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Monday, December 29, 2008

The realization...

Notes From The Frugal Trenches

This month I had a much anticipated, longed for holiday in Asia. I booked the holiday with friends more than 18 months ago. At the time of booking I was as excited as a child on Christmas Eve, only a lot has happened in 18 months and by the time the holiday rolled around I was pretty sure I didn't want to go. I did, of course, go on the holiday and made the best of it, but the holiday represented a great change in me. When I booked the holiday, I wanted to explore more of the world, travel to more exotic places like my friends have done, learn a new culture, and have more countries on my world map that I can tick off as having been to, only through the course of this simple, green, frugal living my motivations have shifted. Suddenly I care less about how much "better" I'd be and look by traveling and instead am far more concerned about the impact my choices have on the environment, the good the money could have done for others, the family and the de-stressing time I missed before the holidays.

The reality is I did bring many of my new values to my trip, while my friends were purchasing souvenir after souvenir, I can hand on heart say I only purchased two things and they were to go to a poor family we met. I continued to eat local food where possible, didn't eat meat and always opted to travel by foot, train and bus instead of taxi. Only the whole time I was there, I had a feeling that these days of travel were coming to a close.

Traveling is a good thing, it helps to open our minds, expose us to new cultures, help us practice new languages we are learning....but it isn't the be all and end all that many of us professional, career driven Brits think it is. I remember when I was at a dinner party in the summer with many media execs, I mentioned the trip and said I hadn't actually had a holiday abroad in more than 2 years and these people had looks of horror on their faces. There were incessant questions as to why, and it became somewhat of a question time about where had I been and certainly an opportunity for them to brag about where they had been. I learned a very valuable lesson that night, these people may be far more well traveled than I, but they had closed minds and traveling was far more about a conversation starter then I life changing experience.

One day I'd like to do extended volunteer work abroad, but before then I have one more trip abroad (happening in the next week) and then I for one will be very happy to spend the next few years having simple, green and frugal holidays. Time away from telephones and the tv, time walking in nature, eating British scones, swimming in the sea, learning new skills like farming techniques, spending evenings curled up by a log fire and enjoying a week or so of the simple life. You see, once you start on this journey you too may realize it effects every area of your life, it becomes your motivation behind the decisions you make, it become the choices you make even about where and how you holiday. In fact, speaking of holidays, I think I'd like to give camping in a yurt a go, I don't think you can get much more simple, green or frugal. I for one can't wait.


Frogdancer said...

I have taken my children on 2 overseas holidays. One in Bali and then the following year we went to Phuket. We came home with a lot of stuff (particularly from Bali) but I don't feel guilty about it at all.

We live in a very safe, suburban part of Australia, and it was a huge wake-up to my boys (who were 14, 13, 11 and 9 at the time) as to what life is like for many other people. They grew up in many ways over those short 'touristy' trips. Seeing poverty on the tv is one thing... seeing, smelling and tasting it is another.

I agree with you that travelling purely for the sake of boasting about it is a totally different thing, but really... how many people truly do this? Maybe in the UK it's a bit different (you have many countries on your doorstep) but from Australia it takes a huge financial and time commitment to go anywhere. Here... if travel isn't important to you, you buy 'toys' instead. (One reason why we don't have a plasma or 4WD).

I'd say don't totally knock the idea of travelling overseas... people younger than you should have the opportunity to make up their own minds about the worthiness (or not) of packing those bags. Some things need to be experienced first hand in order to make a truly educated decision (just as you've done.)

rhonda jean said...

Hi FT, I agree about the travel, planes contribute a lot of carbon emissions. I used to travel a lot when I worked, it was one of the reasons I gave work away. Since then, I've had to travel twice to far off places (in Australia) and I went by train both times.

My sons are still mad travellers though and one of them is planning his next trip now. My other son is hoping to live in Spain for a year or so. They know how I feel about travel, but as Frogdancer says, they have to make up their own minds.

I believe there are carbon tradeoff companies operating where you can offset your carbon emissions. Have you looked into that?

nikkishell said...

I believe travel is a very important part of growing. I travelled a lot in my late teens and early twenties. I'm from the UK, started a family and emigrated to Australia. Your outlook on life changes when you have kids. I now live a simpler life, i want to have simple holidays with my family, locally. I think it's also about them being small and not needing much in the way of a holiday, what i mean is they don't need to go abroad just yet because i don't think they would truly appreciate it or remember much about it.
When they get older though i do think they would benefit from trips abroad. We plan to homeschool and we'd love to take them travelling so they could learn firsthand about countries and their cultures.
So, i think it just depends on where you are in your life.
Looks like we'll be making a trip back to the UK sometime soon, my brother just proposed to his girlfriend, i hope it's a long engagement! :)

Barbara said...

From a very young age, I passionately wanted to travel.
I spent much of my twenties
backpacking around the world
and it was the best thing I ever
did (apart from anything else
I met my husband in Asia!). We've
always lived well within our
means but travel is still our
passion. Over the years we've done
without a lot of other things and
consumer toys (only one car, no
plasma TV etc.) to be able to travel. I agree with Frogdancer
that here in Australia, travel is
a big financial commitment but I
know what I would rather do

Darren (Green Change) said...

I totally understand where you're coming from on the whole travel thing.

We're going on a holiday to Fiji in a couple of months to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. I'm looking forward to it, and it's going to be just the relaxing break we both need. We haven't had a holiday anything like this for over 7 years.

But part of me feels guilty about the money we're spending and the environmental impact of international travel. Is it enough to just buy carbon credits to cancel out that impact? That feels like just throwing money at the problem rather than fixing the root issue.

Not sure what the solution is, but I just wanted you to know that you're not alone in your thinking!

Notes From The Frugal Trenches said...

Thanks Darren!

I really do think traveling is a good thing (I hope my post didn't sound negative!) it does help open the mind, particularly if you venture outside resorts. I guess I was showing how much I've grown and that I'm now just so exicted to be home!

I hope you all enjoy your travels!

Notes From The Frugal Trenches said...

Rhonda - yes I have looked into off setting. In fact when you book a holiday here now you can chose that option!! I'd really like to learn more about it!