Sometimes people say things that make us cringe (at least internally). Although they’re not intentionally trying to annoy us, we just wish they would say these things differently, or perhaps not at all.

Today I write about three of my pet peeve phrases. Every time someone says one of these things, I have to keep my mouth shut as I fight the urge to launch into a two-minute rant. So I decided to get it off my chest once and for all.

Phrase #1: How was your vacation?

IMG_5124_smallTo me, a vacation is a short period of time spent away from home and work in order to relax. A one-week trip to Cuba staying at the beach is a vacation. A two-week trip to Europe sightseeing and eating out is a vacation. Backpacking through Asia alone for three months is a trip. Most of my trips these days last a month or more, and can sometimes be far from relaxing. I travel for discovery and adventure. If I want complete relaxation, I stay home.

Given the amount of time I spend planning and executing a trip, and everything that can (and does) happen on the road, from communication problems, to avoiding scams, to getting sick, to sharing rooms with scorpions or giant spiders, I prefer to think of my travels as trips, or adventures.

As well, “vacation” seems to imply that I’m taking a break from something. Since I don’t have a 9 to 5 job to escape from, I think of my trips as a part of my lifestyle, something I do on a regular basis because I enjoy it.

A while ago I wrote this post about the differences between a vacationer and an explorer.

Instead ask me: “How was your trip?”

Phrase #2: Welcome back to real life!

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This is somewhat related to the previous phrase. “Welcome back to real life” or “Welcome back to reality” implies that my time away was some sort of idyllic time-out I took from my normal tedious life to go and have fun somewhere else, rather than just being another part of a carefully designed lifestyle.

Besides, the use of the world “real” here makes no sense whatsoever. How is drinking a fruit shake on a Thai island any less real than having a cappuccino in a North American city?

I don’t come back to “real life”. I just come back home, where I have a perfectly fine life, thank you very much.

Instead just say: “Welcome back!”

Phrase #3: You’re so lucky to be able to…

This is the worst offender, and is usually related to my travels. To me, it seems to imply that what I did came out of the blue, without requiring any effort or sacrifice. That it was simply good luck. And that the person saying this could never do the same.

Merriam-Webster defines luck as “the things that happen to a person because of chance: the accidental way things happen without being planned”. Being born in a safe and wealthy country like Canada is luck. Getting a same-day appointment with a busy physiotherapist when your back is killing you is luck. Saving money and booking yourself a flight to Australia is not luck.

Do you tell someone who owns a $2000 large screen high-definition TV how “lucky” they are? Do you gush about someone who spends $500 every season to wear the latest fashions? So why is going on a $2000 trip to Europe any different?

IMG_5119_smallAs a traveller yourself, you probably know that it all comes down to choices and priorities. Most people living in developed countries these days have money leftover after taking care of basic needs such as shelter and food. This is certainly the case of all the people I talk to who find me so “lucky”. What they do with their disposable income is entirely up to them. Many people choose to spend it on material things: a car, a big TV, new clothes, kitchen or bathroom renovations. Some choose to raise a family, or eat out at fine restaurants and attend live performances every week.

I choose to use my money to travel. I don’t have a family, a car, the latest fashions, or a TV. I rarely eat out or attend shows. I wear my clothes and shoes until they have holes in them. I live in a 600 square feet (55 square metres) apartment. When I was younger and worked a full-time job, I put money aside consistently, which I now use when I need to. I don’t really see where “luck” fits into all this.

As a reader of my blog, you also know that I’ve spent decades honing ways to travel comfortably yet cheaply (for example house-sitting), which allow me to stretch my travel budget over months rather than mere weeks. This is all by design, not luck.

Instead say: Nothing. Or if you’re serious about doing what I did, ask me for tips 🙂

Thanks for reading!

What are the phrases YOU find annoying? Don’t be shy, this is your chance to get them off your chest! Please share in the comments.


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