When People tell us that “we’re lucky” to Travel Full-time…
It always makes me cringe. Maybe I could understand it if the person saying it was from a lesser-developed country. But the majority of times that I’ve been told “wow, you’re so lucky to travel” it’s comes from a fellow Canadian or American.
“Luck” is the word in that sentence that bothers me. Because luck has nothing to do with how we ended up traveling. Rather it was hard work, lots of planning, and lots of sacrifices.
When everyone was buying their first car, I was riding my bike. It didn’t make me cool with the girls but I didn’t care. Buying a car made no financial or practical sense (I lived in Montreal where you have bicycle lanes, great public transport, and where parking is always a pain).
When I finally had money I didn’t go spending it on fancy gadgets or expensive clothes. I bought a condo in an up-and-coming area with easy access to public transport. With time the neighborhood (Montreal’s Plateau Mont-Royal) became trendy. I sold the condo in 2017, tripling my original investment.
Every decision I made was aimed at one day leaving the 9-5 to travel. That was my dream and that why I planned, spent wisely, and made sacrifices. Yet I’ll meet people who have 2 cars and an expensive house in the suburbs and they’ll say to me “you’re so lucky to travel. I wish I could do that!”. Well, you know what? My goal to travel wasn’t a whim, nor an afterthought to the BMW in the driveway or to expensive weekends spent in the Eastern Townships.
I’m sorry if I sound angry but it just riles me. Imagine that you were a professional singer and that you had taken singing classes all your life to become a singer. We might not all love Britney Spears or Eminem but you have to appreciate the dedication to their craft. How do you think they feel when someone comes up to them (and you know it happens) and says “Geez, you’re so lucky to be a professional singer!”.
It’s not just the sacrifices you had to make to be in a position to be a full-time traveller – it’s also the everyday sacrifices that you continually make when you’re a traveller.
Travel Lifestyle Sacrifices
You Sacrifice the closeness to Friends and Family
In our case, both of our families are scattered in different places. Leaving Montreal didn’t mean leaving family. But most people have siblings or parents living in the same town/city and leaving to travel also means leaving them. Believe me, even if you don’t have a super close relationship you’ll end up feeling guilt. Thank god there’s Skype which is the next closest thing to being in the same room.
With friends it’s more difficult. Most people become friends because of a shared experience and friendships are maintained by seeing them regularly. Now suddenly you’re travelling. You have less in common and with distance and time you just no longer have that close connection. Lissette and I have both experienced this and in a way travel is a very isolating experience. You’ll miss certain aspects of “how life use to be”.
If family and social life are very important to you then full-time travel might not be for you.
You Sacrifice Your Personal Belongings
Most full-time travellers no longer have a home, a car, a bike, a pet, or plants to water. In a way it’s freedom from things… but after a few years of travel human nature comes calling and you find yourself missing certain belongings. Things I miss the most: my bike and my plants. Lissette: her bed.
Related: Every Nomad’s dilemma – Sell or Store your belongings?
You Sacrifice Your Comfort Levels
Being in a totally different country and away from the culture and language you know takes you out of your comfort zone. “They” actually say that being a little uncomfortable is actually a good thing – Psychology Today talks about how traveling abroad actually makes you more open to trying new things and gives you a personality boost. Remind yourself of that the next time you need to go to the bathroom and you find yourself hovering over a bottomless squat toilet on a moving train…
Related: “How Two Canadians are travelling the world cheaply”
Things aren’t always great. And don’t expect any sympathy or support…
As a full-time traveller you’ll either be categorized as a “fat cat” with big bucks or as a “dirty backpacker” with unrealistic dreams of making ends meet writing a blog. Either way people want to see you fail. I guess that’s human nature. I wrote about that here: Bashing on Full-time Travellers – and why ‘we’ bring it on ourselves.
Travelling full-time is not easy and people around you won’t understand why you would want to live that kind of lifestyle. Some might scoff at you and make you feel stupid. But in the end, like any dream you may have, it’s your life and your decision to make. If everyone did what they’re supposed to do the world would be a pretty boring place…
Related: Finances: How we can afford to travel full-time
The Perks of Full-Time Travel (and why you’re pretty damn privileged)
There’s reasons why people leave their everyday lives for a life of travel.
Freedom and being your own Boss
Who wouldn’t rather be somewhere in Italy than where they are every day, day in, day out? When we left Canada one of the reasons was that we could be location independent. Lissette was still working (until February of this year) and there was no need to be constrained to a physical office. And when she proposed the idea to her bosses they were fine with the idea of her working remotely.
Other people create their own online business. We’ve met tons of people over the years who do just that: bloggers making money on their travel blogs, people teaching English, others who do IT work. We even met a lawyer that does all his work online. Until we started travelling we never realized that so many people lived these “alternative” lifestyles.
