10 Financial Commandments for Millennial Travelers

The people at my workplace are a funny bunch. They just don't know it but they are in a “travel rat race”. A rat race is a race with no winners and each individual trying to get ahead of one another but with no end in sight.

It all started when somebody at the office posted photos of his trips to Hong Kong and subsequently, Singapore. The next thing I knew, everyone else has followed suit. A few months later, the same person comes back from a trip to Thailand and Cambodia. Then suddenly, everyone at the office was getting ready to travel to those countries! The one who initiated the race is also the one who is leading. That person is currently heading for Australia. Japan, the States, and South Korea are next on this person’s travel bucket list, and the race has only just begun!

In case you have been living under a rock (like my dad), you probably know that traveling is all the rage these days. You’re just not living life properly if you’re not traveling! My dad (who has been living under a rock), laments at how the young people at his office these days don’t seem to have any concrete plans in life and that all they want to do is travel. I had to explain to him that traveling is now a way of life and that it is now almost seen as a necessity by people. I even know some people whose life goals include traveling to certain destinations. Yes, my dad who spent his early years in the labor force saving up for a house, and working overtime to get promotions can’t understand the kids today who skip from one job to another and splurge on travels.

A few years ago, I tried traveling too. I got so hardcore that I started thinking about going to a different destination every month. But I got bored after a few destinations and later, I realized that I was only doing it because I was influenced by other people. And who wouldn’t be influenced to travel what with social media teeming with posts that almost shame you into traveling?

“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a plane ticket and that’s kind of the same thing.”

“Travel is the only thing that makes you richer.”

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”

"'I regret going traveling" said nobody... ever!'"

“Travel while you're young and able. Don't worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.”

I know! These memes are enough to convince anyone to travel and will make anyone who isn't traveling feel really bad about their lives!

The purpose of this article is by no means to criticize the “travel lifestyle” everyone is into nowadays. Traveling is a good thing and it is something that has become very accessible nowadays with the rise of low-cost airlines and cheaper fuel costs. I wrote this article for everyone (READ millennials) out there who are trying to live a life of travel but who can’t afford the “travel lifestyle”.

Here now is a list of ten don’ts when it comes to traveling that would hopefully keep your unwarranted wanderlust in check.

1. Thou shall not travel if you are in debt

Before you even think of traveling, make sure that you are debt-free.

Some people are fond of digging up holes for themselves. Believe it or not, some people will insist on traveling even if they are already debt-ridden. If you are in debt, and it doesn’t matter how small your debt is, you are simply and absolutely not to travel anywhere! No, not even to Ilocos!

2. Thou shall not travel if you don’t have an emergency fund

Have you ever experienced feeling very anxious during a vacation because you know that you don’t have any money left for emergencies? That totally takes the fun out of traveling right? Wouldn’t it make more sense to travel when you have an emergency fund that you can fall back on in case an emergency arises when you go back home from your travels?

It is a good idea to have at least three months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund.

3. Thou shall not travel if you’re not contributing to your retirement fund

It is just as important to spend for your future self as it is to spend for your present self. No matter how much traveling you may have done in your younger years; your future self will never thank you for neglecting to save and invest for your retirement in favor of spending for traveling.

It is ideal to contribute at least 10% of your income for your retirement needs.

4. Thou shall not travel just to keep up with the Jones's

Yes, we all want what our friends have. But it’s really better to be content with what you have and not let envy get the better of you. A lot of times, we want to go to a certain destination just because we felt envious of our friends who’ve been to that place.

5. Thou shall not travel just because you feel like you’re going to miss out on life if you don’t

It is very easy to feel left out when you don’t travel. This is especially true in today’s social media driven society. Try spending a few minutes on Facebook and you will surely come across a post or two about the benefits of traveling and how everyone who isn’t traveling is a loser. It takes a lot of self-awareness to realize that many of the things we do in life are only a result of being influenced by other people.

6. Thou shall not travel when you need to borrow money to do so

Have you ever heard of people borrowing money from the friendly neighborhood loan shark just to be able to celebrate someone’s birthday? Sounds crazy, right? Well, here’s something that sounds even crazier. It defies common sense but some people will actually get into debt just to be able to travel! Some people will even go as far as saying that traveling is an investment. Are you kidding me? Traveling for leisure is absolutely not an investment, especially if you need to take out a high-interest loan just to be able to afford it!

7. Thou shall not travel just to widen your horizon

It is a common saying (especially among those who travel) that traveling broadens one’s horizons. While this is most certainly true, there are definitely other ways (READ cheaper ways) to broaden your horizons like reading books, going to the museum, meeting new people, volunteering, taking short courses… the list goes on.

So the next time someone tells you that you absolutely need to travel because it is an absolute must for personal growth, just remember that your grandparents probably did little to no travel at all during their entire lifetimes and they did just fine.

8. Thou shall not travel just because the fare is cheap

Yes, I know the feeling well. You see the announcement on an airline’s website that they are running a limited time offer. You check the fare to a destination and it’s so cheap! You don’t even know if you still have leave credits let alone if your time off request will be approved, but you still book the flight because you’re afraid of missing out on this one-time great opportunity! Does that sound familiar to you? A lot of times, we buy something just because it’s on sale and not because we truly need it only to find what we bought sitting in our closet unused months later.  The same is true most of the time for promotional airline fares.

9. Thou shall not travel without a budget

Before you even pack your bags, make sure to create a budget and to stay within your budget. A lot of times, we feel like it's okay to splurge when we're on vacation but you don't really want to be a travel now pulubi later kind of person, do you?

10. Thou shall not travel without proper planning

It always feels exciting to go on spur-of-the-moment trips. The problem is that they cost more than properly planned trips. For one, plane fares and hotel rooms cost so much more if you book them so near to your travel dates. The best thing to do is to plan for your trip months in advance so you can get the beat deals in airfares and hotel rooms.

Apparently, traveling is the new ultimate status symbol. And no, stop telling yourselves that you're only spending a small amount of money because you only book promotional fares. Because the amount one spends for traveling is never small! Come on, have you ever heard of anyone traveling on a fifty peso budget? Sure, ten thousand pesos, even fifteen thousand pesos sounds small when we talk about traveling, but they are only small amounts RELATIVELY. Stop telling yourselves that ten thousand pesos is a small amount because, in a country where so many people live on a hundred pesos a day, ten thousand pesos is never a small amount!

And no, stop telling me that nobody ever regretted traveling because I personally know someone who does. A mid-level manager at the office once confided in me that after ten years of working, she had nothing to show for it. In her own words, "wala akong naipundar". All she had are memories, and a closet full of clothes and shoes.

If the travel lifestyle is really something that you want to actively pursue, you could create a travel fund that you can regularly dip into for your traveling expenses. Of course, it goes without saying that you should always prioritize putting money into your emergency and retirement funds before putting any money in a travel fund.

For me, the best way to travel is when you have fully funded your emergency fund and are regularly setting aside a portion of your income for retirement. In this manner, you'll be traveling with a light heart and a worry-free mind. Remember, it is always more fun to travel if your financial house is in order.

This article was republished as a guest post at the Two Monkeys Travel website.

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