I just learned from a colleague that he was sent by his previous company on a 6-month business assignment in Copenhagen a few years back.
The farthest I was able to reach on a business trip was only to Singapore and Malaysia, so just imagine my envy each time I hear these stories of other colleagues being sent to expensive Europe.
I really had to ask him what other European cities he went to on weekends he’s not working, but I was appaled (okay, just shocked) when he mentioned he didn’t go anywhere and instead just stayed in his apartment and do a few side trips in and around Copenhagen on weekends.
His puzzling answer only led to me asking more questions.
WTF?!? What did you do with your $100 a day allowance? Wait, so you really didn’t go to other Schengen countries? So how did you waste your weekends? Your apartment is shouldered by the company anyway, so you could’ve used your allowance to go anywhere but your apartment!! Blah blah blah…
Turns out, he was saving it for something else.
He was planning to buy himself a brand new SUV.
Alright, alright, at least he had a shiny brand new car, right? And look who’s talking, the one who commutes to work daily (me).
But I’d choose travel and new experiences over a brand new car any given day. That 1 million peso car, I could turn into a whole year of travel on a budget. Easy peasy.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course I’d still want to own a shiny new car, but the point here is, he already had the opportunity. He was already in Europe and almost everywhere was just a train ride away and he also had the daily allowances to cover his travels.
He’s already in Copenhagen, for crying out loud!
He paused, quite perplexed at my reaction, then added that it’s too cold to go out and about anyways. Hah, convenient reasoning, eh?
Of course I did not push the idea, and I’m not one who would start an argument.
But reflecting on our discussion, I was thinking, if it’s really more practical to buy a new car? Or is it better to use it to travel when you already have the opportunity anyway?
Is travel an unnecessary expense?
It’s easy to think of travel as just another extravagant way to blow your money and that it’s an unnecessary expense. Why not? Travel is not cheap, and your airfare is just the start of it.
Aside from airfare which most likely constitutes a huge chunk of your budget, here are some of the other expenses that will scare the helpless travelbug out of you:
- Passport fees
- Visa fees – and approval is not even guaranteed
- Hotel accommodation
- Transport expenses (bus, taxi, train, etc.)
- Travel insurance
- Dining out
- Mandatory tips
- Entrance fees at tourist attractions
- Internet connection while abroad
- Miscellaneous expenses
And the list goes on… Looking at the list, it will likely make you stop and easily forego your travel plans because it’s way too much to begin with. And in case you push through with your plans, you might even end up spending way above your threshold if you’re not too careful about your budget abroad.
So how exactly is it again that travel is an investment in yourself?
Unlike my colleague’s brand new SUV which will definitely depreciate in value over time, the experiences and life skills you will acquire are forever with you. Not to mention you will appreciate them more later in life.
The aforementioned list might be too much to soak in, but it is exactly what an investment is in money terms sans the risk of losing your money because you know you’ll actually spend it.
Travel is an investment because you need resources (a.k.a money) to get to where you want, but you will definitely reap the benefits of travel as time goes. To start with, that Passport fee will last you 5 to 10 years before it expires.
It will broaden your horizon
Not traveling loosely translates to ‘living inside the box’. We are living in an age where the world is ever more connected. With air travel, it is now possible to be in three international cities in less than 24 hours by means of layovers.
Certainly the distances you get to travel is tremendous, but it isn’t only about the farthest you’ve reached. It’ll certainly broaden your understanding of how vast and diverse the world is, and that your life in your locality isn’t all there is to it.
It will surely lead you to ask questions like a curious kid. You’ll be surprised to find out that everything done in your country is done very differently on the other side of the globe. You might even discover a great business idea and a solution to a big problem that no one has ever thought of.
You educate yourself
Did you ever think that Emirates, the world’s largest airline, does not fly to Tel Aviv in Israel which is just around the corner from Dubai, just because of differences in political and religious views? And how is it that the passport you hold dictates how far you can reach?
As you travel farther, you start to learn and understand global concerns which are not easily comprehensible just by watching the news. It also allows you to experience cultural immersion and gain sensitivity of each, thereby widening your perspective.
It expands your network
The people you meet in your travels might just be the ones who can help you in the future. And not only do you keep them part of your network, you earn new friends as well as you learn from them as well through exchange of ideas and views.
Traveling now allows you to beat inflation
The value of your money now may depreciate in value over the years to come. If you travel now, you’re effectively beating inflation, taking the opportunity while prices are cheaper that what everything will become in the future. It’s a time investment.
Also because you travel now, you get to enjoy your experiences more compared to when you’re older with more responsibilities in life but with less energy.
Really. Are you gonna enjoy travel when you’re ‘made’ enough? Tell me, when is that?
It gives you confidence in life. And street smarts that go with it.
Now confidence is another thing that you cannot buy really, and it usually comes with experience. You learn to trust yourself when you travel, because in travel, that’s where you usually get to a point wherein you have to make last minute decisions and fight to avoid getting eaten alive.
In my travels there was a time that I had no choice but to stay overnight outside a train station in Japan simply because my flight arrived way too late. There was also a time where I arrived in New York City, the biggest and most intimidating city to get lost in, only to learn that my hotel stay has been cancelled and that I had to get a cheap last-minute accommodation in expensive NYC that same day, or risk being homeless again for a night.
I’ve managed to survive an incident that involved me and a few friends in a capsized passenger boat in the middle of the sea, but have managed to be resourceful at it and grab unusual items to be used as a flotation device, last minute. I was also drugged unconscious at a Las Vegas club, my money stolen along with a very very bad hangover.
So far with all those mishaps, I managed to survive, move on, and learn a great deal from it.
Memories for life
Remember the first time you traveled on an airplane? I can still remember every bit of it as a young boy. It was from Manila going to Palawan. During take off I kind of shouted for a bit until my older sister tugged me, asking me to stay put.
These memories you gain from travel, surely money cannot buy. How many times have you watched a movie and said “Been there, done that!"?
Or how many times have you closed your eyes, and then relived that time you were trying to catch a glance of a mysterious Geisha in the heart of Kyoto, or that time when you did a Hawaiian road trip?
It’s like having this treasure trove of experiences that makes you fully satisfied that you’ve actually lived a life, and not lived all of it in the corners of a cubicle.
Travel whenever you can. It’s an investment in yourself.
Just like an investment, it’s hard to accept losing your money at first. But in travel, your venture will pay off in a form of a better you and unforgettable memories without a doubt. Plus, there are proven ways you can travel on a budget anyway. So go ahead, travel whenever you can. In the future you will thank your younger self for the experience.