Travel is a Waste of Money: Discuss

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A percentage of the global population think that travel is a waste of money. It had honestly never crossed my mind that anyone thought that way, until somebody on our Facebook page said that it had always been her belief. Gratifyingly, she went on to say that our adventures and enthusiasm for travel had played a big part in opening her eyes and that she didn’t think travel was a waste of money any more. Her family had booked their first overseas holiday and were very much looking forward to it. The lady said that they had always though the family would have more fun camping by the river, so why go overseas?

Travel is a waste of money

I’m really, really grateful that this reader felt comfortable enough to share that sentiment with me.

I’m immensely honoured that our adventures played a small part in her change of mind.

That statement has had my mind running overtime ever since.

Travel has always been my priority, the thing I earned money to pay for, going without every luxury in the process.

I really couldn’t see how travel is a waste of money, ever.

Travel is a Waste of Money. I Don’t Think!

Define “Waste”.

What is a waste of money? Some would say it is spending money on non-essentials. My glass of wine, the one I’m enjoying right now, would therefore qualify as a “waste”.

I don’t think so, I’m getting a lot of enjoyment from it, it may not be of any nutritional benefit and it may speed me toward my death bed, but right now it’s mighty fine.

Is a waste of money anything purchased that turned out to be sub-standard or disappointing?

Even if we don’t get full satisfaction for our dollar is it truly a waste?

We learn by our mistakes and the worst disasters often make the best stories, so maybe not a total waste.

Some would say that spending big on the latest 3D TV or technological gizmo would be a waste of money.

It’s not something I’d ever do, but I can see that others would get enjoyment out of that, in the same way that my glass of wine, my little bit of luxury in our tight-budget world, gives me pleasure.

Is buying a toy for the kids, the sort that they play with for 5 minutes, a waste of money?

A year ago I would have said yes. Now I see the virtue in buying things to use and then pass on.

Children treasure most of their toys for a short time, why not pass them on to another child to enjoy.

See your investment as buying a few days of joy, not as purchasing an object to keep with you for life.

Is anything that gives a person pleasure a waste of money?

We can judge people harshly sometimes for the things they choose to spend on, but is one person’s priority any more valid than the next’s?

We all have a set of unique priorities. If a cable TV subscription is more important to somebody that a savings plan, then that’s OK, that’s their thing and they’re totally entitled to it.

Is Travel About Having Fun?

The lady said that her family would have more fun camping by the creek.

Well, maybe she’s right! We all get our fun in different ways.

I get a perverse enjoyment out of the hardships of travel, I dig those days-long Asian bus rides with broken air-con dripping water onto my head.

I love finding accommodation at an amazing price and I’m more than happy to put up with discomfort if it means I get more travel for my dollar.

So long as I’m seeing, experiencing and learning as I we go, I’m happy. The constant new experiences of international travel adventures can be a big part of why people travel.

We’ve camped in Australia many times, usually up on our local lake, it’s a nice weekend break, something different, but it’s not travel to me, you have to go somewhere new to travel.

What Value Do We Get From Travel?

I think travel is worth every cent we spend on it. To be honest, it’s not that expensive.

Selling our Australian camping equipment was enough to fund us for a month or two on the road.

We are spending a lot less by travelling the way we do than we would be on living back at home, paying the mortgage and utility bills.

But what do we get out of travel?

  • Education Every new thing we see, hear, taste or touch, every person we meet and lifestyle we experience, we learn from. Our children’s education is one of the main driving forces behind this trip.
  • Knowledge For me and the kids. Not many days go by when I don’t say ” I didn’t know that!”.
  • Experience  Rich lives with no regrets is what we’re aiming for here. There is nothing sadder than unfulfilled dreams.
  • Fun So much fun! From tubing in Vang Vieng to riding every roller-coaster in Disney. Immense amounts of fun for all of us, not just the kids, and much of that fun is free.
  • More Family Time We are together 24/7. All four of us. If dad was still stuck in work earning to pay the mortgage we’d hardly ever see him.
  • Challenges Physical and mental challenges crop up all the time. Overcoming them is a great feeling. Making it to Everest Base Camp really boosts your self-confidence.
  • Satisfaction Feeling proud of yourself for doing something you thought you’d never do is a wonderful thing. I saw this in spades in the kids after our treks in Nepal.
  • Enrichment You know how zoo animals are given toys for enrichment because they’d otherwise be bored and under-challenged in a captive environment. Well, that’s how I feel!
Travel is a waste of money debate

Travel is a Waste of Money? Waste of Time?

