Perils of traveling too much!

We all cherish and dream of things we don’t have and can’t afford. Once we have that, the attraction gradually drops. Most middle class people want to get rich desperately, as they believe that is the solution to all their problems. Rich people on the other hand battle their own set of challenges. Travel is no different- almost everyone these days wants to travel. Having completed 7 international and about 10 domestic trips in year, I feel even too much travel is not good. It has its own set of drawbacks. In this post, I am sharing my list of observations- the drawbacks of too much travel.
But being able to travel is a bit more complex than being able to do other things. For example, if your ambition is to own an iPhone, you just need one thing- money. But to be able to travel often, lot of things should fall in place
  1. Money- Obviously you need decent amount of money to book tickets and execute your travel
  2. Time- If money isn’t a problem, time will. Many can’t get leaves or can’t take time off their hectic schedules
  3. Physical fitness-certain amount of fitness is essential to travel. Of course those who don't have a fitness or those differently abled can also travel, just that it is lot more complex
  4. Visa- Time, money and complicated process involved in getting visa, at times the denial of it- could be a deterrent for travel
  5. Planning and execution skills: while you can book tour packages from travel website, for a more economical, fulfilling and off beat travel experience one should be able to spare lots of time to do research, plan and execute their travel to their own satisfaction.
  6. Consent- Some people will need consent- from their parents, spouse and so on
  7. Prioritization: If you love to travel, you should also be able to prioritize it over other things in life- shopping, family, other luxuries and so on
  8. Courage: Traveling solo, traveling to less popular, potentially unfriendly destinations, where there could be various issues including language barrier, safety issues, food issues and so on- needs fair bit of courage as well as quick thinking and survival skills on one’s part to go out and explore
  9. Coordination: if you're traveling with family or group of friends, everyone should be free, interests should match and so on. This will be an added complexity
If all of the above works for you and you can travel often, you will be envied by your peers, you will be considered a successful traveler. Travel is liberating, exhilarating and possibly de-stressing and rewarding. Travel is unique- even though two people visit same destination, what they experience can be totally different, depending on their own detailed planning, weather/climate during visit, other events and influencing factors.  But like anything, too much of travel has its share of drawbacks which travelers need to deal with. This year I had fair amount of travel- particularly in June-December period. between July and December, I traveled to Myanmar, Maldives, New Zealand, Australia, China internationally, Kerala, Rajasthan and few nearby places locally. Between Jan and December, I had planned 8 international trips, 10+ domestic trips (Coimbatore, Tiruvannamalai, Pune, Hyderabad, Kerala, Bikaner, Jaipur, Pondichery, Bengaluru, Mangaluru etc). Of this a few trips didn’t materialize but overall I had fair amount of travel. Of course I enjoyed my trips but below were the various challenges/drawbacks of too much travel.

1. Huge Money spent and the haunt of empty bank accounts:
Travel costs money-lots of it- tickets, visas, food, site-seeing, rentals- everything costs money- At some point we will have to evaluate the value of experience this spending is giving us. Is it worth? Is it really needed? Are there a better alternatives? Could that money been better spent elsewhere? Earning in rupee and spending in dollars is never fun. Particularly if one is not earning from their travel, then one has to review the travel spending once a while to assess how much is too much. Of course we all live only once but some trade-off between current spending vs future savings might be needed.

This year’s 7 international trips did cost me several lakhs and have drained my savings substantially. So I need to be more cautious in future. Given that I had already booked many non-refundable tickets way back in 2017, I was somewhat forcefully committed to these trips. Once ticket is booked you have to spend on visa and travel for sure, unless you wish to lose entire ticket money. It still works for me, because if I wait till last minute, same ticket that cost me 20k one year ago would cost me 60k, an unnecessary spending of 40k extra which is worth 2 more trips. But I was saved from a total wipe out due to below factors:

A.My tickets were super cheap- one third of what it costs for a normal fare booked say one month prior. In fact, the total amount of money I spent on flight tickets in 2018 is less than what it costs to buy the most expensive iPhone in India. Unless you plan well, it will cost at least 2 to 3 times more to fly to these destinations under normal fares. You can follow my Airlineblog where I publish super cheap fares. But with these low fares comes lots of restriction- I lost 100% of the money since I couldn’t go to Cambodia as planned. Other tickets were non-refundable too, would have lost it all if I couldn’t go
#
Country/Destination
Return ticket fare
Remarks
1
Cambodia
12600
AirAsia, couldn’t travel, 100% loss
2
Dubai
12000
FlyDubai
3
Srilanka
8600
Srilankan
4
Myanmar
12600
AirAsia
5
Gan Island, Maldives
9800
Srilankan
6
New Zealand
23600
Air Asia
7
Gold Coast
20700
Air Asia
8
Beijing
20040
Srilankan
9
Kerala
2300
Vistara
10
Pune
4500
Indigo
11
Hyd
3100
Indigo
12
Bhuvaneshwar
3100
Air Asia, flight cancelled
13
Mangaluru
1800 (1-way only)
Indigo, One way only
14
Bikaner
0
Sponsored
15
Jaipur
0
Sponsored


131640

That’s all I spent on my own tickets in 2018. iPhone XS Max 512 GB costs 1.4 lakhs. If you buy an iPhone not many will notice, but if you travel a lot, everyone takes notice and assume either you’re super rich or have nothing else to do.

