It’s Not Luck

Without fail, several times a day, in person, via email, Twitter, Facebook or some other medium people tell me that I am lucky. They tell me how lucky I am to do what I do. It’s as if the luck fairy came down and made my life the way it is. I understand why people say this, of course, but I don’t believe in luck. Furthermore, nothing I have achieved or done in my life is lucky. We make our own luck in life and that’s exactly what I’ve done and why I can do what I do. So please don’t tell me it’s luck.
Lee Abbamonte, travel, Norway, Kjerag, Kjeragbolten
I completely understand why people think this. They see a young guy who travels the world and seemingly has a great life. While I admit, I love my life and my job-there is nothing lucky about it. It all came about because of choices and sacrifices that I’ve made.
Lee Abbamonte, Asmara, Eritrea, Travel
I wasn’t born with an endless amount of money. I come from a lower middle class family that didn’t have any money to travel. I got my first paper route at 6 years old to try to make some money. I delivered the Connecticut Post until I was 15. When I was strong enough to do it, I started a landscaping business at 9 years old.
Lee Abbamonte, Cairo, Egypt, Sphinx, Pyramids, Giza
I mowed lawns, shoveled driveways, raked leaves, washed cars, trimmed hedges. I did whatever I could to make money and I never spent a dime. I saved it all.
Lee Abbamonte, Kenya, Diani Beach, camel racing, travel
I worked all through college doing a variety of jobs, saved all my money and after college I worked on Wall Street and did very well. The only thing I ever spent money on was travel. I traveled because I loved it. I still do, even though now it is my job.
Lee Abbamonte, Cartagena, Colombia, travel
Back in 2008, 2 years after I started my website, I resigned from a major Wall Street firm. I left behind a great paying job to go to business school and to travel more. That was not luck-it was a sacrifice and a gamble at that. I had no idea that I would turn it into a career in travel writing, TV and brand sponsorship.
Lee Abbamonte, Algiers, Algeria, Africa, travel
In order to travel the way I do and have, I had to make sacrifices and tough choices. My choices have cost me relationships with friends, ex-girlfriends and even strained with family at times. However, these were the choices I made. At the time, I always thought they were the right decisions and I have no regrets.
Lee ABbamonte, Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Emirates, travel, Middle East
I am very fortunate-yes. However, we make our own fortune. I didn’t hit the lottery. I am not an arms dealer or something, which is actually a question I get a lot! I made my own good fortune through hard work, sacrifice and taking risks.
Lee Abbamonte, Pitcairn Island, SV Xplore, travel
As for what I am currently doing for a living. I invented the job. I don’t do just one thing-I do many things. I am an entrepreneur and have my hands in a ton of different things-not just a blog.
Lee Abbamonte, Midway Island, travel
I am opportunistic and resourceful. I have my eyes wide open and make a decision and don’t look back. I know what I want and I go for it. I am goal oriented and don’t really care what others think or say about what I do.
Lee Abbamonte, Tasmania, travel, wallaby
The reason I am writing this now is that I don’t have anything else to write about and because I have had an exceptional amount of people telling me how lucky I am recently. But again, it’s not luck. I don’t believe in luck.
Lee Abbamonte, Maldives, travel
I believe that good things happen to good people and we all get what we give in life, work, relationships, etc. If you sacrifice and take smart risks then you will usually be rewarded. If you want something-go out and get it, take it-nobody will give you anything. You have to work hard to make money in this world.
Lee Abbamonte, Namibia, desert, Africa, travel
If you want to travel more, you need two things, time and money. It drives me crazy when people say, “I wish I could travel more”. If you want to-make it happen. Develop a plan and go for it. You can do anything you want to do but doing great things takes sacrifice and risk. It’s not luck.

Sharing is caring!


  1. Funny – I get this all the time as well. I used to just let it go but I was with a friend recently when someone told me again how lucky I was. My friend jumped right in and said “She is not lucky. She worked hard to create the job, I have seen her working for hours at a time writing, she spends a huge amount of time working on planning and organizing trips. She is NOT lucky! She earns every trip she takes.” Oh. OK. I guess you are right!

