There are so many things to hate about traveling. Let’s start with the flight: You walk through Business Class, feeling incredibly jealous at the smug dudes holding their champagne and their copies of the Wall Street Journal. And then you pull back the curtain to Economy Class, and it’s like a war in there. People climbing on top of each other, babies wailing, and chicken-coop seats waiting to abuse your body. And heaven forbid if your entertainment system breaks down or the airline screws up your seating – you just paid over a thousand bucks for this flight. Why isn’t everything perfect?!
And when you get to your destination, you drop your bags off at the hotel and zip off to the first attraction. After all, you only have a couple of days and like 10 things on your list to see, so you’d better get started now. Of course, the jetlag starts to kick in a few hours later and you end up feeling cranky, tired, and exhausted every single day.
Letting Money Drive Our Vacations
I used to travel like that, and it took a couple of these trips from hell before I realized that I was doing it all wrong: I was letting money drive my vacation.
Most of us don’t realize how much money sets up these crazy expectations in our heads. Because a vacation is such an infrequent event, we only want the absolute best and we’re willing to pay for it. Unfortunately, just because we pay more for something doesn’t mean that we’ll get a better experience.
We’ll pay a small fortune for a full-service flight, and get annoyed when something goes wrong. We’ll pay extra to fly to faraway cities, and then put pressure on ourselves to see all the important sights and cool restaurants within those precious few days. We’ll pay tour companies to rush us from place to place in an airconditioned bus instead of walking and savoring what the city has to offer.
It’s funny how we sometimes spend more to get a slice of the rich life, but end up feeling poorer than ever.
What A Real Vacation Feels Like
Let’s get back to the real purpose of vacations: They’re supposed to be fun. They’re supposed to help us relax. We’re supposed to come back from our trip rejuvenated and richer from the experiences we’ve gained.
The best way to have a real vacation is to let go of our money-driven expectations.
I spent 6 days in Cambodia last week with the girlfriend, and it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. We spent a day exploring the temples and an afternoon visiting a palace, but that’s pretty much it. The rest of the time was spent on the simple joys of waking up late, having leisurely breakfasts, hunting down hidden local restaurants on foot, and watching TED talks by the pool.
Food was amazingly cheap, yet I didn’t feel the need to buy more just because I could afford it. Instead of feeling hungry all the time, I could look at a delicious, $1.50 ice cream and leisurely choose not to eat it even though I could afford it. We flew budget, and didn’t spend a lot of money at all. Ironically, when we travelled without any expectations of the “perfect” vacation, we ended up having exactly that.
It’s Not Just About Traveling Cheap
I’m not saying that you should only travel cheap to enjoy your vacations. If you want to reward yourself with a trip to Europe after a year of hard work, go right ahead. But don’t force yourself to make that trip “worth it”, because the quality of your vacation has very little to do with how much you spend. The ingredients of an awesome vacation are often free: The people you travel with, the photographs you take, and the bliss of waking up after 9 hours of sleep.
Learn to let go of the expectations that exist in your head just because you spent a whole bunch of money. View everything that happens to you – good or bad – as an opportunity to experience the world as it truly is, and another story to tell.
Who Needs First Class?
The girlfriend and I were boarding the flight back from Phnom Penh International Airport and feeling a little annoyed. We were originally assigned seats together, but Jetstar had changed it at the last minute and allocated different seats to us. Our departure was delayed, the seats were cramped, and the person next to me started slurping a bowl of cup noodles, and the aroma was strangely making me greedy and annoyed at the same time. “Dang,” I said to myself, “I really hate low-cost carriers.”
And then I stopped myself. Getting annoyed wasn’t going to help my experience one bit. I settled back into the chair, stretched out my legs as best I could in the tiny legroom, opened my Kindle and looked out the window at the city lights below. I’d just had an amazing vacation, and I’m so incredibly fortunate to be able to travel in the first place. I didn’t spend that much money, but I already felt like the richest person in the world.