Day 23: Is Travelling Worth Your Money?

A growing trend within the PF blogosphere shows a preference for spending money on “experience” rather than  “stuff”.

Like the last wave of feel-good-new-age-movement (Hello, The Secret), this idea is immediately embraced by most of us because it appeals to our idea of happiness and good life. Who doesn’t like holidays? It’s as if this movement had given us the license to spend money on one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Photo Courtesy of Wilson.

Monevator wrote a thought-provoking article on this subject outlining the difference between experience and memory backed by a lecture from Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate for economics. Are we spending money on memory or experience?

At the moment, the common belief suggests that spending money on “experience”, regardless of the outcome, is better than spending money on “stuff”. I don’t understand the logic (or lack thereof) behind it. Is a disastrous holiday worth more than a plasma TV? At least you can sell the plasma TV, albeit with lower price, if you change your mind; but you can’t claim back your plane ticket just because you have a so-so time in Uluru.

Another aspect I don’t fully buy is the broadness and vagueness of the term “experience”. Isn’t the life you live right now an “experience”? Spending $3000 on an overseas holiday simply to “experience” is not good enough.

Holiday is also subject to status symbol trapping, just like its cousin, material stuff. Who would tell their friends about a holiday to Wagga Wagga (an obscure Aussie little town “so good”, it’s named twice)? Wouldn’t you feel better bragging about your latest adventure to Paris, or better yet, a remote island so private, only 10 people are aware of its existence?

When we purchase an item, the process is simple. We think about a need or want, we research the item’s price, function and specification, compare sellers and finally make a purchasing decision.

We apply the same method and thinking when we purchase “experience”. Unfortunately, methodology that works on getting the best material item on the best price may not work as well when the result we’re after is immaterial. Should we add another parameter to it?

Going deeper into the heart of “experience” shopping is not intended to deter you from going on your next holiday plan. On the contrary, considering the mental aspect of travelling will enhance your holiday experience.  Being specific to what we wish to experience on our travel is as important as preparing physical resources such as money, hotel, transportation, etc.

Would you travel halfway around the world to see this? Photo Courtesy of Wilson.

To that end, I create checklist of “experience” I wish to have on my travel. The list is independent of location and budget. That means, if Wagga Wagga satisfies my “experience“ checklist, I would pack my bag and drive there next weekend. Sadly it doesn’t. Here’s my list:

1. Randomness

Tango on the street, conversation with a stranger who happens to be your friend’s ex-boyfriends’ cousin twice removed, impromptu participation in the world’s biggest Zorbas.

2. Connection to the new world

On top of money and passport, bring your open mind too. When you try to impose your way of life to the new place, you’ll end up complaining and criticizing every little thing. Not only that, you’ll win the ugliest tourist award.

3. Disconnection from our daily life

On my past holiday trips, I carried some workload with me so I could still earn money while enjoying the new scene. Sounds like a neat idea… NOT. Most of the days, I was concerned whether someone complained about XYZ and ended up spending hours in the hotel room taking care of other people’s shit. Frak that! Never again!

4. Culture shock, not just “culture”

Almost every shopping centre in Melbourne now carries the word “culture” in their marketing slogan when what they indicate is “lifestyle”.  It undermines the notion of culture. I want to see a place disconnected from the mainstream western culture. Up to a point of course; anything related to crime, genital mutilation or corruption is not something I wish to experience.

5. Physical adventure unique to the local

I can do skydiving here in Victoria, so why go all the way to New Zealand or US for it? I regret not taking the glowworm cave black water rafting on the last trip to New Zealand. Where else can you have it? Well, lesson learnt.

If a travel plan ticks all the above, then it’s worth doing. Sightseeing gets pretty old after 10 minutes.

The beauty of having an “experience” checklist to filter your travel destination is that you are liberated from the hype of popular destinations, such as tourist-heavy European cities, and more prone to embrace lesser known locations.

Why spend thousands of dollars on a cheap and plain overseas holiday package if what you want to do is to laze away on the beach with your Blackberry and books? Can’t you do it locally? Isn’t it similar to buying an item we think we need just because it’s on sale?