  2. You’ve worked hard, and made sacrifices to reach where you’re at. In a lot of people’s minds you’re living this idealistic lifestyle of traveling around to exotic places, experiencing all these things, etc. I guess some people don’t think about all the prices you had to pay to reach this point in your life, and having all your work reduced to “luck” would annoy anyone.

    Still I’m glad you don’t let it get you down, and continue to do such a great job with this blog. I always find the entries motivating towards me own goals for travel.

    • Thanks Lucas, that’s very nice of you to say! I really appreciate it! I know people don’t mean it negatively when they say it’s luck but yes it can get annoying after a while. Have a great Memorial Day!

  3. Well said, Lee. I love reading your site and have followed your progression over the years. Nothing comes free so good for you for making it all happen and sharing your adventures and thoughts with us. We all love to live vicariously though you. Thanks.

  4. Great honest post Lee. I really enjoyed reading that and good for you for saving your money from when you were 6! That’s amazing.

  5. Great post Lee, love the honesty and I agree-who gives a shit what others think!

  6. I had a paper route too! Well I shared it with my little brother and my parents drove us around most of the time but I loved it!

  7. Great post…one of my favorites you’ve ever done , Lee. It’s nice to hear some personal info in your posts. I know you like to keep your private life private. Thanks.

  8. Melissa - The Mellyboo Project says

    THANK YOU! Thank you for writing this. Everytime someone says “oh you’re soooooo lucky” I wanna slap them upside the head and say “I CREATED this! Luck has NOTHING to do with it.” Nowadays people tend to confuse plain ol’ fashioned hard work with luck. Keep on livin the good life you created for yourself, you deserve it! 🙂

  9. Couldn’t agree more!! What we have is just the result of hard work and the choices that brought us to the place we are! I’m almost 30 and people always wonder how I have accomplished so much at my age… Well, it’s just that while everyone else was just having fun and doing nothing, I was having fun and working hard to be where I am now… Because at the end of the day I have enjoyed every minute of my life and I’ve had a blast! Although, I do thank God and life (you can thank whoever you believe in) for my good health, my brains and my ambitious attitude! I wish you the best and keep travelling and inspiring us!!

    • Ari, thank you for that comment and congrats to you on your success. Life is to enjoy of course but you always want to move forward. Success is about putting your mind to things and actually doing them…not talking about the idea or sitting idly.

  10. Lee, I know exactly what you are saying. I’ve also made specific choices in life that have allowed me to travel more extensively, but also have required great sacrifices. I’m an engineer and could work for some posh design firm in any major city, but instead I’ve chosen to work on oil rigs, so I can make more money and get 5-6 months off per year. People also tell me I’m lucky to have this job and be able to travel so much, but I remind them that this is the life that I’ve deliberately chosen. You don’t even have to be an engineer or Wall Street banker to travel a lot. In fact, there are way more teachers (who earn less) out there traveling the world than there are of lawyers, bankers, doctors, and engineers. It’s all just a matter of what priorities and goals you set in life.

    Although I will admit that I am slightly jealous of the life you’ve carved for yourself. It wasn’t until after I was 30 years old that the whole idea of traveling to everywhere in the world was even a possibility. And since I’m older than you, I don’t think I’ll be breaking your record. haha

  11. Hey Lee this post is inspiring for me and a lot of people. I travelled a lot recently and people have been telling me the same thing that I have a nice job and been travelling. I just tell them I plan wayyy in advance. I got the travel itch starting last year after my 25th birthday and when I stumbled on your blog. I would say you inspired me to go travelling after seeing all the pictures that you post and you don’t have to have a lot of money to do it. Agree take the path that makes you most happy. I think nowadays with the availability of the internet everywhere people can get around and work around the world. I agree you gotta be brave and be goal oriented. To touch all continents is my priority right now. Until i have kids lol! Keep up the great work! I always share your blog to my other friends who want to start travelling!

    • Andrew, thanks so much for the flattering comment, I really appreciate it and appreciate you sharing! Let me know how you do with ll the continents. I am looking forward to Antarctica and the South Pole in December myself!