It really all boils down to freedom from the everyday 9-5 looking at the same walls and faces…
The other main draw for us was to have experiences while we were still young enough. We were in our mid-40’s when we left Canada. Since then we’ve been to over 30 different countries, have met tons of interesting people, and seen some incredible sights. We also lived a year in Croatia which Lissette will tell you was the highlight of the last 5 years.
One day we’ll settle down somewhere and make that place home. In a way we look forward to that. But we never want to stop travelling. The last 5 years of full-time travel have been the most rewarding years of our lives. It was never “luck” that led us to a life of travel…but we do consider ourselves very privileged. Has it all been worth it? That’s a resounding “Yes”. But it’s not for everyone and I think you have to take off the rose-tinted glasses and seriously evaluate all the pros and cons. Only then can you judge whether a life of travel is for you.
Related: How to travel full-time? These full-time travelling couples tell all
Related: Thoughts on the freedom of being a nomad…
Updated: Is it safe to Travel? The weird and scary from 6 years of full-time travel
PS. Looking to book flights, hotels, tours, or rent a car? Have a look at our Travel Resources page.
If you haven’t subscribed yet and want to get our posts and newsletters sent to your email, just insert your email address below
Anita @ No Particular Place to Go
I love your rants and have an aversion to the same phrase, “You’re so lucky … ” because we too, worked hard over the years (including putting ourselves through college), lived within our means and saved. Although early retirement or leaving the US wasn’t the goal at the time, when the great epiphany came, we were ready to change directions and our lifestyles too. Another phrase that makes me cringe is, “You’re such an inspiration … ” because, as you pointed out, there are ups and downs along the way and what looks like utopia from the outside always involves adjustments and giving up some things to gain others. For myself, the “pursuit of happiness” is establishing priorities and then reevaluating them occasionally because, as we evolve and change, so do our circumstances and dreams. To put it simply (and acknowledge how fortunate I feel to have the option to travel and live abroad available) nothing comes easy but putting the pieces in place to live as you want is definitely worth the time and effort.
I guess various people would see traveling at different angles.
Traveling can be challenging and it can be risky to travel to different places.
Some people do travel out of choice and some people travel out of neccessicity. Or maybe some of us are more adventurous than others .
I did not expect my life to revolve around traveling so much off and on but I guess sometimes we need to travel to sort of free us from some unhappiness with the way our life may be heading towards to. Traveling allow us the flexibility, budget permitting, If we are not happy with our destination, to change direction. I guess traveling though may allow us to leave an unpleasant, stagnanting place and find a better place to call home, it call be also a risky venture.
Hi Wendy! Thanks for your thoughts.
Making a choice and being able to execute it successfully requires a lot of planning, hard work and seeing it through to fruition. I really admire how you and Lissette have not compromised on your travel dreams and have worked hard to make it happen. Travelling full time comes with many challenges, but sounds like you have found it very rewarding and are still enjoying it. Although now trying to adjust to suit your new circumstances ( such as Lissette losing her job and thoughts of having a permanent home in Europe). I am sure you will continue to make a success of whatever plans you have for the future.
Thank you for the kind words Gilda. Well, you and Brian done the same right? I think it takes even more planning to live out of a motorhome.
i think we are all ‘lucky’ in some ways to be able to travel. not that that means there isnt incredibly hard work, saving and sacrifice. But being born in the right country and with the right passport, there is an element of luck in that. But for a fellow, um, ‘peer’ to say youre lucky compared to them, well then i totally agree that luck has not much to do with it at all.
its a strange scene these days I feel its changed a lot. Maybe this should be a goal for me eventually. Maybe in 15 years. i dont know. who knows what will pass in that time?
great piece Frank
Yes, that’s why I mention that in the first paragraph. We definitely have an advantage in terms of where we come from and the opportunities we have in life.
If you’re travelling full-time in 15 years chances are we won’t be Andy 🙂 But you’ve been to many places we haven’t and you started early. I think that’s pretty incredible.
I recently came across your blog and wanted to share my thoughts. Although Andrew’s response is from 2019, I agree with him when it comes to the importance of being born in the right country and having the right passport. Personally, being born in Peru and having that passport posed significant challenges for me in terms of travel. However, in 2018, after living and working in Germany for 8 years, I obtained German citizenship, which opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me.
Regarding the choices you made, such as opting for a bike instead of an expensive car, there is an element of luck involved. While you did make conscious decisions, it’s important to recognize that the factors influencing those choices—your thoughts, wants, and desires—were determined by external causes beyond your control. This idea is discussed in Sam Harris’ book, “FREE WILL.”
Moreover, the talents possessed by individuals like Britney Spears and Eminem are also a result of luck. Despite putting in substantial effort and investment, it’s unlikely that I, or many others, could match their skills in singing or rapping (although with the advancements in AI tools, who knows?).
In any case, I wanted to let you know that I find your blog quite cool.
Greetings from Austria,
Thanks for the kind words Melyssa!
