the Internet and off your couch and DO IT. Just saying.

  56. I think when it comes down to it, even though there is envy involved, very few people would want to do what you do. I feel very fortunate and grateful that I have a house that allows me to raise my children with stability. I feel very fortunate and grateful that I have the ability to travel often and see the world, but I always make the choice to come home because I find value in having one. You do inspire me to see more, to go more often and to challenge my perceived boundaries. But I’d rather read about the nomadic life than live it.

    1. I find this message resonates a lot with many people I have met. I think it is great that you recognize that is right for you Amy. Many people say they would like that lifestyle, when in fact, very few would.

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