Plane Ticket $1,000, Accommodation: $20, 2 x 1 hour Trekking Permits: $600. Having a silverback charge you, while you sit in the jungles of Uganda watching a family of gorillas play: Priceless…
Going to see the gorillas in Uganda was always on my must-do-travel-experience list. My husband, however, was not too sure. He was worried about the cost of the one hour encounter. We were at the start of our 4 month backpacking tour of Africa, and we knew how well budgets could quickly fall to pieces. To put it into perspective, $600 would have lasted us approximately one whole month in Africa. All he saw was us spending too much and going home a little early; all I saw was the joy I would gain from sitting with these gentle, playful giants of the jungle, and connecting with life on a far deeper level.
Cost Isn’t What Matters
A cheap travel experience, or an expensive one, is not what necessarily matters. What matters is that you have an amazing vacation experience. Amazing travel experiences never come from the dollars spent; this is just a means to an end. Amazing vacation experiences can come from budget travel, such as watching the setting sun on a tropical island, or conversing with a local about life in their culture, or it can come from expensive travel such as a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon or a 3 day guided safari in Africa.
Watching as a dhow sails past the setting sun on the tropical Zanzibar Island while sipping ice cold beer: Priceless.
Making your vacation about the money you spend could lessen your experience. You could snag that out of season cheap vacation deal, but remain stuck inside your bungalow during monsoon season on the beach in Asia. Or spend the whole time inside your luxury resort trying to make every dime of the exorbitant fees count. Will either of these two scenarios enrich your life in any way, or create an invaluable travel experience?
Getting to the Heart of the Matter
Life is all about creating memories. When you make the big decision to go somewhere new, you want to create a memory from that which will last with you forever. You won’t be evoking pictures of the money you saved or the money you spent on your return. Your will be remembering how inspired you were, how much fun you had, and how much you learned. Hence all the recent noise about Sharing Travel Experience’s recommended travel journals. What’s worth remembering: the cheap furniture in your budget hotel, or an impromptu street party?
Sitting with a mother from a local Lao village as she describes in jilted English what it was like living in a cave for 10 years during the Vietnam war as bombs exploded in the riverside village outside around them: Priceless
When making the decision to go on a vacation or travel to a new destination there are four key questions you should ask yourself:
What value will this vacation add to my life?
This should be your most important reason for choosing your vacation experience. What meaning will this vacation bring? What memories will this help to create? Will this vacation help you to live your best life and follow your dreams? You cannot put a price on the memories and the stories you can share with others as a result of your inspired vacation.
What will I gain from this experience?
Joy, a sense of freedom, adventure, following and living your passion, life lessons, new friends, new insights, cultural awareness, home connections, spiritual awakenings, a new language, or historical perspective. Whatever the self expansion may be, it will be priceless. You cannot put a price on the personal growth your vacation experiences will offer you.
How can I make it as budget as possible without sacrificing the dream?
Price is a significant factor to consider for your vacation, but should never be your one and only consideration. Once you decide on the vacation that will add the most value and growth to your life, you can always find ways to make it as budget as possible. Plan your costs around the value. There are so many budget alternatives which will allow you to experience the dream.
If you have a passion for soccer, and you know that attending the World Cup in South Africa this coming June would create life long memories for you, then budget around that. Find cheaper flights, look for budget accommodation like hostels and couchsurfing, and soak up the party atmosphere in the streets rather than at the game. This is how I managed to have a ton of fun at the Soccer World Cup in France in ‘98.
What sacrifice am I willing to make in order to get the dream?
Most people think nothing of purchasing a luxury vehicle for $30,000 – $50,000, and are indebted to it monthly, consequently crippling their ability to live a fulfilled life. Or if it’s not the car, it’s the brand new plasma TV, or the Armani wardrobe. These possessions are great, but are these the memories you want to base your whole life upon? Buy a cheaper car, take that money you saved and put it into your memory account. Use this account to follow your dreams, travel, and create those moments that will stay with you for a lifetime, far longer than the luxury car or stylish wardrobe.
What Really Matters
What you spend on your vacation isn’t what matters. What matters is that you follow your dreams and create an experience that will enrich your life, and empower you with a memory that will stay with you forever. What will that mean for your future?
Listening to Yossi Ghinsberg in a 5 star resort in Puerto Rico, as he describes how he survived three weeks alone in the Amazon jungle, teaches the life lessons he learned as a result, and inspires you to live your dream out of the box: priceless.