  12. Well said Lee -but I do disagree a little! Yes, we work hard, create our opportunities and take chances. We strain our relationships and miss magic milestones at home….but we are lucky. We are lucky that we have the courage to take these chances, have faith in ourselves and the resourcefulness to put the hard work in and make it work! Not everyone has that! I love the opportunities I have had to travel and live abroad, and would not change them for the world! It is such a special thing to be able to travel as we do…..people don’t necessarily see the behind the scenes work that goes into creating this life, but that is ok – because I am happy if I can inspire 1 person to get out of their comfort zone, try something new and marvel at how wonderful it is out there! For that, I am very lucky!

  13. I love YOUR story!

  14. I always think there’s some luck involved, at least regarding health. You’re very lucky not to have serious cancer, not to have parents that need you to be a full-time car-giver, not to have been hit by a car and rendered a paraplegic on your travels, not to have been born with Down’s Syndrome. All the hard work and good choices in the world can’t change that stuff. But I know that’s not what people mean when they tell you you’re lucky 😉

    • Carina, haha, yes we are all lucky to have or not have those things you’ve mentioned although that is outside the scope of the article clearly…thanks though!

  15. Great article! It’s good for readers to see just what goes into a life dedicated to travel.

    I’m often told my non-blogging/travel friends (who earn a lot more than I do) that I lead a ‘charmed’ life. It’s wonderful to explore the world and have experiences I never thought I would, but ‘charmed’ it isn’t. They don’t see the late nights of picture editing, research, invoice chasing and trying to make next month’s rent.

    All jobs have advantages and disadvantages, but travel writing is worth many of the sacrifices.

  16. I love what you’ve written. I have people tell me often that I live the best life, that they live vicariously through me, questioning how I “never” work, and instead, am always traveling. Well, flying isn’t traveling, and I do work. I happen to work in an industry which creates more opportunity to travel, but not all flight attendants actually take advantage of that. My friends, who have free flights, make excuses to why they cannot just get up and go.

    Like you, I’ve made sacrifices, and I guess to me it doesn’t feel so much like a sacrifice because I’ve traded relationships, having a “home,” and other things for my wanderlust love:) Sometimes though, I even notice myself making excuses: “Well, when my blog is more profitable, “If the flights weren’t full,” “If I had more days off.” NO!! Life isn’t like that! If I excuse from responsibility, I will forever miss out on the possibilities of living the life of my dreams. Like you’ve said, the life of dreams is not created simply by luck.

    I can still feel “lucky” though right?:)

  17. i wish i could like this one thousand times over! fortunate? for sure. lucky? don’t know about that one. i made travel a priority from an early age and scrimped and saved over the years to be able to travel as much as i do. anyone who puts their mind to it has the chance to see the world- its about making it a priority in your life. xo, the wino

  18. Fully agree, the only luck is really being born in a country/place where you can make opportunities happen and not be suppressed etc…, after that its free will and hard work. We/I just left work to travel and move continents and someone actually just told me I´m lucky to be doing this, and I said its not luck, I quit my job and decided to do it which just involves getting over your fears and some planning. Anyone can do it. Luck would have been if I won a contest to pay for it, which of course I´d be more than happy to have happen……

  19. Very well-written, Lee! Though nowhere near as accomplished as you in our field, I hear the same thing, some even going as far as saying I’ve retired! To those who say I’m lucky or have the best life, I reply, “We all have choices to make, and what you choose is up to you. This is what I’ve chosen and it’s amazing!”

  20. I can so relate to this post, and completely agree with everything – there is no such thing as luck. Like they say, dreams only work if you do.

  21. I totally agree on most points — I’m 24, living in Paris, and have been living abroad since I was 18. People always think I got here by luck but they don’t realize I made my life happen through lots of risks, sacrifice, and one-way ticket buying! Though I have to say there’s a little luck involved — besides having the benefit of an American passport and being born with good health and access to basic necessities, there’s also the luck of meeting people along the way who have helped you and the luck of supportive parents and employers. I know I’ve worked hard but I have to admit I did get a *little* lucky with my lot in life.