Don’t buy into the holiday marketing hype. Practice thoughtfulness with your travel plan.

Anyway, what’s your thought on travelling? Do you have an “experience” checklist? How do you make your travel holiday worthwhile?

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Comments
11 Responses to “Day 23: Is Travelling Worth Your Money?”
  1. Monevator says:

    Glad you found the article thought provoking and thanks for the link. Interesting you say that you would never travel again while taking work with you. I’ve been wondering whether a way to make up for not traveling enough when young would be to work on the road (online etc) which is already borderline feasible for me and could get more so.

    On the other hand much of the travel I did do, especially in my 20s, was work related. However it was more to the US than to beaches covered with phallic wooden carvings! 😉

  2. Bytta says:

    Thanks for dropping by, mate.
    I like articles that don’t preach to the choir. You do that.
    I travel overseas regularly for work while enjoying the beach (not the one on the photo though, I know, how boring). That arrangement is acceptable for me, but not the other way around 🙂
    I doubt that people would enjoy working on the road if the work is demanding and requires you to be available most of the time. Some people can manage through, I can’t.
    Where do you want to go for the work/travel?

  3. I travel for work. I take every opportunity to see the uniqueness of every area I visit, from Indian ruins of Farmington to museums of Philly. I have played golf at some of the best courses and para-sailed in Catalina. While I have enjoyed every opportunity I would give any of them back for that time with my family!

    btw… If you ever get a chance, the John Deere museum in Moline Ill it a must visit! 😉

  4. LOL nice picture. I didn’t know what that was until I squinted and looked closely.

    Hmm my experience check list…

    I have a thing about seeing things that are perhaps ‘off the beaten track’. I have a thing about trying to see the 7 wonders of the world, or seeing the greatest peaks of the world, or the largest waterfall in the world…

    Aren’t there glow worm caves in Sydney too? I recall seeing one when I was down there last year =)

    • Bytta says:

      I’m not sure. The one that I know is in Gold Coast. But I doubt they have water system like the one in NZ where you can go toobing or black water rafting. Those kiwis know how to make dull spot exhilarating.

  5. Back in the day (pre-kids) my husband and I would pick the cheapest airfare we could find to a place we had never been, rent a car and go. No destination, no plans…Once we landed in Rome but ended up exploring Poland and Hungary. Or landing in Amsterdam but finding ourselves at the top of the Swiss alps. For me it was the ultimate freedom that was the intention and the results were amazing experiences I would do again in heartbeat. It may be the biggest motivation I have to be debt free – the get back “out there”, wherever that may be!

    • Bytta says:

      Randomness and spontaneity! I love that! I must say I’m quite jealous of your geographical location. We’re literally at the edge of the world 🙂 It’s a rare occasion to spend less than $2000 for a plane ticket to Europe.
      We’re definitely going to do that on our around the world trip.
      I suppose it’s going to be more interesting with the kids in tow.

  6. Hum, interesting thoughts. I’m not entirely sure why experiences are valued so much more highly than physical items among the PF blog crowd. If I had to hazard a guess, I would assume it’s because it fits with the whole ‘cut down on your stuff, save on your regular expenses, invest, and retire happy (and probably early)’ motif that most bloggers seem to have. Or maybe it’s just that some of the big names in PF blogging, like Baker of Man vs. Debt, seem to make gallivanting across the globe seem so glamorous. Either way, saying you’ve used your saving for a trip to an exotic locale seems more acceptable than ‘I just saved for the past year in order to buy a new plasma screen’, regardless of the fact that both situations require the same amount of fiscal discipline (in theory, at least). Of well, just one of those quirks of personal finance blogging, I suppose.

    • Bytta says:

      I don’t think it’s “wrong” for someone to think spending money on experience is better than spending money on things. Stuff per se are not a bad thing. It’s people who chime in without adequate self-thinking that irritate me 😀

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  1. […] 151 Days Off asks “Is Travelling Worth your Money?” I guess you can see from above how I feel about travel.  I’ll use any excuse to travel.  My divorce is planned for Bora Bora. (kidding) […]



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