Part of me is all about saving money and investing for the future. Another part of me is all about travel and exploring the world.
This leads to an interesting paradox. Personal finance is often all about saving money. Going on adventures is associated with being careless and not worrying about the future (YOLO, right?). The idea of travel naturally confuses anyone looking to save money.
Is it worth spending your money on adventures? Should you still travel if you want save for the future?
The other day I tweeted out something that garnered more responses than I expected.
“I’m constantly torn between being financially responsible and wanting to travel the world.”
This led to an interesting discussion about rewarding yourself, travel, and financial responsibility.
@LKnerl: I look for clients in interesting places so I have a legit excuse to go (and tax write offs). I’ve never traveled more than I have as a mom to six with a writing career. Travel also expands my perspective and always leads to profitable ideas.
@BigMoneyBeaton: It’s easy to hit a point of diminishing returns if you’re doing long-term travel though. When you can’t remember if a certain event happened in Country A or Country B, it’s time to take a step back and re-assess. The sweet spot for me is about 6 weeks – not going to break the bank.
@smartwomanblog: If I didn’t travel at all in 2018, I would’ve paid off my student loans and line of credits by now. But I wouldn’t have the awesome memories I’ve created.
@Steveonomics: Traveling is cheap, time is expensive. I’m in sales so I’ll miss quota if I’m gone too long.
Check out my video from around the world on how you can travel even when you think you can’t afford it:
I started traveling at 18 and haven’t stopped since. I go on at least two trips every year. I do whatever it takes to save up for trips. I haven’t missed a winter trip since I first started doing this in 2006.
I also happen to write articles about money management and planning for the future. I encourage readers to plan for retirement.
Is it worth spending your money on adventures?
What’s the argument for spending money on adventures?
Let’s start off by looking at the good news.
Why’s it okay to still spend money on trips even when you want to save up?
Saving money just to save it is beyond boring.
Nobody is looking to workout to feel healthier just like nobody wants to save money for the sake of being financially responsible. We’re not robots. We need goals. We need a reason to do something. We need something that keeps us focused.
I got into personal finance as a teenager because I wanted to travel. I wanted to have money to do cool things. I figured that saving was a necessary evil because I couldn’t do anything if I had no money in the bank.
So I started saving.
Travel and adventures are my fuel for caring about personal finance. I obviously didn’t want to work multiple jobs as a teenager. I did it for the adventures. I still do it for the adventures.
You need something to look forward to in life.
I need something to keep me going. I work harder and stay motivated when I know that I have something coming up on the horizon.
Personal finance gets really boring.
There’s only so many times that you can say no to something. There’s a finite amount of ways that you try to make it seem like staying in on the weekends is fun.
I plan adventures so that I constantly have something to look forward to.
When I feel like slacking off on finishing an article or when I don’t want to respond to another annoying email from an advertiser, I think of the time I got to hang out in a mud volcano in Colombia or I laugh at my surfing attempt in Costa Rica.
You’re only young once.
You only get to experience youth once. You don’t want to look back in your 40s or 50s and wish that you did more. You don’t want to devote your life to some job that doesn’t care about you.
I can’t imagine doing some of the crazy things that I’ve done in the last few years on my solo adventures (sky diving, going to Colombia solo, or just exploring South America) when I’m saddled with real responsibilities in the future (kids and a family).
You can go work somewhere else in the world for your adventure.
Not all travel is about drinking until you puke. You can visit places to work or to learn something.
My brother Pat moved to Australia to study. He earned his Master’s in Physiotherapy and found a job right out of school. He’s now living in Australia and working in his dream field.
Your adventure could change your entire life.
No, this isn’t leading to a useless quote about doing what sets your soul on fire. Sometimes, you need to change your scenery to upgrade your life.
Sometimes you need to reinvent yourself. It’s easy to outgrow your current situation. At some point, you’re going to have to level up and change your scenery. That adventure to a new country, a new city, or a new continent could be what helps you move up in life.
My other brother Adrian went from working as a barber in the basement in Toronto to running a barbershop in Sydney, Australia for a year. I’ve met many friends in wrestling who got signed to bigger companies because they moved across the world to invest in their training.
Now let’s look at the flip side of spending money on adventures…
Can you spend too much of your money on adventure?
It’s easy to get distracted and caught up in the world of constantly trying to chase that next adrenaline rush to the point that you don’t care about your finances or your future.
You can waste valuable time and money on partying instead of trying to plan for the future.
You definitely don’t want to be the person who’s stuck at a crappy job later in life because they didn’t plan for the future. I remember when I was 17 I spoke with an older gentleman who was working at the same retail store as me. He spent all of his energy on enjoying himself. He never really planned for the future. He found himself working at a retail store and hating it.
I don’t want you to be stuck at a job you hate until you’re 70. I don’t want your fun in your younger years to hold you back in the future.
You can miss out on upgrading your skills.
The more you learn, the more you earn. You already know that you need to upgrade your skills to make more money. I don’t want to see you miss out on valuable years of growth because you were partying too much.
This isn’t to say that travel won’t help you grow. I’ve just seen friends get too caught up in the party aspect of travel.
You find yourself running away from reality.
I’m a little guilty of this myself. Once you start traveling, it’s easy to find yourself always wanting to escape reality. I met a dentist in Cusco, Peru, who quit his job to travel the world because he was having a rough time at work. He had no backup plan and no clue as to how he was going to survive. I know that we tend to idolize these stories of risk takers. What we forget to do is look at the other side of the situation.
Do you want to always be running away from reality? Do you want to build a stable career and life for yourself?
How do you balance saving money for the future and treating yourself to adventure today?
I imagine that you want to still have fun without giving up your future savings. How’s this possible?
Cut back on everything that gets in your way of fun.
Since I know that I enjoy travel, I don’t mind working extra hours to put every penny towards my trips. I try to cut back on everything else in life. I just want to travel. This annoys people in my life, but I know what I want. I don’t mind cutting back on other things to have more money for adventures. It’s your money and your life. Do what’s best for you.
Use your vacation time.
This is an obvious one, but I don’t want you to think that you need to live out of a suitcase just because some “influencer” on social media rants about how amazing travel is. You can get yourself a traditional 9-5 and use the paid vacation time to get some adventures in.
Find a way to make money with an internet connection.
When you make money from your laptop, you can decide where you want to live and you can live a more interesting life than your friends who are stuck in cubicles.
Save up for your fun.
I made it a point to start putting away at least $50 every two weeks. I started doing this when I was about 18. I dipped into this one account a few times. I cashed this bond after about 12 years and had a check show up at my door for $13, 418.95. I used that money to go on a trip around the world (after I put money aside for my retirement contributions).
What’s the point of this? Small savings can add up to a decent chunk of change.
Remember that you can’t screw up that badly.
The online world is filled with stories of people who paid off massive amounts of debt and turned their lives around. I’m not saying that I want this to happen to you. I just want to remind you that people have screwed up really bad and still turned things around.
Chances are that you can’t screw things up so much that you can’t return.
I can wrap up this entire article by admitting that travel is the reason I even got into saving money. This opened the door for me to a world of travel and personal finance. Somehow these worlds co-exist. You don’t want to live with regrets. Nobody has all of the answers. There are people who have spent too much money on fun while there are tales of those who never got to do anything fun because they were so focused on saving a few bucks. You have to decide what you want out your life.