As the cost of living continues to sky rocket and the rand seems to plummet just as fast as South Africans rack up unpaid e-toll bills, it may seem an inopportune time for me to suggest that you book your next overseas holiday ASAP but that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
The truth is, this is a totally crazy idea and may defy all supposed “logic” but it could also be the best thing you ever do for yourself.
FLY MY LITTLE PRETTY!
I was fortunate enough to travel extensively as a youngster. The first time I went overseas, I was 13 years old and I stayed in California for three months with some South Africans who had moved there and spent the entire summer holidays with them.
My time there was terrible. All I did was go to the beach, eat all sorts of amazing cuisine, visit all the major theme parks and literally do as I please for three months with my two best mates. Terrible!
When I got back to South Africa, I couldn’t focus on anything other than traveling again but my parents were rather selfish in not wanting to pay for my next trip and strangely enough, they didn’t like the idea of me selling drugs at school either to fund future adventures.
I didn’t let up though and my next taste of overseas travel came just after my 16th birthday. America eluded me this time and instead London, Paris and Dublin would have to do. But seriously, while I loved every second abroad, I didn’t realize at the time just how much these early travels would impact me later on in life.
The second I got out of school, I pretty much did everything I could to travel. I managed to visit another 12 or 13 countries until I turned 22 and then adult life set in…
AM I BIG YET?
As it often happens, I soon felt the need to focus on my career and I got hooked into wanting a flashy car and my own place. Unless you are an absolute prodigy or Paris Hilton, you can’t have it all at the same time at such a young age. I guess this is the natural progression and the balancing act of life for us mere mortals.
After a while, I was lucky enough to afford that new car and even buy my first house all the while starting to enjoy the local nightlife scene and all that came with it. I felt like my next overseas trip was just around the corner but never seemed to actually book that next trip.
BIG BOY PANTS ENGAGE!
To make life a touch more rather interesting, I started my own business at 24 with the usual dreams and aspirations that come with this tale. Although in the end it turned out to the best decision of my life, initially it came with loads of early financial pressure and plenty of mistakes along the way. I remember being worried that the bank was going to take my house.
By the time 2010 rolled on, it had been four long years since my last overseas trip. My entrepreneurial career was still very young and all over the show and I was just making ends meet when a friend asked me if I wanted to join her and a group of friends on a really cheap trip to Indonesia and Malaysia.
I was under such tremendous pressure at the time but the offer was so good and I couldn’t quite get the idea out my head. It made NO sense to put myself further in debt but in a moment of sheer madness, I booked the trip on my credit card and soon enough, I would be on my way to Asia with a host of other crazy humans.
STROKE OF LUCK, MADNESS OR PURE GENIUS?
The buildup to this trip was a touch exciting but mostly painful. I had booked and paid but was under serious duress but I needed to get away but felt guilty for spending money I didn’t have… My overactive brain was a mess.
Yet the big day eventually arrived and once you’re on that plane, there’s nothing you can do to effect change on the ground. The cards must lie where they fall and all you can do is enjoy your trip. I chose to do just that and had the time of my life. I could write a book about that trip but instead I’m writing this blog post for you today in hope that it gets you thinking!
I NEED YOU TO GET THIS!
Besides contracting pink eye and nearly accidentally getting shot by a taxi driver in McDonalds, this trip smacked me upside the head with a greater perspective. I arrived on the other side of the world and was instantly reminded how swaddled I was in my tiny cocoon back home. Once this sank in, I started to realize how vast the world really is. I felt myself starting to zoom out and begin to think more global.
Even just the change of scenery is in itself a blessing. You don’t have associations with your new surroundings so you don’t feel the same emotions you would when at home. You make new memories and you think about the world in its entirety. This intersection is a God-send and it’s one you need to take full advantage of.
Upon my return I felt like I was given a brief moment to see my situation for what it was yet act without fear or anxiety. It doesn’t last forever but therein lies the magic. The key is to make the most of your new found perspective and push with everything you have.
DUMB AND DUMBERER
The scary thing is it took me another three years before I traveled overseas again. I managed to turn the corner from a business and financial perspective after Indonesia and Malaysia but then my excuse became about time; apparently I didn’t have any.
Feeling beyond burnt out in the middle of 2013 and on the verge of exhaustion, I booked and paid to go to Thailand and Singapore with a bunch of friends over the December holidays and those three weeks gave me another dose of fresh perspective. I remember walking around those foreign towns several times wondering how I could be this dumb and not do this more often. It was then and there that I made a promise to travel at least once a year.
WHAT ABOUT MONEY AND TIME?
Well I’m at the point that I will literally beg, borrow or steal to go overseas because I learn more about myself and the world around me when I travel and that’s enough for me to make it the highest priority.
Even when you have a house and a nice car there’s always a bigger house and better car on offer. The rat race never ends. The more money I make, the more I spend it on frivolous things that don’t matter as much as travel.
A good friend of mine told me a while ago that you can always make more money but what you can’t get back is time. God bless him, he will be the first of many friends to receive many annoying pictures of me being a proper tourist in every city I visit from here!
I leave you with a final quote by St. Augustine of Hippo which is totally fitting of this blog post:
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY: MARK SHAM
Mark Sham is the owner and founder of Suits & Sneakers and believes emphatically in informal learning and human development. You can like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter!
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