Obviously, we don’t feel travel is a waste of money or we wouldn’t have given up our Australian-dream lifestyle (some said we were throwing it all away), sold everything and set off with all our possessions on our backs. We think travel is the best thing in the world.

Is travel a waste of time? How can it be? What would you be doing that would be time better spent? Everyone should be able to spend their time in the way that brings them the best returns, provided nobody is harmed in the process. For us, travel was the best use of time possible.

What do you think? If travel is your #1 pleasure too, read how you can sell everything and travel, or read about the realities of a digital nomad lifestyle.

This post was written before we set off to travel. We were on the road for almost 7 years, I can now tell you with absolute certainty that travel is not a waste of time, nor is it a waste of money. Those years are years to treasure forever and we were very sad when we had to return home after long-term travel. What came next? We bought a farm, something else to keep us busy. We still don’t like camping much!

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

24 thoughts on “Travel is a Waste of Money: Discuss”

  1. I used to travel out of the country but I don’t anymore. Travel can be a waste of time and money. You live in the moment but you have nothing to show for it. Sure you have the memories but all those eventually end up being forgotten. I myself now focus more on my retirement than I do travel. I’d rather have a nest egg than spend it for the moment.

  2. I admit. I don`t like to travel much. It must be something related to the commodity I`m experiencing at home. With a nice large backyard and everything in reach (from lakes to sea) within two hours away (mostly even minutes), I just love to stay at home or go somewhere near it, so I can always come back when I want to. Travelling makes me anxious and depressed, actually. Not knowing what are you going to experience and losing money on something you are unable to grab and use as much as you want, makes me unhappy. It might be some sort of a “brain food” and you have memories out of it, but I still rather spend my money on things. Moreover I usually paint myself an image in my head about some distant place and it is perfect that way. When I actually visit it, I`m usually let down because of high expectations. But it is probably just me …

  3. We are a family that loves to travel and for me it is the sacrifices we make and the planning we undertake before we travel that has as great benefits as the travel itself. That leaning to pack less. that learning to prioritise your life…
    Also on the other end what we take from our travels and incorporate into our everyday lives also adds value. These are the things no one talks about.

    Travel is more then the travelling (even though I agree with the many benefits you have outlined), it is about challenge, mindset, courage, pushing the envelope, learning new skills, seeing alternative lifestyles, weighing up new concepts, feeling grateful for what you already have…

  4. The perception of cost and expense is highly subjective, it depends on the strength of your currency relative to the accepted currency in your (overseas) destination.

    For example, a German tourist will find the prices in South East Asia to be really cheap (except for Singapore), when measured in euros. Conversely, an Indonesian will find the prices in, say, Frankfurt to be outrageously expensive, when measured in Indonesian Rupiahs.

    I think this is what hinders overseas travel for most of the world’s population…

  5. I so agree Alyson. Travelling can never be a waste of money or time. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Money can’t buy the expereinces you have and the life you live or are going to live. In my case, travel opened the door to everything good in my life and all the lovely things I encountered, had and have, because of travelling.
    Would I have met my German husband? Nope. I hadn’t even met any, not to talk of marrying one!
    Would I have had a bilingual, bi-cultural, expat, international kid? Pleeeeease!
    Everyone should get up and take that plane or train I say!

  6. Great post and I completely agree with all your points! For me travel is not a waste of money at all! I’ve gained so many experiences and memories that I look back on fondly, even years after the fact. The road trips my parents took us on as kids are some of my favourite memories growing up and were a great way to spend time together as a family. The real-world education I get from travelling is far better (and cheaper) than the formal education I received in University. As far as I’m concerned, staying home, paying bills for the things we think we need (but are really are luxuries) is the waste of money. “Stuff” doesn’t enrich my life- travelling and having experiences does.

