The moment that I realized that my life would never be the same can be pinpointed to an exact moment. It was late February of 2004 and I was in Berlin, a train ride from the small town of Bruchsal, Germany where I was studying abroad. By my side were 2 amazing women, 1 from Florida and the other from Mexico. We were strangers less than 3 months before but had grown to be lifelong friends.
As we walked around sightseeing for 9 hours in the freezing cold of northern Germany in the dead of winter, I knew that I had gotten the travel bug. For anyone that has gotten the travel bug, there is no known cure and each trip that is taken both heals and makes the bug much worse.
The Life That You’re Expected to Have
If you look at the natural progression of someone’s life it typically looks something like this:
- Go to school
- Get a job
- Get married
- Buy a house
- Have a family
- Buy a bigger house
This is the way that most people judge how they are doing in life and how they compare with their peers.
Sprinkled in there as well is the purchase of items like cars, big screen televisions, toys for kids and so much more. These are things that people love to buy and often show off to their family and friends who can then see how well they are doing.
Why I Choose Experiences Over Things
Personally, I could care less about most material goods. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to live in a shack, but beyond having a comfortable home, I don’t need much stuff to go inside of it. Getting new clothes every season is something that I never do and I happily make dinner at home most nights of the week. I know that every dollar that I can save, puts me $1 closer to taking a trip somewhere.
Many of my friends are jealous of the number of vacations that I take and say that they wish that they were able to travel as much as I do. Ironically, these are often the same friends that like to go shopping or dine out frequently. Since their focus isn’t on traveling, which isn’t a bad thing – just different priorities, they will likely never travel as much as I do because it isn’t what they truly want to do with their money. Without making financial sacrifices, I wouldn’t be able to travel as much as I do.
I read an article that perfectly sums up why I choose to spend my money on travel instead of things, the article explains that after your basic needs are met, money will only make you happier up to a certain point. It’s the experiences in life that shape you into the person that you are and allows you to connect with others.
Personally, I can’t think of many things that I have purchased and still have 10 years later. Every year as I go through my apartment, I donate things that I purchased over the years and don’t need anymore. One thing that I never get rid of though are my photos, they remind me of all of the things that I have done in my life and the memories of these moments.
Travel Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive
The first thing that people think when they hear the word “vacation” is “expensive”. That is true, it can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. Granted, it takes a little more energy to find better deals, but if you are willing to put in the effort, you can save a good chunk of money.
I always spend a good amount of time searching for hotels as that is a good portion of my travel expenses. In addition to traditional hotels, it is also worth checking out Airbnb. Airbnb has a wide range of accommodations from the non-traditional houseboat, yurt and tree house to more traditional homes, apartments and guest rooms. The best part of Airbnb is that you often stay where locals live which gives you a more authentic feel of the city. A lot of times you will also have access to a kitchen which can help keep your food budget down. When you use my referral link, you earn $25 off your first booking.
Even better than finding good vacation deals is getting your flight for free. If you are new to the points game, check out the basics of how to earn miles. With some effort, you can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on your next vacation.
Why I’m Not Waiting until I Retire to Travel
Instead of saying “someday I will go here” or “I would love to visit there”, I choose to do it now. I do hope to continue to travel when I retire, but delaying all of my fun until I am older makes me miss out on so much. Also, who knows what historical sites will and will not still be standing in the next 40 years.
While Andy and I were honeymooning in Cambodia we were climbing temples that were hundreds of years old and had a amazing time. We saw some tour groups of older people when we were there, but they were certainly limited to what they could do physically. I want to be the person riding the tuk tuk to the temple, jumping out and climbing up the stairs, not the old woman leaving the tour bus to walk down the easy path and take pictures from the ground. That is why I travel now instead of in my 60’s or later.
Regrets of the Dying
Articles that mention the regrets of the dying are fascinating to me. Often times, those that are dying regret that they did not travel more.
I try to not be fearful in life and always go for what I want. When I die, I don’t want to be on my death bed having regrets or wishing that I did something differently in life. I want to lie in my bed and close my eyes knowing that I did everything that I wanted to do in life. I can only imagine the difference of peace that your mind has at that moment.
Life is too short to follow the rules of life that were set for us through society. Blaze your own path and do what you truly want to do, after all it is your life and you make the rules. If you want to go on 6 vacations a year, know that some people will be jealous of you or judge you. Don’t let them get you down or make you second guess your decisions. They are jealous of you, likely because they want to do the same thing but are too scared to make the leap.