The Opportunity Cost of Travel: Should I travel long term?
What is the true cost of travel? Not just the dollars but what do we miss out on when we travel? Do I have a trustworthy face? Does my writing inspire others to venture into the unknown, fight dragons and vanquish daemons in a quest for enlightenment and illumination? Important questions all. As much as I would love to say yes, in reality, I would have to say no, probably not.. yet I do get people frequently asking me for advice in regards to whether they should go travelling long-term or not.. asking me to contribute to or even directly make this choice for them. It always confuses the hell out of me because I literally have no idea who these people are, what they’re like or in fact anything at all about them that’s not been relayed in a 3-6 sentence email.. and they want me, a complete stranger to help make it for them. Do they even know who I am? I could be wearing my underwear on the outside of my pants, eating a goldfish and drooling on the keyboard and I’ve now been tasked to help them make a life changing decision…
My reply is always the same, as much as I want more people to experience quitting their tedious jobs to travel the world I will always give the inevitably frustrating response of: ‘mate, I wish I had all the answers for you but I don’t, no one can make that decision, except you’. Am I a diplomatic ninja?
I can’t make a life-changing decision for anyone except me. Same as you.
The cost of travel and Brazillian hookers
This one guy emailed me with a hilarious question that went something along these lines (I’m paraphrasing): ‘I’m not sure if I want to get married or if I want to leave my partner, go travel the world, party hard and snort cocaine off the bellies of sensual Brazilian hookers. If you were me, what would you do?’ I sent this back: ‘After much deliberation I have decided that you should almost certainly go with the hookers, largely because Brazilian ladies are beautiful and have fantastic bellies that actively help in the consumption of cocaine, while unfortunately your fiancé is a bit of an uggo and has never enjoyed spending time with your mother.’ Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer… so it often comes down to the question of what is the cost of travel to you?
I cover most people’s concerns in my post about quitting a job to travel long term. It’s obviously general advice and not a one size fits all thing, everyone’s different, circumstances are different and an article on a website (even an amazing article on a website..) will never be able to make a major decision for you. Which is a good thing.
The Opportunity Cost of Travel
Every time you make a choice in life, it comes with an opportunity cost. If you go to a restaurant and after 5 minutes of painstaking ‘umming’ and ‘arrring’ you settle on the Chicken, the opportunity cost of your choice was the fish you almost ordered…
The true cost of travel is no different. Do I travel the world long-term or put a deposit on a house? (Actually, if you’re from Australia the decision is more like: do I travel for the rest of my life, live like a king and snort cocaine off an endless supply of Brazilian hookers bellies or do I put a deposit on a house..).
The opportunity cost of travel goes much, much further than that single major decision to leave in the first place; I mentioned the paradox of travel here in a post about what I’ve learnt while travelling long term. This is when you realise that the more you travel the more you understand that there’s so much more to see and the more you want to travel… It’s a vicious cycle. The opportunity cost of going to Paris means you might have to miss out on solo travel in Berlin.. LIFE’S SO DAMN HARD ISIN’T IT?!
Removing the choice eliminates the problem of course but then you’ve missed the point altogether and you may as well stay at home and watch re-runs on TV or try watching the carpet grow.
What I think largely makes choosing hard, is the fact that we’re afraid of making a ‘wrong’ choice. Here’s a tip for anyone stressing about making the wrong choice. It’s become quite apparent to me as I’ve gotten older that there are no wrong choices in life (as long as we’re not talking about extremes like ‘should I kill the mailman or not..’) There are no black and white, right or wrong decisions in life, you don’t get off that easy.. instead we’re faced with almost unlimited shades of grey (just like those damn movies.. can’t move for fifty shades of grey sequels these days really can you). Making a choice leads us down one path or another, in my experience, good choices can turn out to be bad and bad choices can turn out to be good. You just don’t know. Funny old world isn’t it?
When I left my job to travel the world long term I was scared of lots of things, these fears challenged me, threatened to stop me from leaving and yet upon vanquishing them (yep I didn’t just conquer them I MOTHER FUCKING VANQUISHED THEM), I learnt a bit more about myself. I had a choice to make, quit a well-paid job, spend a bunch of my life savings and go see the world or keep working, spend my money in a more financially intelligent manner and get used to gardening on the weekends. The choice was mine and I made it, the cost of travel was my next promotion. Was it the right choice? Nope, it was just the best option I thought I had at the time, has it worked out? So far, but maybe if I’d stayed at home I would have bought a lottery ticket and won $50 million, then I could have travelled forever… decisions, decisions.
At the end of the day our choices are our own and are made based on the information we have at the time; this information is filtered through our attitudes and worldviews, shaped by our experiences and tinted by how we view ourselves now in comparison to where we want to be.
“What the fuck are you talking about Pete?” I hear you yell.. No idea at all. Which is why when someone asks me for life advice I never answer too seriously, and if they’re lucky, my response involves a chimpanzee…
The point is, I’m wary of asking for advice from others to make a choice simply because advice always comes with the price of being given by the person who gave it. What I mean by that is if I asked Adolf Hitler his opinion on whether I should marry a beautiful Jewish woman I might get some rather one-sided feedback… just something to think about.
If you’re down about your choices here’s a good quote: “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.” ― Steven Winterburn
The Cost of Travel is Subjective
If travel is the change you need then maybe it’s the best choice for you, but maybe it’s not. No one can make that decision for you, except you. I’m all for people learning about the world and themselves, and I honestly believe that travel makes for better, more rounded and thoughtful people but maybe it’s not the right time for you, maybe the cost of travel for you right now is too high. I don’t know. The best advice I have is not to listen to anyone’s advice (which of course makes this post effectively redundant..). Carefully and scientifically weigh up your options, assess if it’s what you really want, weigh up all the costs and the rewards involved (not just the financial ones), and make an educated decision then by man (or woman.. sure) enough to face the consequences of your decisions, good or bad.