First World Problems

My youngest nephew was a child when this phrase first became popular. He was quick to realize that much of what we complained about in our daily lives fit into this category. He also used to say, ‘I eat low on the food chain’, to explain why he wouldn’t consume most animal proteins. He was, and still is, quite a unique character. We were lucky to have a little voice of wisdom running around our family.

What I like to think my nephew was driving at, all those years ago was, gratitude. We didn’t need so much, stuff, meat, money, etc. When we lost sight of how lucky we were and started to complain, he could bring us back to earth pretty quickly. Unfortunately, we slid back into old habits pretty quickly.

By living in the very large middle class in Canada, it is easy to forget the conditions for the rest of the world. It is difficult to understand how most other people experience a typical day. Searching for clean water, having enough food to eat and being able to visit a doctor, these are a few of things we take for granted. We trivialize these basic human needs because we have never known life without them.

All over the planet, even within the borders of Canada, people are going without having their basic needs met. Children are dying of malnutrition in Yemen. People are fleeing their homes in Syria, becoming refugees, hoping for kindness from strangers. Millions of men and women toil for long hours, day in and day out, earning a couple of dollars a day. This is all happening now. These are not sad stories from a distant past.

Yet, we in the first world complain about the food being served to us not being hot enough. We agonize over trying to decide from the plethora of choice in our shopping malls. We envy our chosen friends for the lifestyle they portray on their social media feeds, vowing to outdo them with more fabulous photos. If only we had everything we wanted, all the time, then we would be happy. We differ joy until our finances are in better shape.

We all know how this story ends. There is no amount of money or possessions which can cure this ailment. We are human and always seeking for more and better. It is really hard to slow down and feel truly grateful for everything we have. Most of us were not taught this from a young age. Instead, we put our heads down and try harder.

At the Hotel Nikko in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam I am reminded just how amazing my life is. As I got out of the luxury car waiting at the airport for my arrival, the hotel staff knew my name. They whisked me up to the top floor of the hotel for a private check-in. An executive lounge stood by ready to serve drinks, food and whatever else I might need in order to make my stay just a little bit nicer. The crowning touch from the array of amenities is a little box of chocolates on my pillow each night before I turn in to sleep.

Who could complain? The entitled, of course. Those who think the world owes them this level of service and so much more. The delusional, believing themselves to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment, far above others.

I hate the unfairness of injustice. Anybody who thinks they are better than others or ‘chosen’ or feel they have an entitlement… be it through monarchy, government or money. I think we are all born the same. We are entitled to an equal shot at life.    -Liam Cunningham

One of the reasons we set off as a family to travel was to fend off a creeping sense of entitlement. It was in my kids’ school. It was in my experience at work. It was like an aura circling around us in our neighborhood. It seemed very real and frightening. No amount of daily gratitude could stand a chance at what we had started to expect in our lives. So, we left.

Once you wander around the world for a while, walk a mile in many other shoes, eat different foods and sleep in all kinds of beds, you will not be the same. I’m not talking about the luxury business travel lifestyle. We couldn’t afford all that and I’m very glad we didn’t experience the world that way. Gratitude develops easily from hardship, either personal or witnessing the plight of others.

We came home changed. Humbled. Thankful for everything we once took for granted. Grateful for winning the birth lottery. We recognized our access to healthcare and education gives us privilege which so many in this world will never have. Somehow reading about this on the news, or in history books is not the same thing as learning in real life.

As we let the life lessons of travel soak in, I turn my attention to legacy. It would be so easy to slip back into old habits. This trip to Vietnam reminds me, I can’t do that. There is too much to do in too little time.

Join me in this creative journey. I am on a mission to start a global movement, focusing on the importance of creativity in our daily lives. Together, let us see where we can take this. I look forward to hearing from you! Please share your thoughts. Feel free to send an email to: #creaspatreat

My creative year:
: : Developing, testing and enjoying a life I don’t need a vacation from while working in an office and commuting on public transit! 
: : This is where my ideas for creaspatreat will come to life. Don’t miss any of it by joining us!
: : Check out new projects on my youtube channel called creative wandering. #dailycreatives

Published books:
: : “Fruitless at 40: Rediscovering My Creative Power

Would you like a free download of….
: : The first chapter from Fruitless at 40 and
: : My tried and true packing list, developed from long-term, around the world travel?
: : Join us!

Daily Creatives Resources:
: : Travel changes a person
: : Consumer anarchy and the Buyerarchy of needs
: : Teach women, invest in a community
: : what do you think it means?
: : Living in stress, moving to relaxation, looking for ikigai

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