  22. It takes a lot of courage to make sacrifices in certain aspects of life to fulfill other goals and dreams. Lord knows I’ve made similar sacrifices to travel freely as well. I appreciate your insight into your situation and commend you on the choices you’ve made. Risk can equal reward even when risk results in failure – thats the fun of life! But it’s hard to make risky choices to better oneself – it looks like you’ve learned from an early age the importance of dedication to work, saving and setting goals. Keep up the strong work and keep on rocking and rolling!

  23. Amazing post, I hope you don’t mind but I shared it with a bunch of my friends. You’re such an inspiration, Lee!

  24. Lee this is such a great post. You should send this to Huffington Post or something so it gets more circulation. I love the way you put things so nuts and bolts, make it seem so clear and to you I guess it is. I admire you and thanks for sharing more about yourself. You seem to be a pretty private person aside from the travel stuff so it’s nice to read how you got to where you are. Looking forward to reading more as always.

  25. I just had this conversation yesterday and googled the topic to find an inspiring quote and thankfully, came across your blog! You are so right. I am in my mid 30’s with an amazing job that allows me to travel and work from home so I can be with my family, company car is a benz, and from the outside, people think I have it all. They haven’t a clue my back story of how I got where I am, what I sacrificed and continue to sacrifice, etc. I am the youngest of 5 and grew up with parents who I knew weren’t rich, but rich in love! They never discussed how bad things were for us, but rather discussed how a hard work ethic is a great foundation. People don’t know I worked at a produce farm every summer since I was 10, that I worked through high school to save for college, that I 100% financed my college, and lived on generic cereal everyday when I got my first real job because I couldn’t afford food. I hit the roof when someone says I am lucky. My reply is no it’s not luck… it’s called hard work, perseverance, determination, and dedication.

  26. Here’s a quote you might find relevant:

    “Michael J. Mauboussin offers this rough-and-ready test for discerning the difference between skill and luck in any given event: Ask yourself if you can lose on purpose. If you can, skill is involved; if you can’t, it’s pure luck. For a more mathematical assessment, figure out the correlation between a supposed cause and its effect. If the correlation is high, the cause is likely related to a skill, and a good process will usually have a good outcome. If the correlation is low, luck plays a larger role in the outcome, and a good process will produce good results only over time.”

    Original source: Skill or Luck? | strategy + business |

  27. Lee, I couldn’t agree more. Have I been blessed? Absolutely, positively, 100% without a doubt yes. I have a great wife, a great family, and great friends.

    But luck? That doesn’t have anything to do with it.

    I’ve worked hard, just like you, to get where I’m at. I’ve sacrificed money to start my own businesses. I’ve sacrificed experiences back home, like friend’s weddings, parties, etc. to have experiences abroad. Everyone makes choices…I just happen to make ones that seem different to other people.

    Thanks for this amazingly well written, poignant piece. Keep doing what you’re doing man, and I’m sure you’ll continue to be “lucky”.

  28. Love this post. I get the “you’re lucky” deal all the time and it is starting to make me impatient, I’m answering less and less by “heheh, thanks” and going towards the “it’s not luck, it’s hard work, hours of a shitty job, saving up, not doing something to save up, etc.”…

  29. Hi Lee, just read that you are planning a trip to South Pole. Are you going with Polar Explorer — its pricey at $45,000, but they run a great operation. I have a buddy who went on a trip with them and raved about it, so hopefully you pull it off.

  30. Hmmm, $45,000 seems like a lot at first, but when you realize its to take you all the way to the bottom of the globe, safely, it seems reasonable. Lee, is that the price of the expedition. Does it include air to South America? Thanks

  31. Thanks Lee. I was just curious — too rich for my blood, as they say. I’ve been to the peninsula in Antarctica, but that was on a Quark cruise (great by the way). But, I’m almost 80 and my days of camping at the South Pole are behind me — that is, unless they fly a couch and TV down there!! Have a great time. That will be a trip of a lifetime (for someone who has taken dozens of trips of a lifetime).

