Why I Won’t Get Mad If You Call Me Lucky

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It happened a couple months ago, as I was entering back into the U.S. through immigration at Newark airport. I was standing in line waiting for my turn to get stamped in when I caught a snippet of the conversation happening two immigration lines away from me.

An older African woman was going through immigration after her daughter. She handed over her passport and other documentation to the young immigration officer sitting in his cubicle, and answered his question about how long she was staying in the U.S.

“Six weeks,” she said.

“Six months?” the officer (incorrectly) repeated, incredulous. “I don't think so.”

“No, six WEEKS,” the woman corrected him.

The immigration officer then turned to his buddy in the next cubicle and said, “Six months. Maybe a slip of the tongue there?”

He kept going on about it, and then asked his officer friend if he should ask the woman to take off her winter coat.

“Are you pregnant?” he abruptly addressed the woman. And then, to his buddy in the same tone of voice: “God knows we don't need any more of THAT in this country.”

Standing two lines away watching this exchange, I was livid. Not only was this officer putting words into this poor woman's mouth, but he was acting as though she was too stupid to understand anything he was saying.

In that moment, I was embarrassed to be holding an American passport in my hand.


Now, I understand that immigration officials have a job to do. And I'm sure they come across plenty of people who ARE trying to get into the country with less-than-wholesome intentions. But that does not give them the right to treat certain people passing through immigration as less than human.

I'm not saying I've never had an issue crossing a border before (I'm looking at YOU, Canada), but never have I been profiled or degraded because of where my passport is from or the color of my skin.

After getting my own passport stamped that day, I found myself reflecting again and again on that exchange at immigration. I can't begin to fully understand what that woman was feeling at that moment, but I guarantee the feelings weren't positive. It made me seriously examine my own privilege as a traveler.

Amanda in Iceland
Reflecting in Iceland

Every once in a while, someone will say something to you – about your job or your success – that will come across as giving something outside of your control all the credit. Example: When someone says to a photographer “OMG your photos are so amazing – what kind of camera do you use?” As though the equipment is 100% responsible for those incredible images, and the photographer's talent and skill has nothing to do with it.

In the blogging (and especially travel blogging) community, comments that elicit this sort of response include “And you actually make money doing that?” (which is assumes that blogging isn't a valid career) and “You are SO lucky; I wish I could do that.”

Recently, as I was answering questions for an interview about my blog, this “lucky” comment came up. The interview question was: “It’s easy for someone to think ‘she’s so lucky' because you get to travel the world. Like something was handed to you. How would you respond to that?”

The knee-jerk response to the “lucky” comments is to respond back that you've worked your ass off as a travel blogger to get to where you are – and that most people CAN do what you're doing if they're willing to make sacrifices and put the work in.

But you know what? That's not true.

NOT everyone can travel the world like I do. Certain things HAVE been handed to me. And I AM lucky.

Amanda on Dune 45 in Namibia
Atop a dune in Namibia

As a travel blogger, it's my job to inspire people to want to see the world. I love using my site to share my stories and photos, but, at the end of the day I want my readers to book a trip or start planning a vacation to somewhere that they've read about on my blog. Destinations and travel companies I work with want this, too – it's the reason why many travel bloggers are able to get sponsored (and sometimes even paid) to travel.

But the reality is that not everyone is able to go to all the places I visit. In fact, many people aren't able to go anywhere at all.

Travel is not a right. It's a privilege – and one that I am very lucky to have.

Amanda at Horseshoe Bend in Arizona
At Horseshoe Bend in Arizona

Yes, it's true that I've worked hard over the past six years to turn what was once just a hobby into my career. A lot of my success as a blogger DOES come down to me putting in the blood, sweat, and tears.

But some of it comes down to luck, too.

I was lucky enough to be born in the United States – a place where freedom abounds and where a passport is easy to acquire. I was lucky enough to be born into a solidly middle-class family with two working parents who loved and supported me (both emotionally and financially) growing up. I was lucky enough to go to college (and then graduate school) and get a fantastic education. I was lucky enough to be born into a generation where entrepreneurship and alternative careers/lifestyles have actually been encouraged. And, yes, I was lucky to be born with white skin.

None of these things were in my control; I had no say over where I was born or to whom. All of that comes down to luck.

And it's mostly because of all that luck that I am now able to travel as much as I do.

