How to be a ‘Lucky’ Traveller

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Ladakh, Lake Pangong Tso      A moment long awaited 

I’ve often been called ‘lucky’ for being a traveller, as if all my trips just fell into my balcony like rainbows and all I had to do was dance into them. I’d like to debunk that myth and explain how I made my latest trip happen, in this and a few more posts

When the travel daydreams first invaded, I was in my mid-twenties and juggling two jobs. Teaching Yoga early mornings and editing legal journals all day. Within the pressure cooker of that lifestyle, I felt a deep desire to ‘see the world’. A desire that needed examining, not ignoring.

Getting Real about Daydreams

What places/experiences called out to me and why? Was I chasing a feeling that I could just as well experience in my city? Or did I feel drawn someplace else with a yearning that nothing else could satisfy? How badly did I want it? What sacrifices was I willing to make? What if the place turned out to be a massive disappointment once I got there? What if most places are best visited in the imagination (or NatGeo) and in real life are just over-hyped caricatures of themselves? What if I get robbed/raped/mugged/all-of-the-above as a lone woman exploring a big bad world? Was I running away from something? What was my deep-down purpose of travel (hoping I had one)?

It may seem like over-thinking, but I needed to answer these questions for myself long before I started looking up hostels and international flight bookings. Knowing my reasons for travel gave me the conviction to go ahead with my plans without second-guessing the hell out of them. 

Getting Real about Travel

Two big assumptions underlying the ‘lucky’ traveller myth are that travel is all expensive and all fun.

It isn’t all expensive: There are so many ways to travel non-expensively these days. The more comfort, certainty and convenience one needs, the more one has to spend. Be willing to rough it out and you’re left richer both in spirit and wallet.

It isn’t all fun: Ever looked at a dried lemon peel hoping to find nourishment from it? Gotten lost with a dead phone under a dark sky on an island where no one speaks any language you know? Frozen your legs off in khaki pants on the world’s highest ski resort? You can hazard a guess, but I can tell you from first-hand experience – none of those are fun. But it’s also true that it’s not an adventure unless you are miserable at some point. I’ve seen even the most organized travellers get into big trouble on the road. But when you immerse yourself in the highs of travel enough, the lows don’t keep you off the road. Instead, they magnify the highs and the risks deepen the appeal.

How do I fund my travels?

As a freelancing Yoga teacher and writer, I don’t get a fixed monthly paycheck. But I fund my travels the same way most people fund the things important to them – be it a car, a cell-phone, a higher education or a wedding. By making it a priority. Travel is doable – if I prioritize it. The way many people I know prioritize weekend drinking, televisions (and other dubious devices), endless shoe collections, big fat weddings, fancy cars to get stuck on non-fancy roads in, and expensive colleges that have one neck-deep in debt before a first job. I don’t question anyone’s right to choose differently from me, unlike judgmental conformists who rain their list of ‘shoulds’ at me. Different circumstances, perspectives and goals = different financial decisions. What I find strange is when financially comfortable people tell me I’m ‘so lucky’ I ‘get to’ travel, and ‘if only’ they could as well. Of course I’m fortunate and privileged to be able to travel, but that is no bigger a fortune or privilege than a higher education, a car, a big fat wedding, overflowing wardrobes, frequent movies and dinners – some of the many things I consciously and gladly forgo to save money, time and energy for travel. I’ve yet to hear someone being told they’re ‘lucky’ they wear good shoes, drive a car or use a snazzy handbag. Somehow it’s understood they must have planned and worked for them, and nothing fell out of the sky on a ‘lucky’ recipient’s head one fine day.

Luck German proverb


Financial Intelligence & Prioritization

Two qualities I’ve seen in all the frequent travellers I’ve known. Too bad financial intelligence isn’t a school subject, and many learn it the hard way. I fully recommend devouring books on the subject (such as Money: A Love Story, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and many more), talking to anyone who may know more than you about it, and getting as financially intelligent as you can. I’ve a long way to go, but even being a beginner on the subject of financial intelligence has been highly empowering.

Prioritization began with an honest look at my (not society’s) priorities in life.

  • Doing things my well-thought-out way instead of blindly conforming?     Yes please
  • Being accountable to myself as a freelancer instead of a fixed paycheck and boss?      Worth a shot
  • Backpack and hostels over dinners and dresses?      Any day
  • Researching cost-effective travel options instead of overspending?  Definitely
  • Uncertainty and misadventures over meetings and desk-job?                 Where do I sign!

Pruning my social circle proved a HUGE money-saver. I saw that nights out with people who don’t inspire/conspire anything beyond the next drink wasn’t worth even the cab fare. And if I ‘fell in love’ with something in a shop window, I listened to the voice in my head calculating how many days in a Croatian hostel I could buy instead. The choice was suddenly simple, and every single choice added up over time into a sizeable travel fund, many travel opportunities, and the will to just go.

And that’s the gist of how this traveller began to get ‘lucky’ – lucky enough to be a diligent, money-conscious and prioritizing traveller. Let me know in the comments your thoughts/questions. Glad to spread the luck! 

For more on my travel expenditures and how I keep them cost-effective, here’s my earlier post: Big Adventures, Small Budgets & the ‘Lucky’ Traveller

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budget travel, backpacker, travel privilege

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8 Responses

  1. snowtoseas says:

    Really great and informative post! I completely agree with you – to make travel possible, it needs to be a priority. I also do the same thing when it comes to window shopping. If I see a dress I like, I usually ask myself: where could I fly for this amount? (OR how much of a flight would this cover?)

  2. Very interesting post, Namita. Could not agree with you more on how making something a priority makes all the difference.

    Check out my thoughts on similar lines and let me know what you think.

  3. crazyfares says:

    Great post ! thanks for sharing with us.

  4. Uncertainty and misadventures over meetings and desk-job?
    Definitely! I’m trying to save myself from the desk job as well. its good you can teach yoga. I’m planning to teach salsa 🙂

    • Namita Kulkarni says:

      Sounds like a great idea Ilker! I’m off to Cuba soon so i’m looking forward to some salsa lessons there 🙂

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