Travel is Overrated: Here's What to Do Instead
Yes, I said it. It's my blog and I can say whatever I want. Travel is Overrated! There, it's out there. I feel so much better.
Why is it overrated you ask? Aren't we all working ourselves to death and busier than every? Aren't Americans notorious for not taking their vacation days? Yes, it's true travel has it's time and place.
Yet the pedestal travel and adventure has been put on these last few years is nothing short of excessive. Seriously, why is everyone so obsessed with traveling? I'm not saying travel is pointless, I just don't understand the obsession and the impact it has on our planet, wallets, and relationships. That's what we are here to talk about today.
Make it Work for You: Travel Cards and Loyalty Programs
Before I go on my basing spree of travel, you already know as a FF reader I, like the typical millennial, value experiences over material things. And yes, experiences include travel, to an extent. There are 3 whole chapters in the book talking about travel! Travel helps us lift our heads above the clouds to see the bigger picture in life, reflect on how things are going, what's important to us, and just enjoy new experiences, cultures, foods, and music. Creating memories is priceless, and travel enables us to do that.
Where it gets ugly is what we talk about below. Since you probably came here looking for a financial session, I'm going to give that to you.
Make sure you have a budget for travel. No trip is worth it if you have to go into debt. I can't tell you how many friends complain to me that they couldn't save this month because they "had" to go to a bachelor party and wedding. It's not like the event just sprang on you, you have to plan! If it's going to cost you $600 on flights, $500 on sharing a hotel room, and $500 for miscellaneous expenses like food and drinks, then you know saving $200 per month for the next 9 months should be a given budget expense.
Then, try to charge up your travel cards so you can max out points, on things you would spend on anyway. Be strategic in using the right cards for the right points. Airline cards, hotel cards, or cards like Chase Sapphire for general travel points are all options. Look at the biggest bang for your buck and the largest expense. If you are going to be sharing a hotel room for 2 nights with 4 people, but have to fly across the country, prioritizing your Delta card should be a given.
Don't forget to sign up for loyalty programs like Marriott Bonvoy so you can save money on things like breakfast and parking, and also check your points balance history to see if any have expired. With a little negation, you can easily get those points reinstated if you haven't used them in a while.
The Brainwashing of Social Media
I don't think it comes as any surprise to anyone, especially those of us millennials who have social media accounts. Travel is overhyped. No doubt about it. I'm not even talking about influencers, taking staged photos in some oceanfront hotel pool giving the unrealistic image that no one else is there and all the staff attend to them.
I'm talking about your friends and family in your circle, or perhaps those you still connect with so you can "keep score" on if your life is going better than theirs.
There's nothing wrong with people sharing pictures of their trips, heck it can give you an "unfiltered" glimpse as to what it's like at their destination, in case you were considering it.
Where it becomes toxic is when people purposefully post the most alluring, yet misleading of how amazing their vacation is, and one-upping each other to give the sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out for my more senior readers, don't want anyone feeling left out now).
One friend posts about a trip to London, then one has to post about going to Italy and going to the Vatican, then another has to go sailing off the Amalfi Coast AND rent a luxury villa right on Lake Como.
Then, to add insult to injury, the algorithm gods hit you with ads and "sponsored" posts about great deals on flights and vacation rentals in Italy.
Everyone feels like they have to go to the "hidden treasure" paying more and more to access remote areas, luxury resorts and islands, and taking exotic excursions or tours to give that sense of exclusivity. Nothing like trying to be subtle with your wealth, or credit card limit, than buy showing off a hardly-frugal trip.
Carbon Footprint? What's That?
Traveling the world is overrated. Scoffing at me yet? Before you swear to never read Financial Fives again, know I'm only (half) kidding. It's the whole perception of world travel that gets to me. People say they backpacked through Europe, island hopped through the Caribbean, or have been to over 100 countries, yet once it's over, it's over.
Travel for the sake of checking things off your list sounds pretty banal, right? When people say they want to "travel the world" I ask them what they hope to get out of it, and they typically can't answer me with anything besides a "to experience new cultures". Hey, lots of cities have Chinatowns and Little Italy!
Another thing gaining more traction is flight shaming. Ever consider the environmental impact of your flight from Los Angeles to Madrid? Oh and you want to go to New Zealand after that? I'm sure those precious eco-systems you are wanting to see are just going to thrive with all those emissions!
Even for road trips, isn't it ironic how people take their huge gas-guzzling F350 Super Duty or lifted Land Cruiser to National Parks, to take in the "beauty of Mother Nature"? Not only that, they will bring their plastic water bottles, plastic wrapped granola bars, and let their dogs trample plants off the trails.
Let's not even get into the people towing a trailer or mega-RV. It's like they are going to appreciate the beauty of nature, yet don't you dare take away their carbon-emitting conveniences that are treating the very things they want to see. Someone please send them an article on climate change.
Luckily, there are tools out there to help mitigate the environmental costs of this kind of travel, though it is voluntary and seldom used currently. Google Flights now has the ability to sort flights based on carbon emissions to help you choose, and Google Maps will now default to the lowest carbon emission route when the ETA is about the same. Go Google!
So, what am I supposed to do you ask? Stare at my walls during my week off? Of course not! This is where staycations come in.
Now, we've talked about how travel is important in many ways, as long as you are doing it for you, and not societal or social pressures. We also talked about ways to reduce the impact to your wallet and the environment. So, what's even better? A staycation!
Before you roll your eyes, remember a staycation doesn't mean just watching Netflix all day on your couch with a pint of Jeni's ice cream (if you live near a scoop shop, I'm jealous and that's something we will travel for).
A staycation means exploring where you already live, without going more than an hour or two away. Go spend the afternoon casually strolling the local trails, or have a picnic in that park you've never been to that's just a mile away. New bike path opened last year? Now's your chance to check it out.
Visit your cities Parks and Rec website, and they probably have a list of parks and trails within their district. or, just look at Google Maps. The green lines typically indicate trails, and the green patches are parks and open space.
You can also spend a day or two (or three, I'm not judging) at the library, taking your time to read through books on cooking, gardening, comedy or whatever else interests you. Now's your chance to take as much time as you want and make all those recipes that you always said you would.
Make it a scavenger hunt to check out all the local coffee shops, and just practice mindfulness or try to have one engaging conversation each day.
Buy a pass to the museum. Spend a night at that bed and breakfast up the hill. Go for a walk in a new neighborhood. You'd be surprised how relaxing it can be to just not have an agenda, not worry about where you're going to stay that night, if your forgot your phone charger, what time your flight got delayed to, or how to get from the beach to that restaurant you have reservations at on time.
Cheaper, better for the environment, and more relaxing. Sounds like Staycation is the new Vacation, right?