I’m finally home from a rewarding trip to East Nusa Tenggara. Checking my wallet and screaming. I just realized that I spent more than I planned. My bank account even says “No more trips until next paycheck. Two or three paychecks!”
Does this sound familiar to you?
My fellow travelers have different ways to fund their trip. Some planned their trip and saved their paycheck several months in advance. Some just saved the money and when there’s opportunity, they went traveling. Some didn’t even save and just used whatever money they had in their bank account.
I admit: I’m in the third group. Half of my friends that I asked fell in the third group. One third in the first. But hey, I’m no financial planner and not trying to judge which one is better. Everybody has their own style. As long as you can survive after returning, you have a successful trip.
Whatever the style, traveling is not cheap. Really?
For me traveling is still an option, not a profession. Of course, it can be as cheap as trekking to the village next to my grandmother’s house during Idul Fitri or Christmas holiday. But traveling is more than how to spend less or least money. Traveling, today, is an investment.
First I need to prepare my mindset, “Oh, I’m going to this place and meeting new people.” Some people, including me long time ago, have acute wariness of going to new places and meeting new people. Will I be treated nicely? Will they do harmful things to me? Will I be safe there? And so on. To ease my self, I read guide books, talked to other travelers and asked around. I still do that. And that already cost me money.
Then I need to research on the new place. I understand that some of my friends who prefer not to research the places they’re going to go. I used to – and sometimes still – do that too. Fun and challenging. But in the end, I stuck on ferries that don’t operate, national parks closed for maintenance, budget hotels fully booked, festivals that just finished, etc. Staying unnecessary longer and spending more are just the costs that my thin wallet couldn’t bear.
Next I need to prepare my gears: clothes, gadgets, backpacks, etc. I might even need to purchase new or rent or borrow gears to suit my travel. A friend of mine bought what he called “fast lens” because he wanted to bring home good pictures of a local festival in his trip. Another friend bought a new pair of fins because she’s going to dive in a spot called “crazy current”. Me? I always bought a new notebook (the one with paper, yes!) to keep mementos of my long trip. It’s all about money, right? And you’re not even yet leaving your door.
And of course, once you’re on the way to or arrived at the destination, money starts to leak out of your wallet; expected or not. When I travel more than one week, I used to have a “me-and-my-wallet” time in the evening to make sure that I still have enough money to continue the trip. If I look awful the next morning, I might run short on cash. And it (still) happened.
Do I make traveling sounds financially-horrible? I hope not.
Because traveling is not our profession, we – travelers – should get what we deserve. Naturally, we, travelers, are trader. We trade our money, time and energy (waiting to board the delayed flight, sitting on the deck of a verrry slow ferry, or circling the town before the bus departs) to get what we don’t get in our everyday life.
Dynamic city-life. Exotic beach. Lush mountains. Colorful underwater. Adrenaline-pumping river-kayaking. Cultural performances. Mouthful culinary. Silk-beddings and goose-down bed-tops. And the list goes on. You’re familiar with this. Most travelers are familiar with this.
For me, these are what makes traveling so worth to the money spent. You get what your eyes can see, your ears can hear, your tongue can taste, your nose can smell and your hand can touch. But what your senses can not sense are sometimes what brings soul to a trip.
Staying in the village. Listening to elders telling stories. Playing with the kids. Working in the rice fields. Weaving fabrics. Going night-fishing. Coffee harvesting. Taking role in a local feast. And the list goes even longer.
For me, these are what makes traveling an investment. And like other investors, you would expect a return. Travel stories and pictures are the least. Whereas experience, understanding, change of mindset and attitude and contributions to the locals are what makes any trip much worth than it looks.
So yes, traveling is not (financially) cheap, especially if you take yourself as a trader. But if you treat your travel as an investment, the life-changing experience is a return that is immeasurable to any currencies in the world.
Cross my finger.