Pet Peeve: Our Travels “Must Be Nice”

On one of the first nights we spent in Madrid, Auston’s cousin Taylor asked us if we had any travel pet peeves. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t really think of any, though there were surely many. I could only come up with a general pet peeve I have about elevator buttons. When you walk up to the elevator, you push the up or down button and it usually lights up. Why then, do so many people feel the need to push the button again if it’s already lit up? The light means it’s been pushed! I don’t know why it gets to me, but I developed that one when we lived in a high-rise in Chicago. Anyway, Auston and I got to thinking and we do have a major travel pet peeve.

High-rise in Miami

High-rise in Miami

We’ve returned home from our travels twice over the past year. Once from Tokyo for a week during Christmas and once from Rio de Janeiro when we officially ended the round-the-world trip and were back home making plans to move to Spain. Catching up with friends and family is always a much needed experience. We’re excited to hear about everything they’ve been doing while we were gone and they want to know about all of our travels which of course we enjoy telling.

The thing that strikes that pet peeve nerve and makes our eyes wince a little is when we’re chatting with someone about our former trip around the world or our current indefinite travel plans, and they respond with an slightly sassy attitude and the snarky comment of “Must be nice.” When we first told people we were quitting our jobs to travel, some also said, “Oh, must be nice…” Then when we returned from our backpacking adventure with plans to move to Spain, other still said things like “I wish I could do that,” “You’re so lucky,” and the dreaded “Must be nice.”

Hiking a volcano in Guatemala

Hiking a volcano in Guatemala

I always want to respond to that comment (and others like it) with “You know what, it IS nice. It’s better than nice. It’s incredible. Unimaginable. It’s the best thing we’ve ever decided to do with our lives.” The reason those comments can get to us is because anyone can do what we’re doing. This opportunity wasn’t handed to us and we weren’t going to wait around for it to happen. You have to make the things you want happen. Life doesn’t just give them to you.

I don’t mean to sound like we’re ungrateful. Truthfully, we are very lucky. Lucky to have been born into our very loving and supportive families. Lucky to have had the opportunities that being raised in the United States can provide. We’re lucky in countless ways, as are many of our friends and people we know. So we don’t view traveling the world as being luckier than them or like we won the lottery. In fact, I have tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt and no car because I sold it to go on a volunteer trip to Belize in 2009.



My point is that our lives are they way the are because of the choices we make (generally speaking). Going to school for a bachelors to a doctorate degree is a choice. Buying a house or a car is a choice. Having pets is a choice. Shopping or drinking your money away is a choice.  Raising kids is a choice. For the most part, those are the reasons people don’t have time or “can’t afford” to travel. We decided not to make those particular choices. Not yet anyway. (Side note: I do have plans of convincing Auston to adopt four kids with me so I can be a minivan-driving-soccer mom one day). We put those things off for now and we saved for years before we started traveling.

Auston was saving and keeping his expenses low before he even knew he wanted to travel. When we decided that we did, we made sure to keep ourselves out of debt minus my student loans. It was a lot of work. We didn’t take vacations for a couple years before we left. We gave ourselves a tight monthly budget. I often worked overtime. When we did leave, we sold all our belongings save for sentimentals. When traveling, we cut costs by staying at hostels or couchsurfing, taking ridiculous overnight buses or early morning flights purchased with credit card points. Through Avios with British Airways, we booked free flights and accommodations which you can learn a bit more about in the video below. Nonetheless, our travels are rarely, if ever, luxurious. That’s why it’s a little frustrating when people say “must be nice” like it’s something we can have but they can’t.

Truthfully, my guess is that a majority of the people who express this opinion don’t really want to pack their bags and travel indefinitely. They want to progress in their careers now. They want to start having families now. They want to earn their degrees now. They want to put their money toward a house now. That makes sense. People should do what they want and if those things are it, then they must realize that their life is what they made it. That should be a good thing! I think a traveling life abroad sounds like an amazing dream to some when in reality most people are content with an occasional vacation.

Taj Mahal in Agra

Taj Mahal in Agra

There are moments that I feel jealous of my friends and family back home, building these incredible lives. But I don’t resent them and I don’t think “must be nice.” Instead, I think, “If and when we want that, that’s when we’ll start working towards it.” At this particular moment, Auston and I don’t even know what we’re doing next year. Sometimes that’s a scary thought because I like to have things planned out. More often than not, it’s good to know that we can take life as it comes and that we are making decisions we can stand by. If you can’t really say the same and you have that “must be nice” view of other people’s lives, then perhaps it’s time for a change. Or perhaps the truth is, you do love the decisions and life you’ve made and this is just a gentle reminder to have pride in that.

On a lighter note… since we only shared one of our travel pet peeves, here’s a list of some other light-hearted ones we came up with!