Amanda at Lake Louise
At Lake Louise in Canada

Sometimes, when I'm looking at my blog as a business and travel as work, it's easy to forget this. It's easy to take for granted the fact that I do for a living what some people only daydream of. People who take zero vacation days a year because they don't have any, or people who work minimum wage jobs and struggle to provide their families with the basic essentials, nevermind vacations. People who live in impoverished countries, or under governments that make travel impossible.

I have struggled and worried about money over the years, but I've always been able to afford shoes on my feet, food in my belly, and a roof over my head. Many people around the world can't say the same.

All those blog posts out there telling you how easy it is to save up money to travel the world? They definitely apply to an audience of similarly lucky and privileged people like me.

If I had been born in a different country, a different socio-economic class, a different decade… my story would likely be very different.

And I don't ever want to forget that.

Rocky Mountain Track
Atop a mountain in New Zealand

I still want to continue to write inspiring, entertaining, and informative stories. I still want to show people how they can explore the world, and I still want to encourage them to do so.

But I also want to take a moment today to acknowledge how lucky I am, and to ask you to take a moment to be thankful for and aware of your own privilege, too.

Because travel IS a privilege. And I won't get mad if you call me lucky.

If you're interested in reading more about the subject of privilege and travel, here are some other posts you should read:

Have YOU ever had a travel experience that reminded you just how lucky you are?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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102 Comments on “Why I Won’t Get Mad If You Call Me Lucky

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  1. Oh, so sad. I love the honesty of your post. I have heard many similar stories about fellow Filipinos traveling abroad, especially in the US and the European countries. I have not experienced it first-hand but I have heard from fellow Filipinos that in order for us to be granted Visa, we have to show our bank statements and convince immigration officers that we are to come back home to the Philippines. The travails of coming from a third world country.

      And stories like that remind me how lucky I am! I am very fortunate to have an American passport.

        Yup, but that’s just the way the world works. It’s really nobody’s fault. It’s up to us to recognize our advantages and, hopefully, use it to help others.

    Very well said Amanda. I must admit that I forget how lucky I am! I am self employed, I work from home and I can work whenever and where ever I please and can take time off whenever I like. Yes I did engineer that way of life, but I am still very lucky to live in a society where the technology has allowed me to actually do that!

      Exactly! It’s important to remind ourselves of that sometimes. 🙂

    I get the “lucky” comment way too often and it drives me crazy because I wasn’t the slightest bit lucky. It’s sheer hard work.

      There’s always hard work involved, but you can’t deny that some things just DO come down to sheer luck and/or privilege.

    Thank you so much for this post. It is so refreshing to have someone finally accept that in some ways that are lucky. I understand that it takes a lot from you to make this work and your blog inspires me greatly, but I can’t put anything away on my minimum wage job because everything goes to bills. I’m just lucky I live with my grandparents and pay them $300 a month in rent. My soul yearns to see the great, bid, wide world but financial reasons keep me locked in place. I’m working on creating a local “travel” blog of sorts to see if I can do it, but everything is just a dream right now. Thank you for being so honest and understanding =)

      You certainly don’t have to go far in order to “travel” – I wish you the best of luck with you blog! And yes, I think it’s very important that people like me acknowledge our own lucky circumstances! (But it’s also nice when people appreciate all the work it takes to keep a blog like this running, too!)

    So interesting to read the comments – and your article, that goes without saying 🙂 It’s so true that it’s a privilege. I noticed that from childhood, my father used to have a Chilean passport (now he holds a Canadian one too so it’s easier) and when I was 8 we were on transit once through the USA and we were locked in a room between our flights to make sure my father wouldn’t leave the airport. It was so ridiculous.

    Some passports definitely make it so much easier to travel. I’m definitely aware of my privilege! Although a lot of my friends, from similar backgrounds it’s worth to be noted, often say I’m lucky to live abroad and travel, but I try to make it clear to them that I sacrificed so much to make that happen.

    And so weird to hear you had some issues with the Canadian border! Of course I’m Canadian so I never had any issues, but it’s shocking to hear. I mean to me the USA is definitely the absolute worst border in the world, border agents are just so shockingly rude and I’ve never seen an exception to the rule sadly. I was once sent into the line of extra screening at the Canadian/US border because I had stamps from South America and Africa, the guy quickly saw I was Canadian and told me to get back on the bus. It was all just so strange.

      The Canada/US border seems to be tough, no matter which way you’re going!

      That’s awful that your dad had to go through that when you were young! But I suppose it does help put that privilege in some perspective.

