Travel opens borders. I don’t mean physical borders or walls, but rather social, cultural and educational borders. It is estimated that the average American fails to use even five vacation days a year. While it is noble to be a hard worker, not using paid vacation days is essentially like paying our employer. Furthermore, by not taking time off from work, we never truly get to recharge our batteries and perform at peak levels again. But there’s more to travel than recharging batteries, it’s about connecting to the world and expanding one’s own horizon.
Why travel is so important
We Only Live Once
While it is very important to use our working years to secure our financial freedom for our retirement, the truth is, we don’t know how long we will actually have in retirement. Having a $1M nest egg for retirement is great, but you can’t put a price tag on experiences and memories. Just as important as saving up for retirement should be to create memories together. We should not start living our dreams when we retire, but rather daily. We may not be able to fly to the Bahamas once a week, but we can plan – and save up for – our next vacation as soon as we return from our last. Anticipating and planning a trip can be just as fun as actually going.
It’s important to find that balance between living our lives to the fullest every day, and preparing for retirement. Travel does not have to put a dent into our savings. Research where you want to go, save up for the trip, then go. Alternatively, collect travel rewards points or miles, pay little to nothing in cash, then go (and travel in style as a bonus).
Become Culturally Literate
Statistics show that roughly 3.5 percent of Americans travel abroad annually. If that is true, it explains why we have a reputation of being “culturally illiterate”. This may sound harsh, but one major question I frequently receive when identifying myself as American when traveling overseas is: “Why do Americans not care about other cultures?” I would like to argue in those instances that we have a huge country with dozens of different cultures of our own to explore, but the truth is that there are a lot of us who’ve never even traveled outside of our own state lines before. I just had a conversation recently with a gentleman about California. He insisted that he would never go there because, well, “California has crappy gun laws”. I didn’t bother trying to explain to him that California’s gun laws, which actually vary from county to county, wouldn’t affect his travel because you typically have to leave your firearms at home when stepping onto an airplane. I’m a firm supporter of the 2nd Amendment myself, but I would never let that limit my choice of destinations.
Experiencing new cultures is a learning process that no school, college or university can even come close to providing. It provides an alternate viewing angle to many of life’s questions and we may just find an answer to something we’ve been asking ourselves for years. Moreover, connecting to other people allows for better understanding and is the only way we’ll ever have a chance to live in a world without discrimination. Even a short trip from North Carolina to South Carolina exposes us to an entirely different culture.
Catching Some Rays Is Healthy
In addition to helping our skin produce Vitamin D, exposure to the sun has additional health benefits and has even been linked to combat depression. Some of the sun’s benefit on the human body are:
- Sends breast cancer into remission
- Lowers cholesterol
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases oxygen levels in our blood
- Promotes growth in children
- Boosts immune system
There are more benefits than these along with various theories about the use of sunblock. Some argue that sunblock is essential to keeping us protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Others claim that the chemicals used in most sunblocks are far worse and suggest skipping it, while enjoying sun exposure in moderation and building a natural tolerance. I am no scientist and cannot possibly say which is worse, UV rays or chemical laden sunscreens. My personal philosophy is that if I am able to catch some rays in increments, I’ll skip the sunblock. If I know I’ll be exposed to the sun for an extended period of time, I’ll apply some good quality sunscreen.
Breaking The Cycle
Repetition leads to complacency. Even the best of us make mistakes from time to time. I fix helicopters in the Army – when I make a mistake and it goes unnoticed, people’s lives are at risk. I cannot allow myself to become complacent, and the best way to avoid that is by changing the scenery every now and then.
Another risk we run into when not taking a vacation on a regular basis is that we simply overwork ourselves. This can have countless consequences on our mental state, and with that, our body as a whole. Again, I’m no doctor, but it’s common knowledge that monotony and too many hours behind the desk have less than desirable effects on our overall health. It’s actually simple math; the more we vacation, the healthier we remain and the fewer sick days we use at work. That is good for us as well as our employer, because leave days are scheduled, sick days aren’t. Sure would be nice if the average American employer gave more than 10 paid vacation days a year to support that. Either way, it does not make us “weak” to take some time off and to spend it with our family instead.
It’s Actually Affordable
Every one of us should have a passport. Granted, the initial application fee for a US passport is $110 (plus a $25 execution fee), but a passport is valid for 10 years. That means, for just over $11 per year, we literally receive a key to the world. The US passport is among the world’s most powerful, but far to few Americans take advantage of that. There is even a $30 passport card for trips across our northern or southern borders.
But perhaps the biggest misconception about traveling overseas is that it’s only for the rich. Nothing could be further away from the truth. There have been sub $500 tickets from many major US airports to various European cities for the past year now and the Euro has been at an all time low for roughly the same time period. There hasn’t been a better time for a trip across the pond in over a decade.
If you are traveling from a major airport to Europe, it almost makes more sense to pay for a ticket in cash (by cash I mean credit card) and earn points and miles on it, versus paying with points. Domestic travel and travel to Asia is different, but equally affordable when paying with points. In addition, domestic low cost carriers have really been stepping up their game lately, literally forcing the big three (United, Delta, American Airlines) to create an entirely new fare – Basic Economy.
Step away from the office as much as possible. There is no shame in it and it doesn’t make you a “bad employee”. If anything, catching some sun will rejuvenate you, free your mind, and make you more productive when you get back to work. Ticket prices to Europe are at an all time low, along with the Euro, making this a prime opportunity to explore. That trip to Paris you and your spouse had been talking about forever, right now is the time to go. It doesn’t even have to be international – catching some sun on Waikiki Beach may be just what the doctor ordered. Either way, you will come back with new experiences, more knowledge, and possibly even new friends.
This article is a little different than my usual ones and much less credit card points focused, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it nonetheless. Happy travels.
Tell us why travel is so important to you. Where did your last trip take you and how did it change you? Comment below or on our social media pages.