Hidden Figures: The Cost of Travel
I stopped spending money on traveling years ago.
I got tired of saving for months to spend on a single trip that only lasted a few days. I loathed the idea of dedicating so much money for such a short amount of time in a new city with overpriced food and drinks while trying so hard to be what I was leaving behind. I hated everything about spending money on traveling so I stopped and started investing in experiences instead.
As cliche as that may sound, it completely renewed my zest for wanting to get out and see the world. It felt like leaving the country went from being a series of tasks-researching, buying tickets, booking rooms, packing, getting to the airport, flying, getting around, etc.- to something that I looked forward to. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain.
When I viewed travel as a series of transactions I was unhappy. No matter where I was going or what I was doing, everything boiled down to a dollar amount, then, eventually, hours of time.
Getting to the airport cost $30. I’d have to work X amount of hours to pay for my cab. To get back, double it. My plane ticket, at least 40hrs; meals, souvenirs, luggage, tours, taxes; at least another full week or two of work. I spent the time leading up to a trip contemplating the hours that I’d spent just to afford it, rather than getting excited for it and during the trip I was too focused on the dollar amount to enjoy myself. I put so much effort into focusing on my budget that I wasn’t present no matter where I went. All of that money and time- wasted.
INVEST IN MEMORIES
I don’t remember when it happened. Maybe it was after the road trip through New Zealand. It could’ve been at a local pub in London or after running out of cash and not having my credit card with me in Sydney. It’s quite possible that one day I just woke up and decided that I was going to stop viewing travel as an expense and see it as more of an investment. I decided that the money that I was spending was no longer going just going towards parts of a trip, it was being put to use to create stories that I could share with my family, memories that I could relive with my friends, and moments that would last forever.
In college one of my fraternity brothers gave me some of the best advice that I’ve ever gotten, though I didn’t realize it at the time.
“You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time. I’d rather spend my money on creating memories than on other things.”
Without question, traveling can be expensive. There are all kinds of fees and hidden expenses that can come up unexpectedly. It’s very easy to get bogged down with the cost of traveling and the weight of that dollar amount can feel unbearably heavy when you’re already pressed for cash after booking the essentials. I get it. I’ve been there. Viewing travel as an investment doesn't solve how much it costs, but it helps you to feel better about the money that you're spending..
I moved back to America a little while ago and in the process of trying to pack the past seven years of my life living abroad into the allotted luggage: two 50lb checked bags, a carry-on, and a personal bag- I stopped and looked at everything that I had acquired. Clothes that I’d never worn and would never wear. More shoes than I needed. Books that I didn’t intend to read, and more stuff than I could justify. All of that money and time- wasted.
With everything laid out in front of me, my bags already overweight and stuffed to capacity, I had to make a decision. Something had to go so I got rid of everything that wasn’t attached to a memory.
For me, the real cost of travel didn’t boil down to a dollar amount. It’s an expensive lifestyle, yes, but it’s more than money. The cost of travel comes down to what you’re willing to give up to create memories. It’s about looking at what you have or want or desire and deciding what’s most valuable; the experience or the money; the moment or the memory.