Travel. The ultimate purpose and motivator of all millennials, right? Or at least that’s what every quote-ridden perfectly staged Instagram travel inspiration photo would have you believe.
And while I am all for travel, and admit that it is definitely one of my biggest focuses in life, I have come to learn the hard way that one cannot simply “Just go”. Or that this quote: “Travel while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be”, fails to recognize what may indeed be more valuable than an experience in that moment: Long-term stress and the actual outcome of irresponsible spending.
This may all seem a little out of character for me, so I’ll let you in on why I’m suddenly backing this view.
It was the beginning of September and something had happened. Something I cannot go into detail about for the privacy of others, but a situation in my personal life which made me very uncomfortable emotionally. In the past when these situations arose, I consoled myself by booking travel, whether it meant flying home to Nova Scotia, or taking off somewhere else, and justified the associated uncalculated cost with the fact that “I needed it”. Or “I deserved” it. So, when this situation arose in September, I fell to old habits and thought:
I am 26 and haven’t been to Europe yet, and that’s where I want to go.
And so I booked it. The same day. The same hour that said ‘something’ had happened. No pre-planning, no calculating, nothing. I saw Aer Lingus was having a sale, and so for $775 CAD I booked myself a round-trip ticket to Ireland and would figure out the rest from there. I was proud that I found such a good deal, and that I knew a friend in Ireland that I could stay with. Other reasons why I was so excited included the fact that the only item on my bucket list requires me to be in Ireland, and that being in Europe would mean that I could hop over to Copenhagen – a place I had been obsessed with the idea of going to for years.
So about 2 weeks later, I started to plan my trip. I figured I’d stay in Ireland, then go to Copenhagen, then to Portugal. This is when I finally started thinking about the money. Wow, this was going to be expensive.
But I was set on going. So I started to do some creative thinking to see how I could maybe save some of those Sir John A’s. I was able to find accommodation in Copenhagen for 3 nights in exchange for promotion on my social media and blog, which meant I would only be left to pay for 2 nights in Copenhagen. Sweet! I then thought, why don’t I see where I have friends and realized I had a friend in London who I’d love to see, so asked about staying with her and she was more than happy to have me. And so I swapped Portugal for London and realized that overall I’d only now have to pay for two nights accommodation somewhere. This was amazing! Or so I thought.
What I failed to recognize and remember, were all of the other costs associated with going on this trip. Aside from the obvious. Sure I knew the food was going to be bloody expensive, especially in Copenhagen, sure I knew I’d have to book my flights from city to city. Those were givens. But then I found myself buying a new camera to travel with, picking up waterproof boots and a waterproof jacket so I could navigate these wet places all day on foot comfortably, forgetting that while in these places, there would also be many other costs associated with the things I wanted to do, and so on and so forth.
Now here’s where the real mistake came in. I was okay with all of these costs. I even added everything up, looked at the number and thought, I’ll make it work. Perhaps my cognition had truly been affected by those #travelinspo posts.
Because two weeks before I was supposed to leave, I hadn’t once yet looked at these costs against my own bank accounts, debts, and other future financial plans and goals.
And then it hit me. I was doing it again. I was making long-term financial decisions based on temporary urges. And this was the end of it. I realized that I owed more money than I realized, that I needed to have more capital available for my side hustle, and while I could dive into some RRSP’s to make the trip still happen somewhat comfortably. It. Just. Wasn’t. Smart.
And so here I sit, having pulled the plug on my first ever trip to Europe. And you know what? I’m not upset, I’m not sad, and I’m certainly not ashamed. I’m proud. I’m proud that I was able to recognize the consequences before it was too late. I’m proud that I will be returning that camera, and everything else I bought in preparation, and in the end, I will have thousands of more dollars available to pay those personal debts and expenses for my business. I’m proud that the next time I plan a trip, I will calculate everything more carefully and will do what’s best for me – in the long run.
Is this to say I won’t be traveling again anytime soon? No, not at all. It just means that I will be actively more responsible when I plan, and will not “Just go”. I will not abide by “Don’t worry about the money”. I will ensure that I am not only happy on my travels, but with the results that occur afterward because of them. And that brings me peace.