Ah…the joys of having a travel budget. It’s 1:00 pm in the afternoon and I’m doing something so commonplace in today’s world it hardly seems extraordinary anymore, except maybe through the eyes of a child. I’m at an airport watching planes take off and land. Boring, huh?
Except this is no ordinary airport.
I’m standing on Maho Beach…in St. Maarten…with dozens of tourists…and a fenced in Princess Juliana International Airport just a few yards behind me.
Out over the water a tiny speck appears on the horizon. “Ahh…right on schedule,” the person next to me says. As it moves nearer, the onlookers at the beach scramble into position, iPhones in hand recording the moment. Closer and closer it comes. “Ooh this is a big one,” someone exclaims.
I dig my feet into the sand to sturdy myself. Right now, I’m realizing how exciting it is to have a travel budget.
The plane continues to descend and is almost on top of us now as people scream with delight at its proximity. With a mighty roar, it passes directly overhead – seemingly a tennis ball’s throw upwards in distance. We perform an about face to watch it execute a perfect landing on the runway.
That afternoon on the beach remains one of my top 10 travel moments of all time. Watching the planes take off was just as spectacular and laugh-out-loud hilarious. The air generated from the turbines literally blew people down the beach, pelting them with sand. Hence this sign near the airport fence…
It’s for experiences like this that I will continue to have a travel budget as part of our family’s budget.
Reasons why everyone should have a travel budget
Thus far my travels have been limited to the United States, Mexico and a host of countries throughout the Caribbean. Further overseas travel will happen, perhaps when the kids are older or when it’s only my wife and I at home. For now I am content to see and experience everything possible about and nearby my own country.
Now that we have a travel budget as a priority, it would seem awful to miss out on all that it offers. Here’s what we’ve realized:
Travel provides stunning visuals that create memories.
For our family, this is the #1 reason we have a travel budget. Experiencing activities together has created family bonding in a way I don’t believe I could have manufactured if we had stayed at home. In that way travel serves as a tool, a mechanism I use to promote family attachment.
The really neat thing is that we bring those memories home and relieve them over and over. We’ve downloaded the images to our computers and they now serve as screen savers. Often we find ourselves sitting in the bedroom, watching image after image of past events spring to life again on our computer monitor. We laugh and remember how much fun those moments were.
Travel creates perspective.
I’ve felt this on many occasions during my travels, perhaps in no more powerful way than standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I lapse from time to time into thinking that my life is all that matters…that I am the center of the universe…that nothing else is so big as the essence that is me.
Leaning on the rail, staring at the grandeur of the canyon reminded me that the universe is vast and huge and I serve but a tiny role in it. That humbling travel moment reduced my ego a good bit and brought some perspective to my life.
Travel brings other cultures and regions of a country to life.
Travel brings culture to life and this is a big deal. We risk wrapping ourselves in a bubble when we refuse to leave home. Again, it’s easy to get focused on our own self and come to wrongly believe that “the American way” or “our-region-of-the-country’s-way” is the right and only standard by which things should be done. Anything beyond our perception about life is seen as “out of the ordinary,” “wrong” or “abnormal.”
This is so far from the truth. While I do believe certain ideas about freedom, respect for humanity and basic morality should be qualities all peoples of the world possess, I don’t hold that there is a perfect or ideal way to live our day-to-day lives. What works for me culturally in the southern United States may not work in Vermont, or Peru or Sri Lanka. As one of my all-time favorite 1980s TV show theme songs so uniquely pointed out, “it takes different strokes to move the world.”
Travel introduces unique new foods.
Food is such an integral part of life…and oh so enjoyable. Now I will grant you that one does not have to travel to try unique foods. However, there is something about being in another country that gets our juices flowing for expanding our horizon and tasting new things. Like the time my family went to Isla de Pasion (Passion Island) in Cozumel.
I had never been a big fan of this food (actually hated it), but reputedly the Cozumel Passion Island’s fresh guacamole dip is famous for it’s texture and flavor. So, on our all-inclusive paid excursion to the island I was served some chips, salsa and guacamole dip as I lounged in my beach chair beneath the palm trees.