  • Inconsiderate hostel roommates: The kind that turn on the lights at 4am because they don’t think to use a flashlight or even their cell phone as a light. Or the kind that think it’s totally appropriate to have sex in a shared room with ten other people.
  • Overly hard-core travelers: The kind that talk about their experiences like they’re the biggest badasses you’ll ever meet. Read in douche-y ‘bro’ voice: “Yea man, I once saved a baby kangaroo from drowning in a river during a blizzard in Kenya.” I mean, claims like that don’t even make sense.
  • Long bus rides with unexpected transfers. This has happened to us a couple times. We’ll buy a bus ticket with a final destination on the ticket. We ask if it’s a direct shot there and are told it is. Only to find out that when we finally arrive, we’re not at our final destination but rather at a transfer point.
  • Stinky travelers. There’s no excuse for smelling like poo poo. There are showers in every hostel/hotel. Deodorant is sold everywhere. It’s just being lazy with simple bodily maintenance really.

What are some of your travel pet peeves? Or as a frequent traveler, can you relate to our “must be nice” pet peeve? Share with us!


13 Comments on “Pet Peeve: Our Travels “Must Be Nice””

  1. Sam says:

    Really good points. It is indeed frustrating when people who have ‘normal’ lives think you’re on one huge holiday, with one luxurious experience after the other! I like your charactierisation of the overly hardcore traveller; I’ve definitely met (more than) my fair share of them!

    1. Thanks Sam. While it has been a phenomenal year abroad, it most certainly has not been an extended holiday. You really would have to win the lottery for that.

      And yes, the overly hardcore traveler can’t be avoided. You just have to laugh it off (internally, not in front of their face). Kind of entertaining though!

  2. Right on! I hate that response too, and have heard it in reference to our own travels.

  3. I have just returned home from a 4 months long trip to Africa and Asia. And now I decided to go back out on the road, immediately. It is frickin’ hard to tell people that I’m gonna go travelling again. Even if they don’t really say anything, I can feel how they think: “how can he afford his”, “is he crazy”, “what is wrong with him, he is almost 40”, and a million other things… Just the same as when I’ve been quitting my jobs – happened 4 times since 2010 – the last few years, just because I’m addicted to see/experience new things…

    1. Auston Matta says:

      Yep. It’s just hard for people to fathom doing something like that. They think it’s a luxury rather than a choice.

  4. Stefan says:

    Agree with the elevator button. And the stinky (usually dreadlocks) travellers.

    But Austin- how come only David wearing those lovely iconic sunglasses of yours in you’re Taj Mahal selfie??!!

  5. I agree!! I get the “you’re so lucky” and “must be nice” comment constantly. People always talk about my living abroad / traveling constantly as if I had a secret sugar daddy funding my life.

    What they don’t realize, is that I make certain choices to accomplish that.

    To live abroad, I had to leave everything behind, start from zero, and build back up. It’s a challenge that few if my friends back home are not willing to put themselves through. Me, I loved it so much the first time I moved, that I did it again!

    To travel constantly, it means sacrificing certain things (all which are much easier to do since moving away with next to nothing). The main sacrifice, is not spending money on personal belongings. I’ve made my investment into a computer, a smart phone (ancient 4S now!), and a computer, but since that I haven’t bought anything major in the last three years. I don’t buy jewelry, I don’t have any art or nice furniture (which sucks sometimes as I DO like nice things), and I only buy clothes that I need — that’s why you’ll often see me wearing the same t-shirts & my typical plad shirts! It’s amazing how much you can save when you’re not constantly spending money on material things!
    During my travels, I often stay at hostels too, so there is the sacrifice I make to be able to travel longer and more often, and can usually stretch 10 nights accommodation on what some of my friends spend on two nights at a hotel. This is a sacrifice I often thought if stop doing at 30, but I rather spend the money on experiences / food & drink at destination, than on a nice hotel room I’ll only use to sleep in. Sacrifice the glamour of where I’m sleeping, so that I can go out and do things abroad like I’m rich!

    And as a last note, people often comment about how I have been traveling for years now. Living abroad isn’t exactly “traveling” as I do have a full time job here in London. But I guess I can’t get too angry about what they say, as I do love rubbing it in people’s faces how great my life is ;)

    As a quick side note, I agree with the other points… Stinky travellers being my worst pet peeve… There is no reason to forget hygiene when abroad!

  6. Stefan says:

    I hear ya David- I’m struggling to persuade Sébastien to let me have five children. Some nonsense about a high groceries budget humph!

    Mine is the question- “when are you back?”. Before we’d even left we were constantly asked this question by everyone, and continued to be throughout our travels in Asia.

    We are in fact back early November and wonder what our “It must be nice” equivalent phrase will be…

  7. It’s always frustrating when people belittle what it is we are doing. “Must be nice,” can set my nerves on end, but “You’ve been on vacation for the past year” is like nails on a chalkboard. True, we aren’t working 9-5 and getting a paycheck; yes, we have freedom; and none of it would be worth it if we weren’t having fun, but traveling full time and writing a blog is not classified as a vacation.

  8. lola says:

    THANK YOU for this post! I’m also saving to be able to travel for two years and it’s not easy, the few people I’ve shared this with have responded with “must be nice” and I anticipate it’s something i’m going to be hearing over and over again.

    My question for you: What is a short and sweet response that shuts these annoying people down? Should I just say, like you mentioned, “it IS nice!” ?! I don’t care to explain myself and want to say something where I can walk away and give their ignorant vibes back to them. Perhaps just a blank stare. Or being more careful who I share with.

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