    Hi Amanda,

    Many thanks for your article, as a caucasian male, most people assume I am immune to things happening to me like you described but sadly it happens everywhere. When returning home to the UK via JFK from Medellin I was looked up and down by an office patrolling the aisles. I was over there visiting family at the time but this guy had a real beef. after giving my suitcase a few hefty kicks and stating “let’s see what’s hiding in here” he went through my case pulling and tossing my stuff out into where people were walking, resulting in footprints on a few of my clothes. Not satisfied with finding nothing wrong he proceeded to frisk me in front of everyone saying “if you have anything I’ll find it, dont you worry!” again after finding nothing he told me to “clear up my mess” before skulking off.

    I also lived in Bangladesh for just under 2 years with racism being my unwelcome companion almost every day, my colleagues used to joke about it calling it “skin tax”. Dont get me wrong, 99% of the people I met were absolutely amazing but I was treated with disdain, overcharged, served last when was there first, ignored and was told to go home more than a few times. Racism is ugly wherever you find it. It happens everywhere but fortunately it’s a minority that are at fault.

    On a plus note I would like to mention one of the nicest moments where cross culture lines were not only ignored but were crossed out. I was in Thailand in Ban Tao, at the time not many tourists were in this area so I was a lone foreigner. I found and spent all my time at this beach cafe, I became good friends with the owner and towards the end of my trip I was minding his 4 kids, going for beach walks, looking after his daughters baby (many times they found me asleep under an umbrella with the baby curled up in my arms snoring away. He often refused to charge me giving me free meals and drinks and even gave me a lift back to my hotel a few times, I miss them all fondly and hope to return to Thailand next year where I will look them up

      You summed it up so perfectly, Lee, with this one statement: “Racism is ugly wherever you find it.” It’s so true, and I’m sorry that you’ve experienced it abroad!

    I love this post so much. We all need to face our privilege in every aspect of our lives. And I also appreciate this as a consumer of travel blogs. So many travel bloggers get their shackles up when it comes to this question. Not to minimize the hard work that everyone puts in, but it is absolutely a privilege. When people say that to you, “Wow! Lucky you!” I don’t think anybody is thinking you just stumbled into it without any effort. That’s not the intention behind a comment like that. It’s just to say that they think what you’re doing is pretty amazing. It’s a compliment.

      Exactly. And most people also make comments about how much work it must take, and how much writing I must do – I’d say 90% of people understand that, yes, this IS a job – just a very cool one. 🙂

    Amanda, this is a beautiful written article. It’s a hard truth. And I envy you for saying this as it is an important aspect that many people don’t like to admit. Hard work will get you very far, but luck at times is sometimes missing. And that luck is many times coming down how you look and where you are born. This was a great reminder, I deeply thank you for writing this. You really made me stand still for a moment and call myself lucky as well.

      Especially in the US, we like to recognize and applaud hard work. But luck often has something to do with it, too!

    Couldn’t agree with you more! You certainly are lucky! Traveling is a privilege and a worthwhile experience that many people never have. There’s nothing wrong with embracing that you are fortunate enough to travel!
    Nicely said! Thanks so much for posting!

      Thanks for the kind comment, Morgan, and for reading!

    For someone living in Europe, I am bound to say the same thing: I am lucky that I can travel around without any visa and passport around 28 countries in Europe. Around the world is more difficult to get, specially in USA and Canada.

    I think of that every time I see some syrian refugee tries to get in Europe. A lot of restrictions, even if their country is affected by war. There are fears, but those examples of disrespect shouldn’t be the way we treat immigrants in any country.

    I don’t see the conditions radically changing in the next decade, unfortunately.

      It’s definitely very sad. But, just like how I don’t see things in the U.S. changing anytime soon, I think you’re probably right. 🙁

    I agree that travel is a privilege but I also think that people work hard to do it as well. As a Canadian I am generally greeted with open arms wherever I go and it’s a wonderful feeling. However, as you’ve mentioned you can’t forget the hard work it took to be able to travel and to afford it. I work full-time and blog part-time. I freelance in the odd hours I’m not doing either of those. I work damn hard to support my passion but I know that at the same time, not everyone has been given the same advantages as me in life and for that I’m grateful.

      It’s definitely a mixture of both luck AND hard work for many of us. But I feel like too many bloggers gloss over the luck part and just focus on how hard they’ve worked to be able to travel. I don’t want to discount the work – I work my butt off, too! But I’m able to do it all largely because I was lucky to be born into circumstances that allow me to.

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