Ever since I took all of 2010 off to travel around Europe and Asia, I’ve noticed a slight uptick in personal finance bloggers hinting or talking about doing something similar, albeit maybe on a smaller scale.
I am not trying to take credit for any kind of travel “movement” among the community, by any means, but I will say that perhaps on the whole we are more aware that life for people who are interested in retiring comfortably is not about saving every penny and depriving ourselves until the day we retire, but achieving a nice balance between spending and saving.
I am very much interested in retiring comfortably, but I am not going to refuse to have children to be able to save another $500,000 or more just because children cost money, or refuse to go on trips because it costs money.
Everything costs money, but life is not ONLY about working 24/7 and saving your money.
“Blasphemy from a PF blogger!“, you might cry at this point, but truly, the whole point of having all this money is being able to spend it.
What is the point of hoarding all this cash if I don’t get to enjoy it?
(Case in point: Hello delicious Burberry trench coat….)
I’d also rather not wait until I am retired, old, and really too tired to take in the sights as an energetic, young traveler on a budget.
My aunt waited until she retired to finally go to Paris, and spent $10,000 a week because she stayed in the best hotels, ate at touristy restaurants and I daresay due to her age, didn’t see half the sights I did because she was taking cabs and not wandering down little hidden streets.
Traveling has no doubt changed my life in that it has enriched it by giving me a different perspective on how others live, and observations into cultures I thought I knew.
For instance, China was the biggest shock for me, based on my diet of media-only news about how advanced they were when in fact the majority of Chinese are far away from being as rich as we make them out to be. I also know that I never want to visit China again in my lifetime.
With all that said, why am I saying you don’t need to take a trip to change your life?
Doesn’t that sound controversial to what I just wrote above? In a way yes, but in another way no.
I just want people to realize that you are not me and I am not you.
I think for a LOT of people, traveling changes them, opens their lives and is something that is extremely enriching no matter how tight of a budget they had to do it on.
…but there are many of you out there who don’t need to travel to change your life.
You might feel as though you need to do something that scares the living crap out of you so that you get out of your comfort zone, but I challenge you to really search inside yourself to ask if traveling is the answer to this big change.
Quitting your job is a big change.
Moving to a another city is a big change.
Getting out of a stale relationship that has plodded along long enough is a big change.
Even moving apartments is a big change for some people.
Please, don’t listen to people like me, who take months off at a time to travel, and feel as though it is all glitz and glamour.
It really isn’t.
Just as consulting as a job and traveling all the time to no-name cities to work, is not as glamourous as people might imagine, going on vacation for long periods of time, or to faraway places is not 100% glamour all the time.
There are points of traveling where I think: Why am I doing this? I wish I were at home.
When my flights are delayed, my bus is full of screaming, unruly children, or inconsiderate adults on their cellphones talking loudly, or when the sweat is streaming down my face while I am desperately in need of a shower trying to find my hotel or the airport… I wonder if it was all really worth the stress, the (internal and external) screaming, and the language barrier.
Sometimes yes, sometimes not at all, and that’s the honest truth.
That’s what traveling is — getting to an unexpectedly beautiful, sometimes fleeting result by way of a hard, long voyage rife with problems, frustration and stress.
Sometimes, you don’t even get that beautiful result. You visit the Mona Lisa in The Louvre and think: That’s what I lined up and battled other tourists for?
Even in wonderful travel series like “Departures”, I know that the time it took for those 3 guys to get all that beautiful, breathtaking footage in a neat 1-hour segment for each city or country, consists of sifting through thousands of hours of boring or useless footage and cutting it so that you get a short, beautiful story out of it.
The change you seek is really not as simple as saying: I need to take time off like so-and-so and travel around the world, or write emails to friends while sitting in a cafe in Vienna sipping a chocolat au lait.
What you really need to do, and I urge you to do so, is to look deep inside yourself and ask what it is you feel you are missing or lacking.
If it’s relaxation, then take a week of vacation, go to the spa, read, go to the beach and sleep in all week.
If it’s to jazz up the dullness you think your life consists of, then ask yourself what it is about your life that bores you or seems boring, and try to get as specific as possible.
Traveling is not always the answer, and although it is worked out fabulously for me, it may not have the same effect for you.
(Plus it costs money, you might have to quit your job if you aren’t a freelancer like I am, and it causes anxiety.)