  32. Thank You!!! For giving me something easy to share with my friends & family, that says exactly what I’ve been thinking. I just recently started my real RTW travel… I too have worked hard and made sacrifices to get where I’m at today. And LUCK had nothing to do with it, other than being lucky enough to be born into a supportive family:) Im tired of hearing “You are so lucky”, or “I wish I could do the same”, or my personal least favorite… “I’ll just live vicariously through you”. Who wants to live vicariously through someone else? We all only have one life, do what you need to do to make it a great one. For me… That’s travel. Thanks Again!

  33. Hey Lee – a buddy of mine sent me this link a while back and I just finally got around to really reading. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I feel like the whole “lucky” thing starts from a place of envy. But then you tell people if they really want it, they can do it too. And then that’s the filter. One group thinks you’re right and decides to take some action through hard work. The other group invents an excuse (sometimes really smart ones) to avoid it and go back to their mundane lives. I like the first group myself. Thank you again for sharing this brother. You’re 100% right.

  34. I couldn’t disagree more. You were lucky to have not had an un-diagnosed learning disability that crippled your ability to do well in school or work. You were lucky to be born in a home where your parents supported you when he was young and taught you good lessons about money. You were lucky to be obviously gifted academically. Lucky to have never been crippled in a car accident outside your control. It’s just that all of your luck is invisible to you. People blessed with success generally don’t think about it any more than people think about how lucky we are to have breathable air.

    When you say that ANYONE can achieve and do what you have, you’re only proving that you’re utterly oblivious to the reality that most other people live in.

  35. This was a great post Lee! I found it after searching the internet for how you have so much money to travel. I’ve been following you on facebook for the last 6 months and I had just assumed that you probably had family money. It is inspiring to find out that you have worked so hard to get where you are today! I can definitely relate to your post. I have been in the military for 5 years and have worked very hard to get where I am today. Because of my service I am now enjoying a debt free college experience. I use any free time that I have to go on vacation and people are constantly telling me how lucky I am. And just as you said, it really isn’t luck at all. I made sacrifices earlier in life so that I have the time and money to do what I love now. I too am a business major and I hope to someday see as much of the world as you have. Keep on traveling!

  36. Great post, Lee. I truly believe that we live the lives we design. Anything we want, we can have. Sometimes our choices require hard work and sacrifice, but they are still OUR choices towards the life we want. I regularly revisit two questions and proceed accordingly: What kind of life do I want? What kind of person do I want to be?

  37. Hard work. Good choices . Saving your money . Setting goals . Risk management . You certainly improve the odds . But , Lady Luck can swing both ways . Always be cognizant of this simple fact . Be thankful for your health . Your God given intelligence . The many advantages you received by simply being born when & where . Fate ? Karma ? Happenstance ? The luck of the draw ? Kismet ? Luck ?
    Always enjoy your stuff Lee . Thanks for all the great info u share .
    Go spend a few days in Cadaques 🙂
    From one old seasoned traveler , to a younger one .

  38. Hi Lee,

    I agree completely! It’s all about priorities. All my money goes towards travel too!

  39. You say luck has no part of what you have achieved??? How about lucky you were born in a middle class family in a country that offered you some opportunity?? How about lucky to be born at a time when you can do these things you want?? (ie not drafted into an army because there was a war on)…How about lucky you have your health? (as much as you might look after yourself some health set backs are going to be the ‘un-luck of the draw’)…..The way you talk it sounds like you make the sun rise and set just through your sheer power of will and hard work….

  40. In reality people are generally scared of taking risks. They say “you’re lucky” to anyone who is fortunate to have the lifestyle they want because people don’t always realize that it’s all about taking risks, chasing goals and creating fortunes. 🙂

    Marj from: Fashion Travel | Fashion Girl

  41. The best thing in the world is to do what you love to do everyday, being one of the best at it and getting paid for it is the icing on the cake. Of course we dont see the struggle other people had in their life. But always when I see someone who is successful at something I know for sure that they must have been very determined and had to overcome a very long road, and do a lot of waiting until they achieved what they have now. In general there is a saying it is lonely at the top- dont hope for other people to understand your struggle or to be able to relate to you, success is a path of solitude, because only you know your dreams and desires now one else will ever.