For where you are born and the opportunities presented – I totally agree with you. No doubt. I haven’t read the book that you mention…but I believe to have any outcome you have to make conscious decisions. Of course there’s some luck: a serious illness could have side tracked my path in life, my career could have gone the wrong way. But I believe you MAKE your luck. You might like this post. As far as people being successful (whether it be Eminem, Britney Spears, or an excellent lawyer) lets give credit where credit is due; to hard work. I know too many people who use excuses for their laziness and for others “good luck”.
I grew up traveling Frank. My Dad was a Lt. Col. in the USAF and I hit my 10th school in my Sophomore year. Yet the things you say were the same. Planning, moving, being without close contact to family. Having said that, we would see them occasionally but were never “close” because of continually being assigned to some gawd awful place we’d never heard of before (a few were okay though).
For myself, getting back on the road after retiring was good to feel. It was kind of like going home (something I’ve never really had). While not traveling full time and limiting myself to Europe and Middle East, I find the main thing is being able to adapt to a new culture quite easily because that’s how I grew up. Each city has it’s own culture, some nice, some not so but all interesting. I hate big cities so only use them as stepping stones or a base to radiate out of to smaller places.
Yikes, 10th school by sophomore year. Must have done a lot of moving around Ted. I think as kids we don’t enjoy that at all right? I was moved to Zambia when I was 8, lived there a few years and bounced around Canada a bit after. But somehow it gets into your blood and as you say you can adapt maybe better than others.
You must have had an interesting life Ted.
I suppose it was interesting, though when younger I didn’t really apply that term. I’ve touched on it a bit, in the “Back Then” series on my blog. Several people have asked me to write a book about it all but I just couldn’t be bothered.
While we are not full time travelers, we do travel 3 or four times a year and are usually gone a month. I agree it’s not luck. Our savings and sacrifices allow us to travel. I enjoy your posts about the different places you’ve been. We leave for Greece at the end of the month.
Thank you Christina! Greece – where are you going? The islands?
We found people in northern Greece very nice and the level of English excellent.
I think you mistake the comment for a different meaning. I think you are very lucky to be able to do what you love. Many people are caught up in jobs/professions, the schooling, etc., and they hate what they do. I think that people who’s work is something that they love are very lucky. I heard or read that only 10% of people love what they do for a living. That’s my perspective.
Thanks John. That’s why I say we feel privileged…but not lucky. Because lucky for me sounds like something that falls out of the sky that you didn’t expect. If you had studied all your life to be a doctor, does that make you lucky to be a doctor? That’s what I’m saying…
And I totally agree with the 10%. Most people are miserable with their work which is a shame because it takes up so much of our lives. Lissette and I were lucky in that we both had good jobs that we were satisfied with in varying degrees. But we also both wanted out sooner rather than later and worked on making that happen.
As you know we sold our house, packed our bags and bought 1-way tickets to Europe with the idea that we were finally going to travel without time constraints. We made it six months and then received the one phone call – the only reason that would cause us to return to the US – the grandbaby. No regrets, wouldn’t change anything for the world, (literally) but I do know how those six months and all the other days/weeks/months of travel made us feel. It was intoxicating, nothing holding us back, the world was waiting for us. So, to that extent I completely understand the life you’ve chosen.
Now, we live just 4 1/2 miles from our son, DIL and grandbaby. We’ve planted our feet in the US and we have expat lives in Portugal. It’s the best of both worlds for us.
I say all of this because I agree 100% that “luck” has nothing to do with it. It’s about making choices, having faith in one’s decisions (especially the hard ones) and on occasion, taking a big leap of faith. It’s also hugely about embracing change. I know people who are not happy in their lives, but are too afraid of change to take any chances. I find that sad. But, yeah, luck has nothing to do with.
One of the other things about travel that most people don’t realize… when we, for example, spent six months in Europe, or just recently spent a month in Portugal… when we return we have to step right back in to the ordinary. No one fawns over us because we chose to step away from the ordinary for a time. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the ordinary, ordinary can be spectacular, but it’s the traveler that has to adjust – not the other way around. I don’t know if I explained that quite right, but I’m betting you got the gist.
I’m looking forward to reading about how you and Lissette will navigate the next few years. Hopefully, one of these years our paths will cross.
Great comment Patti, thank you.
Nicely said Frank – yet, I didn’t plan until 3 years before I left and my traveling has nothing to do with luck…more like courage, faith in myself and knowing everything always works out – one way or another. If after a year I returned, then so be it… at least I set out.
Most people don’t think of what we’ve given up nor of the loneliness that comes with it, especially for solo travelers. I found out quickly who were my real friends and surprised that most were the ones I considered acquaintances. It’s only been 2 years for me, in June, so other than seeing my grandson consistently, I don’t miss anything.
We had the same idea Paula – we went into it not knowing how it would all go and the apartment and furniture in storage was our backup. As it turned out we’ve really enjoyed our lives travelling…
Your friends comment is identical to ours as well. We’ve had acquaintances that we didn’t really know so well that have really been supportive and helpful. Never expected that 🙂