B. My local travel/stay/food expenses are very less
Because I stay in hostel, cook my own food where possible, use public transport etc my overall trip cost is a lot less-check this post to know how I managed stay n food in Australia for under INR 2000 per day. Similarly, entire Myanmar trip cost me about INR 31000, Srilanka trip about 25000 per person and so on. So this extreme budget trips have helped me save and spend the savings on another trip. If I am to take tour packages instead of managing on my own, or travel in style and luxury, I would have easily spent 3 times more. I give up comfort, luxury and convenience during my trips to save more, explore more, optimize my plans.

C: Solo travel
Most of the trips were solo, only few were with family. Of course this is very unfair on family members who couldn’t join, but on the other hand it kept total spending under check.  A family trip would have cost 2-3 times more

D: Short trips
My trips are all of short duration- few days to a week max. If I were to spend a month exploring NZ I would have needed 4 times more money for stay, rental, food etc. Short trip means less spending.

Despite these, I have depleted huge chunk of my savings this year on these trips. I can feel good about my ‘spending on experience’ than ‘things’ but I will also have to be content looking at my peers who may be busy buying houses n other things of luxury, comfort or investments, while I survive on a frugal bare minimum living. I am fine with this for now, but should I change in future or will I regret it 10 years from now? I don’t know- definitely something to ponder upon.
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2. Potentially risky ticket bookings that could have left not enough time for Visa processing.
Last year, when I saw cheap tickets in AirAsia sale, I booked trips to Myanmar, New Zealand, Australia etc almost back to back. This year Feb, I saw cheap tickets on a Srilankan 50% off sale- Booked 3 trips- to Srilanka, Gan Island Maldives and China. In between booked few more domestic trips during Vistara and Air Asia India sales.

At one point, I reached a stage when I realized how tight my schedule was and wondered which one I might have to let go, because I had very little time gap between trips to process my visa. I had a trip almost every month- sometimes two trips a month, without enough gap. So many things added to the complication- China visa (n for many other countries) couldn’t be initiated more than 4 months prior to travel date. New Zealand visa and Australia visa could take 30+ days in worst case scenario. You have to keep in mind passport expiry date, number of empty pages needed, buffer time and so on.

Luckily following things worked in my favor:
  • Australia visa doesn’t need physical submission of passport.
  • China visa took only 6-7 days
  • Some of the countries I had booked ticket to allowed e-visa (Srilanka and Myanmar) or visa on arrival (Maldives)
  • Except one trip to Coimbatore in January, I didn't have any work related travel this year
I realized I am running out of passport, which means I have to renew passport first and so on. Luckily I had not planned any trips during July 2018 and most of September 2018. So had one month to renew passport and another full month to get some visa processed. I still missed one Malaysia travel opportunity as my passport was stuck with NZ consulate, but I could get other visas just in time. But it is a lesson learnt. Keep gap between trips or don’t book without factoring visa processing time.
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3. No time for other things
Travel takes time- before the trip we have to spend time planning the itinerary, processing visa, making bookings. After the trip we have to spend time processing photos/videos, writing about it and so on. Then next trip is just around the corner. This means we are left with very less time for other things in life- I have a pile of books pending to be read, need to clean and organize home better, have to spend time on other things in life. So at some point in time it is good to take a break and stay at home. I think December is best time for that- everyone is busy traveling around Christmas/New Year, flights are anyway too expensive, so best to relax. Your body may need a break, your family and other things in life deserve some attention too.
  • If I have to order something on Amazon, I had to be sure I will be in town when the package arrives, with a possible delay
  • Have to ensure that bills are paid ahead of time to avoid late payment fee
  • Blogposts from various previous trips are pending and next trip is already here
  • Have to give up events, invites and opportunities that pop-up last minute, because of already committed travel plan
  • Friends and family visiting town I am unable to meet because I am out of town
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4. Carbon footprint-lots of it!
Travel pollutes environment. The flight we take emits CO2 to atmosphere, the stuff we purchase eventually end up as trash and so on. The guilt will be upon us and we should travel in a responsible way, trying not to harm the environment. I am doing what I can-carry water bottles and refill instead of buying new bottles, cook my own food in hostel instead of buying meals and so on. But is that enough?

As per flightradar24, this year alone I have caused a CO2 emission worth 10.9 tons from the flights I have taken-local transportation emissions extra. That is lots of bad gas. But my thoughts are as below

Even if I don’t book a ticket or travel the flight will still operate and CO2 emissions will happen. Environment will be saved only if the entire flight is cancelled and NOT just by me not traveling.
I am 70 kgs in weight, I mostly travel without check-in bag. If I don’t travel and airline assigns the same seat to someone much more heavier or had heavy check-in bag, it causes more pollution to fly that person. So by flying I might actually be helping mother earth!

