To make a dream come true, be it a long trip around the world or the job you’re passionate about, is something you need to work for.
Like I wrote in a first part to this text (read it here), there are thought processes to go through, sacrifices to make and a discipline to observe. At least that’s my recipe, the one that allowed me to bring to life all of my biggest projects so far.
But hard work and true dedication, even with all the perseverance in the world, are not always enough. Before putting an end to those 4.5 years of traveling, I would like to share one last thing that I learnt during all those years around the globe. An element that helped me, more than all my determination and all of my sacrifices, to seize my dreams:
I was often told how “lucky” I am, but I was also told many times that “you make your own luck”. I always preferred the second saying, which obviously gives us more prestige and credit for everything we achieve, since it implies that what happens to us is the fruit of our efforts. It says that we deserve our fate, even if it means that others – even the least fortunate – fully deserve theirs. To “make your own luck” is the recipe I was talking about in the previous text: dedication and sacrifices.
To be lucky, or to be privileged, is a whole other thing. But it’s usually much more important.
And it comes in many shapes and sizes.
In China, one of my Chinese friends admired my journey and dreamt of being able to leave and discover the world. But although she had a degree to teach English, it was simply not a possibility for her.
Why? Well, you should know that in China – as in many other countries – children are the ones who support their parents in their old days. And as my friend was not only an only child, but also a woman, she had no choice but to marry if she hoped to be able to support both her parents. Just like everywhere else in the world (although in a more pronounced way than in many other countries), the fact that she was born a woman only offered her a fraction of the opportunities men have.
“But you could travel for a year, two or even three and come back to find a husband later!”, I told her, happy to help someone find a way to go explore the world.
Except that she was 28 years old. And like in most Asian cultures, single women over 30 in China have quite a hard time finding a partner, the first criteria for wealthy men being youth and physical attractiveness.
To commit head first to an adventure like mine, she would need to risk never finding a reliable and interesting partner, one who would be able to help her take care of her parents when they will need it. She would potentially have to sacrifice husband, parents and future children.
Those dilemmas, obstacles and heartrending moments were never put in opposition with the realization of my own dreams.
Me, I have the luck to be born in Canada.
Me, I have the luck to be born a man.
I have bags full with anecdotes like those. Stories where my heart was broken trying to explain to a new Nepalese or Malaysian friend I am unable to get him to immigrate to Canada, even if it’s to give his newborn a better life. I don’t even remember them all.
Some still message me from time to time, asking me how to do it. Behind their desperate messages, I am a powerless witness of their deeply human desire to offer their kids a better future, a life that’s not already traced in the dust and poverty.
“You should have been born in another country” would be the most honest answer, but I’m disgusted by it.
Several people met along the way, travelers and locals, also question me about how to work here and there around the world, just like I did.
You should have been born in a country where you can get a good English level as a second language. You should have been born from parents who went to university, who pass on their kids the importance of higher education and can help them not only reach it, but succeed.
Me, I am lucky. I was born in a country just like that, from parents who fought tooth and nail for their diplomas and who taught me the same.
How many Americans did I meet who, a bachelor degree in hand, carried the burden of almost $100 000 USD in student loan? Even one of my best friends, a Quebecker as smart as a star, had to accept to take a $40 000 USD debt to obtain his master’s degree although he enjoyed maximum government support.
Me, I am lucky. I was born from parents wealthy enough to help me during my studies.
Another one of my best friends was dreaming of a radio career. But at 19, when he went to visit the “Québec national radio school” (CRTQ) with his dad, he was faced with the fact that the school was not accessible to people who, just like him, were in a wheelchair…
There is no appeal court for those who had the clumsiness to come into this world at the wrong place, or in a different way.
To the adventurer from Québec who asked me last year “how do you do it?” (referring to my nomadic lifestyle), I wrote a sincere and detailed answer, explaining among other things how traveling for less than $10 000 USD a year makes it quite easy to save up enough money.
At the time, I didn’t know she had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and ankylosing spondylitis, two diseases that will cost her several thousand dollars a year in medication as soon as she will leave Québec, and over $1400 USD per month is she one day decides to travel outside Canada.
Me? I am lucky. Although these two friends are just as accomplished as I can be, society is still thought for me, not for them. It facilitates the attainment of my dreams, but lays unthinkable challenges before theirs.
If I had the time, I would also tell you about all those other privileges that fell on me:
I’d tell you about the Christian education I grew up with, and how it eased my integration into a society running precisely on those exact values.
I’d tell you about all the self-questioning and outside judgements my heterosexuality never brought me.
I’d tell you about my name, Alexandre Bilodeau Desbiens, which would make it so much harder for me to get a job if it started with Muhammad or ended by a African surname.
I’d tell you about the white skin I was born in, and how much easier it made my relations with all kinds of authorities and employers, while giving me an infinity of privileges at home and abroad, every single day of my life.
I know, I saw it.
Again, and again, and again.
And to be frank, to be sincere like someone coming back from over four years around the world, it appals me every time. It’s revolting to see, through the enormous luck I enjoyed, all the sometimes insuperable barriers imposed on a majority of people.
Of course, I was not blessed with all the possible privileges: I wasn’t raised in a united home with married parents and I didn’t attend private school. But those might be the only two (minor) privileges I wasn’t born with.
But all this luck, all those privileges have nothing to do with my own efforts. I didn’t deserve any of them.
In the same way, guilt has no role to play here: despite all my luck, I do not owe anything to anybody.
Actually… I do. Because I am part of a society and a humanity, I owe something. As a human being, as a sensitive and empathic individual, I must recognize this luck I was given and understand it. I must also make an effort to acknowledge those with the other side of the story unfairly stamped on their skin, on a gene or in their passport.
My incredible luck and I are a privileged minority in this world. And nobody should come into it with undue obstacles between her and her education, social acceptation, access to the world or the possibility to pursue her dreams.
I have the invaluable privilege of being capable of living my passions. Traveling and seeing the world was for me the chance to open my eyes on the humans inhabiting it, meet them and sometimes even eat at their table.
Back in Québec, I sincerely wish that my luck will one day cease to be the one of a minority of western white well-born men,