“What the heck,” I said scooping up some chunky, green goo. “I’ll give it a whirl.”
“Holy taste buds…” It was the best food I tasted on that trip! In fact the whole family became hooked. Upon returning home I searched desperately for a guacamole dip recipe that I could freshly prepare that approximated what I had tasted. I found this one that proved to be close enough. We use it to this day and have come to find it also tastes spectacular on top of a grilled hamburger.
Travel results in stories to share with others.
Travel stories are a great way to make connections with others who have had similar experiences. Stories can also help serve as conversation enhancers, as it allows you to bring your first hand knowledge and experience to the table.
While I don’t want every word uttered from your mouth to be something about a vacation, in general I like hearing what others have experienced. We’ve used many of our stories over the years to start or enhance conversations, like…
– the harrowing cab ride I once took in New York City…
– feeding sushi to giant sea turtles on a snorkeling tour in Barbados…
– sledding down the dunes at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico…
– my friend getting stuck in a crevasse while crawling through a cave in Kentucky
– chasing bears through the woods of north Georgia…
…and so many more.
Travel serves as a link to history.
A textbook or documentary can only do so much to bring history alive. Some places have to be experienced to fully understand the historical impact. Like the education I received when my wife and I took a trip to the Arizona Memorial.
I really didn’t know what to expect. I thought this would probably be just another historical museum trumpeting the greatness and determination of America in the face of adversity. What I found was much different.
For starters, the Arizona Memorial and the accompanying museum are not simply about United States history. They are as much a part of Japanese history as our own. So I was greatly surprised on the day we visited to see about 30% of the tourists with ethnic roots from that country.
When we shuttled across the water to the memorial itself, the atmosphere took on a somber tone. There was silence as you stepped off the boat onto the monument. Men in gray hair alone with their thoughts, leaned on the rail, peering down at the Arizona as she still leaked oil just a few meters below the water’s surface. Quiet weeping could be heard as others surveyed the names of the dead engraved on the wall in the shrine.
It was the most reverent and emotionally charged landmark I’ve been to yet. And even though I had no link in my past to any member who perished on that ship, the visit affected me deeply. I left with a new depth of appreciation for our freedoms and a humbling respect for the many who have given their lives so that I can enjoy said freedom.
Tips to make a travel budget become a reality
You might be thinking, “I don’t have the time or the money to go on a trip.” I agree that both of those are an issue. Here is what we have done as we’ve prepared our travel budget:
1. Be realistic. Know your own resources and time availability. Taking a month off of work to explore New Zealand and Australia may not be financially feasible or wise from a missing work perspective. Only commit to what you can financially afford.
2. Take short trips. A week long vacation may not always be possible depending on your travel budget. There is nothing wrong with a weekend getaway or even a cheap day-trip to squelch the travel bug. You probably have multiple destinations within 6 hours of your home that are worth visiting.
3. Save for the long trips. We try to do one week long vacation each summer. We start saving for that in August of the previous fall. That gives us plenty of time to save the necessary funds to make the vacation spectacular and pay for it in cash. Never go into debt to take a vacation!
4. Plan well in advance to take advantage of deals. We’ve found incredible deals on cruises six to 10 months out of the departure date. Generally the closer you get to the vacation date the more expensive plane flights and other last minute reservations become.
5. Work overtime to earn extra days off. Your work may offer comp time for the extra hours you work. Mrs. Luke1428 takes advantage of this during the busy tax season to earn extra days off. This past year she racked up five full days from just working overtime.
Our lives exist but for a short time. Put the excuses aside, take yourself and the family and go on vacation. Yes, there will be hassles and it’s tiring and you may hear “Let It Go” sang 1,000 times in the minivan. These issues however, will seem minor in comparison to the rewards travel will bring.
Questions: Do you have a travel budget? For what other reasons do you travel? How do you make time for it? Would you rather travel now or wait until retirement? What’s your secret travel budget tip for planning for a vacation? What is your favorite travel destination?
Other images by Luke1428.com
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