While tourists do boost revenue for locals, they also put a stress on a city’s resources. Because of too many AirBnBs, residents in many cities are finding it hard to get affordable rental homes. Amount of trash generated and various other side effects of too many visitors often create conflicts. Some countries are resorting to temporary or permanent closure of certain over-burdened tourist attractions. Despite our best efforts in being responsible travelers, we all will have our share of contribution to the ever increasing problems of pollution, garbage, traffic congestion and so on.

This news article confirms the same
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5. There’s nothing extra ordinary about travel:
Travel was way more complex few decades ago- less flights, more expensive tickets, non-availability of various technology that we have today (for example maps n translator apps), less earnings meant only a few could manage extensive travel. Today everyone has enough money and almost everyone travel around once a while. There’s nothing really extra ordinary about travel, unless your trip or experience is something very unique not possible by regular tourists/travelers. So while travel may give you a high, most of the world may not care. For example, the viewpoints, beaches, parks, tall buildings are everywhere- what’s unique about the place you visited? You may get a few likes on social media, but was the destination really worth the amount spent on the trip? If you’ve already seen and experienced beautiful beaches in Thailand and Bali, would it be worth going all the way to say Hawaii to spend time on the beach again?

What do you travel for?
This introspection is needed at regular intervals. Some travel so that they can make money (by writing stories etc), some travel for cool Instagram pics, some travel just to collect stamps on passport n increase their count, some travel to experience food, specific events and so on. End of each trip we need to check if we fulfilled our intended objectives, did we get the desired value out of our trips.

For me it works like this- My high level strategy is to go wherever it is cheap, whenever it is cheap. I get tempted to visit certain countries, I keep tracking flight ticket prices to visit that country. Once I see some airline deal or offer and conclude that it is unlikely to get any cheaper, I book- even if travel date is one year from now. I can’t afford long leaves, so usually limit my trips to around 1 week max. Once ticket is booked, as travel date comes near I start figuring out rest of the details- visa, what to do/see etc. I don’t intend to/can’t afford to spend on super expensive, super luxurious things, so am often limited to what’s possible in low budget. Mostly I visit most popular tourist attractions, try a few adventure activities, get a pulse of the city using public transport, indulge in some experiences such as rent and drive a car or so on. So end of the trip, I return with a very good understanding of life in the country, its transportation system, tick on the bucket-list of major attractions/destinations worth visiting in the country and any unique experience/adventure I might have tried and so on. Being vegetarian and teetotaler, I am not much into food & drinks as my options are limited, but I keep an eye for availability of tender coconuts. Many times I wish to spend some more time, but I can’t- because my tickets are non-modifiable and my leaves are limited, I can’t afford to explore a destination in detail for weeks like many European backpackers- so in such cases I have to decide if another trip in future would be worth.

Thus as an individual you've to ensure that your travel really helps fulfill whatever objectives you had in mind.
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6. Other priorities in life:
Some people say they live to travel. You cannot do that unless you’ve loads of money or a rich spouse/partner or have figured out ways to travel for free or earn good money from your travel. Most of us are still depended on something else- like a job- to earn money that could be spent on travel. While travel gives joy n satisfaction at the moment, it is very unlikely to help any way say 20 years from now when you're facing bad health or financial worries. On the other hand, a well planned investment may see you through during your old age or tough times. Thus at some point we need to ponder how to balance our never ending desire for travel with a real need of saving something for the future or other priorities in life.

So these are realities involved with too much traveling. 2019 I may have to slow down a bit, to let savings and leave balance replenish. Also need to write pending blog posts from my previous trips and take a look at other things in life. But then, all these might change if I see some airline sale with irresistible fares!- you never know- wish me luck.

Health is also a concern with too much travel. Thankfully I am fine overall health-wise as of now. 

This is my perspective and observation. I am also aware there're many others who travel a lot more and probably doing well overall without most of the above drawbacks. Of course yours could be different depending on your work profile, financials, support system you have, stage of life, priorities and how things work/doesn’t work for you. Do share your thoughts.

18 comments:

  1. Very well artivulatea with N eye for details in all the aspects

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  2. Well, you have covered mostly all aspects. Well written to the last detail. Informative.

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  3. Very well put. I see you are evolving, which is good. Change is the essence of life. Time to enjoy, explore and experience a different side of life. :-)

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  4. So impressive write up Shri... and you have nailed it as a passionate traveller
    I can echo with your thoughts and this needs lot of planning, prioritization, passion, and perseverance to make travel possible and that too more frequently
    Enjoy your trips and explore the world. I am sure you will have loads to cherish as you get older!

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  5. Well written article. Life has many sides and will reach a point where we need to balance all of them!! I always admire your strategy of getting cheap tickets.

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  6. That's a very well-rounded post.
    Keep looking at those flight fares. My hat's off to you for all the hard work you do to find the best deals.

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