I went to a casino in Detroit a few days ago. In my mind I pictured a casino as a place full of lavish tables, fashionably dressed individuals, and most of all, money. And lots of it. A place reserved exclusively for the financial high rollers in life who can afford to throw away hundreds of dollars a minute…. I was quite wrong. I found that almost all of the games were slot machines (I would refer to them as arcade machines in the UK) and many of the gamblers appeared to have just cashed in their social security to play the games. I don’t know whether or not they were having fun, but I simply use this story to highlight my misinformed preconceptions.
And so it is with travel. When I meet new people – which happens often due to the lifestyle I live – I am often told how very lucky I am to be able to visit so many different places and live as I do. It’s a sentiment I have heard over and over again and one that I find troubling. I am lucky to have a passport that facilitates my lifestyle, I am lucky to be born in a situation where good health, education, and safety were offered to me, but luck is only part of the lifestyle that I have lived for the past few years. I made a choice and with that choice comes sacrifice, but I chose these sacrifices because I felt that the benefits outweighed them – for me.
What sacrifices do I make that many people from my home country do not have to make? I don’t get to see my family for months (or more than a year) at a time. I don’t have friends who I see on a regular basis, who know me, who are there to talk with me when I need them. I arrived in Detroit with only one t-shirt that was given to me in a bar on St. Patrick’s Day and I wore it for nearly a week before I was able to go to a shop [I say this tongue in cheek]. I sometimes sleep in the cold and wet, thoroughly uncomfortable, without the comfort of finance to escape the situation. This is not a pity party. These are sacrifices that I chose because I have felt the positives far outweigh them. The beautiful places I have been to, the beautiful people I have met along my path, the new experiences that happen on a daily basis make these sacrifices absolutely worth it.
Which brings me back to the casino and the choice people make when they play. You could go to the casino and you could risk everything, hoping to make it big. You could even stay at home and play casino games at Betway, betting in your underpants while eating macaroni cheese from the can (if you wanted). And if you were to do this, your sacrifice would be the money that you stake – you are willing to lose that money for what you might win. Or you could go to work and work many hours for the money you receive. Your sacrifice would be your time. Maybe stress if you don’t like your job. If you worked ninety hours a week to build a business that you sold for millions, would that make you lucky? A little, but mostly you would have made a big sacrifice. What if you worked many hours a week for someone else and still couldn’t own your own home – would that make you unlucky? Or could we just say you are like most people in the world, struggling to get by? I feel that yes, we get lucky, but we make ourselves lucky by putting ourselves in positions that makes us available to beneficial outcomes.
How much did I wager in the casino last week? US$10. It lasted about two minutes. Or was it one? Why did I not bet bigger? I suppose that I am not financially driven and the sacrifice for me is great – it would not be outweighed by the benefits as the chances of me winning on the slots were small. Right now I am planning on undertaking a series of £100 adventures that will last a week each. There is a lot that you can do with a little, thus I am choosing to ‘invest’ in different activities.
After six years of moving often – I have never lived in a single accommodation for more than six months in all that time – I feel an urge to find a semblance of a base, a place to sleep that is neither someone’s sofa or a field. This is a new challenge, a new gamble if you will, and I will need some thought, planning, and luck to find something that works. Still, I’m on the road for another few weeks before I even get to think about that properly, but this is a new form of adventure for me.
I know you don’t get political on here, but talking about your lucky passport, have you thought about the implications for travel if Britain votes out of the EU on 23rd June. It will mean british people having to get expensive visa’s to travel around Europe from then on and will make it a lot less possible to do the things you’ve done. It might be something worth blogging about?
I do hope the UK don’t vote out of the EU as it seems anti-progressive. However, even if they (we) do leave, I would imagine that the visas for Europe will remain free. Currently the British passport offers visa-free or visa on arrival access to 175 countries and territories – which is rather lucky for me!
The US is not a member of the EU and we do not have to pay for visas to Europe. A passport to me is like an open ticket to the freedom of adventure. Meeting new people and experiencing other cultures is more valuable than money.