Save. Spend. Splurge.

You don’t need to travel around the world to change your life

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.



Paris, France

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.



Hong Kong

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.



Lisbon, Portugal

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.



Vienna, Austria

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.)



    Thanks for the book recommendation, I am definitely going to read it.

    I do enjoy my money. Quite a bit. I do travel a lot and spend money on that but in the same vein I am starting to realize that being in my own city alone or with Baby Bun is another way to see how interesting our home city can be as well.

    Lifestyle blogger eh? 🙂 I like that better than PF blogging. I am not so money focused that I want people to turn into troll-y scrooges. I want everyone to love saving AND SPENDING that money. If not, what’s the point?

  • SP

    The experience that travel gives me that is hard to replicate in other ways is the total disorientation, the novelty, being thrown into an environment that I don’t understand, and being surprised by the unexpected. Also, even if you enjoy your life, getting completely out of the day-to-day is fabulously and thrilling and inspiring.

    It is not impossible to get elements of that at home, and I very much intentionally try to have adventures in my own area. Still, it is hard to do it on the same magnitude with the same impact. I

    I don’t travel to change my life, but I do travel to enrich it in such a way. And that disorientation does seem to decrease the more I travel (or the older I get!), but I still love it.

    I would point out that there is no need to go off for months at a time to get the experience I’m talking about from travel. It certainly is an efficient way to see a lot, but I’ve gotten quite a bit of joy out of some shorter trips. I most recently tacked on just 4-5 days in Oman with a work trip, and it was absolutely an awesome trip for a lot of reasons. On the budget side, I can get quite a bit of what I crave on the “get out of the day-to-day” by spending 2-3 nights hiking/backpacking in the California backcountry mountains. Nearly free.


      I found that when I traveled for more than a month I felt tired and I did not enjoy it any more. In small doses, why not? But then I missed my home, a change of different clothes and my own THINGS.

  • kt

    We often say we travel to see how other people live — but how many of us do that in our own towns?

    My husband has pushed us to take a walk on Thanksgiving in different neighborhoods in our city. It is really interesting, and in 30 minutes we do see a little bit how other people live.

    Walking is not so challenging; sometimes people want to travel to get that feeling of dislocation — not knowing the language, having an adventure. That, too, is often possible in your own town. Have you ever been to the Somali coffeeshop? Have you ever visited the panaderia and practiced your spanish a bit? You could check and see if your town has a night market modeled on the ones in south asia (we do now!). You could find out if your local German community still does Carneval/Fasching festivals — that was pretty exotic to me.

    There’s a ritual aspect to international travel: the lines, the rushing through airports or train stations, the confinement. What does that bring us? Why is it different to take a city bus to the north side of our own city?


      You are COMPLETELY right. Just recently I started taking Baby Bun to a different part of the city and I discovered a whole new area of vintage shops and interesting cafes.

      Perhaps exploring a section by foot as you have suggested in your own town is the best. I only really go to Mont Royal if tourists visit 😉 Maybe I ought to do it more often with the family in the summer.

  • raluca

    I have a love-hate relationship with travel really.

    I love it when I get to see one of a kind things like the great wall of China or New York’s Times Square, or the the Tower Bridge.

    I hate generic travel, where you pay for a tour and you get to “see” all the sights, but you do it on somebody else’s schedule.

    I am bored to death after the first week, if I’m only staying in one place.

    Surprisingly, what I trully enjoy is travelling for work in a different country. This happened twice for me, my employer paid for me to go to our clients place to work for a longer period, once in London, once in Germany. I LOVED it. It’s like a paid semi-vacation: somebody else foots the bill for the transportation and hotel and you get to use your after work or weekend time to visit the place. Not to mention that there’s ussually some dining out money as well. Of course you won’t be able to see most of the sites that cater to tourits, but if you use the time to talk to the locals and go eat where they eat and do what they do, I think it’s worthwhile. After all, they go to work every day too,

    • Ramona

      I’ve done guided tours (Morocco and Gibraltar), I also did a lot of walking by myself in Spain or New York. Any type of travel is OK, as long as you enjoy it and learn something from it.

      For us, spending 18 months in NYC was life-changing. We got to experience a new city and culture, and it helped us become more tolerant and understanding.

      travel for us is a priority, it’s always one of the things we invest more each year. And yes, I wrote invest, we consider the money we spend doing this to be a real investment in our own minds and souls.


        NYC for me was life changing in another way — I realized I did not want to live in an urban setting. At any rate, I like traveling but I fear that we put too much emphasis on travel as the be-all and end-all of experiences when in fact as kt mentioned, we can just visit our own city and see it from a different perspective.


      Hmm. Travel for work is another animal. I think being PAID to be there takes the sting out of it… at least in our wallets.

      I did like traveling for work but I always ended up in little hick towns so it was boring after a week.

  • cantaloupe

    Word. I absolutely hate travelling, although I have to do it now that I live outside my home country. It’s like an expectation here in the UAE that you need to travel during any vacation time and especially during the summer when it’s a billion degrees here and literally half the country exits to escape. And I hate it. I seriously do. It’s stressful, like you said, and I end up in places like India where I just want to cry. I absolutely loathe when people rave about trips to (specifically Northern) India because there is zero chance they didn’t get food poisoning or see starving people begging for money or see frighteningly awful harassment of women. And what sociopath enjoys that sort of thing? Sure you can rave about the pretty sights, but they were seen through a smog of pollution and filth and poverty, so don’t pretend it’s really all that majestic. I love that photo series where they zoom out of the majestic sights, like the pyramids, and you see that they’re really in a swarm of mundane and it’s all about the angles and cropping, lol.


      My siblings visit India often and they always come back humbled and with a new disease (or so they joke).

      The poverty is crushing. It really is. India, China (they’re all hidden). I wrote about the Rich & Poor in China here and some of their homes really shocked me when you saw it in contrast with the uber rich.

      Travel does expose you to new experiences and different viewpoints but I daresay if people take a look around their own city they’d find just as interesting stories. We always want the grass that is greener but maybe where we are, it is just as green.

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