  7. I could never think of travel as a waste of money. My clients would kill me! lol But seriously, when you invest in travel the rewards are far more than just a fleeting experience. You are rewarded with memories that will live with you and stories you can tell family and friends, its about living a life.

  8. Love the “wow” MK. We’re old, you see. We’ve got the house, we had the car, we’re relatively well off. But back in the day, when I was producing babies and renovating 2 houses in London to give us a nest egg, plus working a full time job, sleeping on the floor with no hot water or kitchen, we STILL travelled, because life without would have been unthinkable. It must be genetic, I’ve never been interested in “things” or comfort, I want to be out of the house, not stuck in it. Admittedly, it’s a lot cheaper to travel from the UK. But as I said, our Aussie camping gear, that took us on a few weekends a year, cost way more than a month in Asia, and it was all bought 2nd hand or cheaply. We went all over Australia as backpackers with a $40 2 man tent,years ago, it was interesting the first time but I don’t get any excitement, no “wow”, unless I’m in a different culture. I won’t be buying camping gear again, nor kayaks, now they were a “waste” of money! Those 2 kayaks would have almost covered our 6 weeks on Ko Phangan, where we kayaked for free every day.

  9. Great post and interesting talking point. I have to admit hubby and I used to think a bit like the lady who prefers camping by the creek. We love camping but we’ve been all over Australia doing it. We’ve seen most of the country, more than 99.9% of Aussies will ever see. Why? Well for one thing we both felt we should explore out own backyard first and secondly, in the early days of our marriage we simply couldn’t afford to go overseas. 20 years there wasn’t the plethora of budget airlines that there are now and our minimum wages barely kept a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. Viewed alongside such things as purchasing a reliable car, a washing machine, saving for our own home and paying for our tertiary education, travel was in our mind a waste of money. Although perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it as a luxury we couldn’t afford. Memories and experiences are great but not at the expense of having the power cut off.

    Things are different now; we have more disposable income and it’s cheaper to travel overseas and with the high price of fuel, cheaper than a long road trip in Aust. So 4 years ago we took the plunge and took the family on our first overseas holiday (Vietnam) and LOVED it! Since then we’ve had five overseas trips, our sixth coming up in July and a bucket list of places to see a mile long. So is travel a waste of money? Not in our minds, we’ve seen and done some amazing things and some we’d rather forget but together they add up to some amazing travel experiences and fabulous memories. I feel so privileged to have been able to experience these things with my children. Not only do they have the memories, their travels are helping to shape their personalities – their sense of adventure, confidence, independence, insight, openess to new ideas, cultural awareness, empathy, compassion and an appreciation of just how fortunate they are. As for me, I love stepping outside my door when I’m in another country and just going WOW. You can’t put a value on that.

  10. how can human deveopment which is what travel brings and is always for the better {usually} be a waste of money? How is that possible?

  11. Great post!. I know some people sort of like this i guess. Its not that they thought traveling was a waste of money but just didn’t see the point in it. Specifically I have some family members like this who are convinced there is nothing worth seeing, doing and living outside of Michigan. Last fall they took their fist trip ever outside of Michigan to Chicago. It scared them but they liked it. So I suppose its baby steps for folks like this.

  12. As we’ve been prepping for our season away- thinning out what we already have and certainly trying to not bring more into our home, I’ve been struck with how much more time (and money) I have. If normally part of the weekend was dashing out to the Home Depot/ garden store/ big box home decor store to buy some random “must need” item for my house….another picture frame really?….and we are currently not doing house maintenance projects because we’ll be moving soon, it has kind of left a bit of “hmmm what do we do now?” More time to just hang out with my great family and friends I guess. It has brought to light plenty of other things that I apparently “waste” my time and money on. (Not to say I don’t enjoy poking around and having little project-it’s just been an interesting observation)