  42. Great post… look forward to so many more entertaining times reading here. 🙂

  43. Ducivan culinary says

    This article inspires me, yes, the most important is passion, my passion is traveling and up to now, I need to work hard to save money and do what I feel happy

  44. This is a great truthful post and I couldn’t agree with you more. We make our choices and then live with them.
    I’ve worked hard and have been frugal and now I am enjoying the fruits of my labor and loving every minute.
    Keep posting those travel pictures. You give me more ideas of where I want to go.


    Some people realize that luck definitely plays a part in success. I’m sure Warren Buffett has worked very hard and took lots of risks but he attributed his success to some luck.

  46. That is a little easy to say – luck has got a great deal to do with it and we should never forget about that. It appears you are a white, able-bodied, male, heterosexual citizen of a rich country and in possession of an “easy” passport. Also, I believe you don’t have to care for children or care-dependent parents. These are things you haven’t achieved – you just lucked out. I am also travelling full-time and am very aware that I couldn’t do it if it wasn’t for all of my privileges. But still, I completely get why you are upset about people who are as privileged as you are and deny the fact that they could do the same if they set their privileges differently.

  47. I think the key here is your Wall Street job. I worked a lot too in my life. Now, I am in finance (for money), and was hard to get in. But I am not in the US, thus I just get an income higher than the average (thanks God), but still nothing that may allow to save for long unemployment. I had to leave my country very young to achieve this (not possible where I was born) and it has been a long way since. I also have a dream to see all countries and territories in the world. Being born poor does not mean being without dreams. Now I can afford to have 3-4 travels a year (most people here do not). I have been to great places already. I have to pay for my wife though, since her salary would not be enough for traveling abroad, and we chose not to have children to be able to keep traveling like this. So, I think we have been doing many sacrifices too.
    My question is, how did you turn your money from Wall Street into a self-sustaining business, while keep spending for traveling? (most people would avoid spending money for years when starting a business) How much did you need to save to be actually able to do so? Are we talking about 100k dollars or much more cash?

  48. David Foulis says

    It isn’t luck that Lee has been virtually everywhere, he has made a choice in life to do that, and quite rightly deserves all the plaudits. I can only admire what and where he has been, it takes guts to make a living out of travelling full time, after all lee and people like Drew Binsky should be thanked for bringing remote and interesting locations in to our lives. Remember, Lee has made this life for himself, he was not famous and given a TV job travelling because he was a celebrity. He didn’t start out in TV like Sir David Attenborough or Michael Palin. He and a few trailblazers like him have done it themselves, sacrificed one part of life’s journey to fulfil another part.

    As a well travelled person myself, though not in Lee’s league I can only thank him for giving me the travel bug back.
    Keep going, keep inspiring, keep documenting and I hope you get to BIOT soon. The world is an amazing place, if you watch the news it is all doom and gloom, but the world is unique, we are all unique, we have 70 years if we are lucky, do as much as you can in those 70 years, we won’t get another chance.

  49. David Foulis says

    It isn\’t luck that Lee has been virtually everywhere, he has made a choice in life to do that, and quite rightly deserves all the plaudits. I can only admire what and where he has been, it takes guts to make a living out of travelling full time, after all lee and people like Drew Binsky should be thanked for bringing remote and interesting locations in to our lives. Remember, Lee has made this life for himself, he was not famous and given a TV job travelling because he was a celebrity. He didn\’t start out in TV like Sir David Attenborough or Michael Palin. He and a few trailblazers like him have done it themselves, sacrificed one part of life\’s journey to fulfil another part.

    As a well travelled person myself, though not in Lee\’s league I can only thank him for giving me the travel bug back.
    Keep going, keep inspiring, keep documenting and I hope you get to BIOT soon. The world is an amazing place, if you watch the news it is all doom and gloom, but the world is unique, we are all unique, we have 70 years if we are lucky, do as much as you can in those 70 years, we won\’t get another chance.

  50. The GOAT!

Speak Your Mind