You may have read that the consumption patterns are shifting in America; there is still plenty of money being spent, but the shift is away from stuff, towards things like education, travel, and experiences.
I’ve read blogs and books about traveling with families (because that is my space of life right now) that tout the high value of the travel experience for family togetherness, education, adventure, etc. It’s not that I disagreed, but there was something I couldn’t put my finger on… Even though the focus is often “budget” travel (You can do it! Forgo eating out! Don’t put kids in activities! Live below your means! Pinch pennies! Stay in hostels!), the reality just didn’t seem quite as simple, or accessible, as these experiences.
I read an article that Emily Teo wrote called “Travel, Not a Necessity But a Luxury” and I thought it was a welcome perspective to add to the conversation. Emily shares a condensed version of the article with us:
I never traveled as a child; it just wasn’t a financial priority for my parents who were just trying to provide for our everyday needs. When they took my siblings and I on a Caribbean cruise when I was 16, it was after years of planning & saving.
This seemed like the norm for me — that international travel was a luxury of the rich — until I saved up for my own trip post-college: a trip to visit my (now) in-laws in the Middle East. When I finally made it there, after months of buttered bagels and skipped parties, my perspective changed: I can do this, too! I, a “poor” college grad, can stretch my dollars and make decisions to see the world through “budget travel”.
I patted myself on the back for seeing the world on a dime; how much I could experience, even without a fat paycheck and a suite at a hotel! In fact, most of the accommodations were far from a suite: from backpacker’s hostels to overnight pest-infested trains to shared apartments (which, pre-airbnb was pretty radical!). All of our shoestring adventuring just contributed to my haughtiness that travel was a necessity for expanding one’s worldview, and, it was totally accessible for anyone, if you make the “right” decisions.
It was a chance encounter on a bus — one of the best parts of travel — that rocked my perspective yet again.
In Brazil, I sat next to a man eager to practice his English, so we chatted about my trip and all kinds of things. He shared with my his dream of one day visiting Canada: “You have come to my country; I really hope I can one day go to yours.”
My roundtrip ticket had cost me about $1,600 Canadian; the average monthly wage in Brazil is around $800. Spending 20% of your annual income just for the flight?!
That’s when I had another moment of clarity. Travel — any travel — is a luxury. Luxury does not only mean gilded faucets in the double bathroom, or infinity pools, or a chauffeured car. Luxury was being out of my country at all. It’s having the flexibility of money and time away from work to experience something outside of my norm.
Travel for the sake of seeing the world is experienced by relatively small group of people. I am one of them, and I am extremely grateful.
Emily & her husband, Daniel, live in Toronto with their two young kids. They write about home ownership, investing, travel, and other topics in personal finance on their blog, Urban Departures. They also have a dignify natural quilt on their bed! [See this oh-so-adorable photo for evidence]