It’s this time of year again, when most people in the Western world are out shopping for holiday gifts in crowded malls. This period of over-consumerism always makes me think of the #1 reason why people say they don’t travel (or don’t travel more): cost.

“Travel is expensive,” they say, sitting on their leather couch and switching on their wide screen HD television.

Now if you don’t like to travel, you should totally be spending your money on whatever it is you enjoy. But if you’re a middle-class traveller who finds him/herself constantly short of travel money, perhaps you need to re-examine your priorities.

More stuff or more travel?

Travel doesn’t have to be all that expensive. It is possible to travel well on a budget of say $1000 a week (including airfare) to a wide range of destinations. Do you prefer spending $2000 on a new 40” HDTV, or a 2-week trip to Europe (or Asia or wherever)? Unless you have large amounts of spare cash, these are the kinds of decisions you may have to make, also called “prioritizing”.

Since I’m a big travel nut, my goals are clear. I always chose travel (and experiences) over stuff. And I know I’m not alone in doing this. It’s not to say that I don’t like stuff, especially beautiful pricey items like art and electronics. Many times I have admired a painting and imagined it hanging on my wall, then looked at the price tag (gulp!) and turned away thinking: “Ha! For that money, I can spend a month in country X”.

And so for 17 years, that white wall over my couch has remained empty. But over that period, I’ve also spent a total of several years roaming the globe and visited three dozen countries.

White wall without expensive art (travel more)

As you can see, my furniture is old and pretty minimal. It’s probably easier to tell you what I don’t have than what I have: no TV (or cable service), no stereo, no car, no fancy clothes (well, maybe a couple of pieces for interviews and funerals) and no iPhone. Of course, the fact that I hate shopping helps a lot.

My most expensive possessions are a MacBook Air (bought last year after hanging on to a heavy MacBook Pro laptop for 8 years) and a 6-year old Canon Rebel 3Ti DSLR camera. Sure, I would love to have a drone and GoPro, and perhaps one of those 360 cameras, but… I’d still rather spend that money on travel.

What about the holidays?

Holiday shopping (travel more)

Which brings us back to the holidays and the mad rush around shopping malls spending hundreds of dollars (thousands?) on gifts.

At the risk of putting off some people, I’ll admit that I haven’t done this for years, probably over a decade. If I want to show appreciation for friends and family, I invite them for dinner once in a while. It doesn’t have to be during the holidays. Or I give them free travel advice. I make greeting cards from my own photos, and I send people a personal note and a special picture by email when I’m on the road.

Of course, if someone in Toronto wants to invite me over for a Christmas turkey dinner, I’ll hurry right over with a bottle of wine! 🙂

However, I don’t really see the point of exchanging expensive gifts, or even gift cards. Yes, it’s a “tradition”, a tradition that plumps up the travel budget of store owners. Yours, not so much.

Besides the issue of costs, it just seems to me that people get so exhausted and frantic with all this holiday shopping and finding the “perfect” gift, as if friendship and family relationships depended on the stuff you give people. Just be there to give them a hug and listen when they need to talk.

What do you want most for 2018?

If your resolutions for 2018 include travelling more, you may want to think of ways to cut into the amount of stuff you’re buying, starting with the holiday shopping. Perhaps you and your loved ones can agree not to exchange gifts this year, or limit the value of the presents to a certain amount. I think for most people, the fun is in unwrapping the gifts and being surprised, more than the value of the goods they receive. Some of my favourite gifts are actually books and homemade sweets!

And if being healthier is one of your goals this year, there is scientific evidence that travelling has many health benefits. Think weight loss, stronger bones, and sharper mind among others.

I suspect some of you may still be questioning my earlier assertion, that you can travel on an average of $1000 a week, including flights. Well, that’s what I’ve been doing since 1992 about 90% of the time, and since this blog is about affordable solo travel, I have an entire section about saving money that you may want to peruse.

If you have specific questions about affordable travel that are not answered in there, leave them in the comments and I will use those as the basis for more money saving posts.

Now stop shopping and start planning a trip! 🙂

Buy a HDTV or a trip to Europe? (travel more)

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