A few years ago my friends from Sullivan and Sullivan Studios in Seattle wrote a post for Paper Planes about how to take travel better photos. It’s still one of my most-read posts – they know what they’re talking about. If you haven’t read it yet, do…but not before reading these words of wisdom from Laura first!
If you’ve traveled at all, you’ve probably seen the two extremes of Travelers Who Are Missing Out:
First, we have the very wealthy travelers, who tend to associate high cost with the must-do experience. They brag about eating dinner at fancy hotels (when you know for a fact that people got food poisoning there last week, the chef isn’t that great and they’re banking on their price point to convince well-heeled people to eat there). They equate spending copious amounts of money with getting the best experience in any given place, because money equals value, right?
Except…so much of what they’re consuming really isn’t necessarily that great. Just safe.
Then there are the budget travelers. (Pease note: I have gleefully leapfrogged through multiple continents with about $3 in my bank account and this is not an anti-backpacker treatise. On the contrary, many backpackers know exactly how to spend their dollars so they get exactly the value they need out of them, no frills. These are not the people I’m talking about.) I’m talking about the travelers who brag endlessly and mindlessly about having only spent 50 cents in the last week, as if the whole point of travel is to spend the least by the time you go home. But when you ask them what they’ve experienced, what has moved them, what they’ll carry with them forever in terms of flavors or experiences, they can’t tell you much more than sipping beers with other budgeters. Their main goal is make their dollar stretch as far as possible, regardless of the cost. They forget that some experiences are worth investing money, time and emotional energy into creating them – otherwise, why travel at all?
We can stay home and have TV dinners if the goal is to not spend a dime on creating memories, but…why? I’ll never forget being 20-years-old standing in the rain in Dublin with my friends having a HEATED debate about whether or not we would go see the Book of Kells for 7 euros or save that money for beers later. It was the Book of Kells! It doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world! Why go to Dublin if you don’t want to experience Dublin? But I digress.
Two polar opposites in terms of traveling style but they’re similar when it comes to missing the general point: that money while traveling should be spent extremely wisely.
But it should be spent on experiences that are valuable and meaningful to YOU: it should feed your passions and expand your worldview and help you look back on your life at age 95 and think “DAMN, that was badass!”
Money is a means to an end, and the end should be to have the richest, most well-rounded experience on any given trip (and once you’re back home) that you can possibly muster.
Staying in a generic hotel that looks exactly like every other hotel in the world when its curtains are drawn? Fine, if you’re into it, but it’s not the kind of thing you write about in your journal.
Eating the safe foods that you’re used to at home from places that are well-lit and bland? Fine, if you want to miss the entire lexicon of what a culture has to offer you (and honestly, if you’re avoiding street food because you might get sick, get over that ASAP. You’re more likely to get sick from a weird restaurant than a food truck, and I will stand on this soapbox until I die).
Saving your pennies to such a hoarding extent that you come home from a trip and wonder if you really experienced anything, or if you were too focused on penny-pinching to look up and marvel at the unexplored world around you?
No thanks to all of that.
You can have it all – you just have to play your cards right.
You can stay in the high-end hotel and eat the spicy street food that you’d never heard of before. You can set your own priorities, knock them out of the park, and look back at the experience with a full heart/stomach/memory bank, and thank every last dollar that helped you get there.
If finding balance sounds like the next phase of your travel journey, we’ve already saved you a spot at this year’s Moveable Feast…in Chiang Mai!
Join us, Alana, and a crew of your future best travel buddies in a luxurious jungle villa and experience the high/low balance of good sheets AND street food, all in the same trip. You can have it all, babe.
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
New places are always calling my name...
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