The Weird Side Effects of Traveling

Toledo, Spain
40 minutes south of Madrid in Toledo, Spain


For the better part of a year I lived in Madrid, Spain teaching English. Needless to say it was an incredible experience. I improved my Spanish, met people from all over the world, traveled to several countries, had a lot of memorable adventures, and felt very fulfilled helping students improve their English. People always ask me how this experience changed me.

There are certain ways travel changed me that I actually expected. It made me comfortable with new situations, calm and clear-headed under stress, present, connected to the rest of the world, and more empathetic of others. But there many ways travel changed my lifestyle that I didn’t expect. In fact the changes started to occur one year before I even got on the airplane! Here are a few:

I Save More Money

Your parents (or Suze Orman) can yell at you all they want about saving money. But the only way to really get you motivated is something to save for. Since I started saving for travel, I log every purchase I make into an Excel Spreadsheet. This isn’t so I can be super stingy. Rather so I can see where my money is going. So I can understand how much I spend on groceries, fuel, entertainment and the like. You can also you an app like Mint for this. This practice is great not just for travel but also for everyday life. To truly understand what you are doing with your money you need to know the numbers.

I Buy Less Stuff

Deciding to travel saved me from going into $15,000 worth of debt. How? Well about a month after making the decision to take part in the teaching program, my car’s transmission died. This would have TOTALLY justified me buying a nice near-new shiny ride. However I decided against it. Luckily my uncle, a mechanic, offered to do it free of labor costs. So I paid the $800 for a used transmission and had that old tranny swapped. Today I still cringe when I think about what would have happened if I purchased a new car on payments. And I’m still using that car!

I Need Less

One way to make yourself much happier is to need less. I notice most people around me are incredibly invested in their comfort. Many overeat in fear of being hungry after a meal. They won’t settle for a parking spot that is more than 50 feet from the entrance in fear of walking. They can’t imagine not having their coffee, morning shower, certain foods, and their electronics. For some reason people are proud of their addictions. They have no contentions with announcing them (among other flaws) to the rest of the world.

In the book A Guide To The Good Life: The Art of Stoic Joy, it is cleverly pointed out that “the more pleasures a man captures, the more masters will he have to serve”. In travel you learn to need less. Sometimes you have to go without that coffee, morning shower, or favorite food regardless if you feel ready or not.

Get Rid of Clutter

I made my move to Spain with one suitcase and one small travel backpack. I had limited space so I made the necessary adjustments. I couldn’t bring all the crap I had at home with me. I had to decide on what is essential and what isn’t. This meant clearing out clutter from my life. Not only I get rid of useless items/clothing but I also bought less stuff. Every purchase from then on has faced the scrutiny of “do I actually need this or not?”.

Walking into department stores, I was bulletproof. Marketing tricks rarely work on someone who is satisfied with what he has. If I did buy something like a new shirt, I would throw an old one out to prevent my wardrobe from growing. 

tags: travel, minimalism, spain, madrid, money, finances,

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