  13. My 9 yr old daughter and I recently traveled for 4 weeks with only a carry on backpack each. When we arrived home, I felt overwhelmed by all the “stuff” in our house (and we have less than most people I know), all the routine maintenance chores that needed doing and the accumulated bills that required payment. For me, travel gives an appreciation of minimalist living – of how little you really need and how most of the world gets along just fine without all the so called “essentials” of modern western culture. And in my opinion, it is the best education a child could have: a lot cheaper than 12 years of school fees and vastly more “real world” than sitting in a classroom for 6 hours per day, 40 weeks per year, for 12 or 13 years. I can’t wait for my current rental lease to expire later this year, so we can travel some more without the added financial burden of paying rent and maintaining a house, yard, car and possessions. Value for money? You betcha!!

  14. Great point Alyson, I’ve never thought about traveling as a waste of money and/or time but I know that many people think that way. Needless to say that I don’t agree with those people at all. Obviously everyone has their own opinion and priorities in life, who ever choose to travel instead of having the normal conventional life will get different kind of experiences that will enrich their life enormously, so traveling isn’t a waste of money!

  15. ^^^ Stacey — well, said. I also find myself thinking that way — that new couch = 2 round trip tix to _____. If rather have te tickets. =)

  16. I totally agree! My husband’s family and my best friend find value in making their homes beautiful. New floors, paint, furniture, televisions, and perfect back yards. As much as I enjoy visiting them, I can’t help but think how the cost of that table is a plane ticket to India. Or what they spent to have new floors put in I could take my entire family on a 2 week vacation. I have a bucket list and no where on it is too get cable and watch TV.
    I would rather have experiences instead of things. Not everyone feels that way. I watch friends dump money into RV’s and boats that would pay for a trip around the world. Then have to just smile when they ask how we can afford to go to Europe for 6 weeks. I think people use money as an excuse when it’s more likely fear of the unknown that prevents people from leaving a hundred mile radius of their home.

    Everyone I know seems to find funding for the things that are important to them. If it’s golf, triathlons, slot machines, cars, or travel. The important thing is to make sure your spending money on what truly makes you happy and not on what you think makes others think your happy.

  17. It’s interesting how much judgement is applied to travel. It’s the same when people say it’s a waste of money taking little kids travelling – why do they never think you get something from enjoying the trip with the little kids? Who cares if they don’t remember it? Or they remember the crazy tv in Paris, not the Eiffel Tower? Maybe the joy you get watching them sail the boats in Jardins de Luxembourg is worth it.
    I don’t really get people that don’t want to go overseas, but I try to…

  18. I agree, completely! This is why my husband and I would rather travel than give gifts or buy more “stuff.” The experiences that you create as a family not only provide lasting memories, but add so much glue to what holds the family tightly together! I also feel that travel (and interacting with people wherever you’re traveling, at a genuine level) is one of the best educations you can get and leads to an incredible amount of personal growth!

  19. I couldn’t agree more.
    I saw your line about selling the camping equipment to fund a month or so of travel. How does SE Asia compare with Central America? I was thinking that costs would be similar — but that really isn’t the case, is it?

    • You can’t really compare travel in Asia and travel in Central America Suzi. Yes, we’re getting by on our “ideal” budget of about $50/day, but that’s because we’re not eating out ( which is making us all miserable!). Restaurants are expensive here, a meal for 4 costs us $40-$50 with drinks. No where near Asian prices. Plus we’ve been sitting still for a month, not actually travelling, that was the plan, to focus on the blogs and school work for a month and that is what we’ve achieved. We move on in 2 days. Watch as we rip through the cash in getting around, admission fees and tours! To not spend that money would be stupid though, we’ll probably never be here again, so we may as well do everything we can. But that said, what we’ve got for our money here is of a much more “comfortable” standard. You’ve seen the villa we’re in, it’s gorgeous, we don’t need that level of comfort, we’d be happy with less. This may change when we get to the Lake, I think it will be more ” backpackery” there and less cashed up tourists as it is here. There is a lot of money in Antigua, a lot of organised tours, older tourists and rich locals on weekend visits. Lets just say, we’re looking forward to being back in Asia!


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