Why I Spent $30,000 On A Holiday, Not My ‘Future’

Thirty grand. It’s not lotto-huge. But it’s not nothing. This was the amount of money I managed to accumulate through years of random casual work, freelancing, tax returns, saving, selling stuff, and luck. And when you’re 24 with $30,000 in the bank, you kind of start thinking about your “future”.

So as a seasoned millennial, I blew most it of it on a six-month holiday. This was a couple of years ago and I haven’t been close to that kind of money since. But I have no regrets. Because when I think about Australia’s outrageous housing prices, the fact that millennials are serial (and successful) job-hoppers, and that spending money on experiences, rather than things, is scientifically A-OK, the decision to make the leap wasn’t just easy – it was right.

I get that spending this kind of money on a trip isn’t for everyone. But if you’re willing to fork out, here are a few things I considered before taking the plunge.

Career now or career later?

Before I hopped on a plane, I had to make the executive decision not to focus on career stuff for a while – which is a hard thing to do when your smack-bang in the middle of trying to figure out your life. I didn’t really have a defined path (still don’t), which in some ways made the decision easier. All I knew was that at some point I wanted a full-time job working in the creative industries. I didn’t know when or where this would be, or if I’d built up enough relevant experience, but I was confident that I could make that happen.

This brings me to the idea of goal setting. Jumping into the complete unknown is amazing, but having even a vague idea of the future helps you justify this. I understood that achieving my goal wasn’t going to happen straight away – that going back to casual work was the realest possibility. So I simply had to get comfortable with that idea, not worry too much about the success of my friends, or what I couldn’t control. I figured that seeing some of the world would be worth it (it was), and would make the idea of starting again easier (it did).

Owning stuff vs. doing stuff

Like I said, science has got your back. A recent study from Cornwell University in New York confirmed that the key to happiness is through experiences rather than things. Led by psychology professor Dr Thomas Gilovich, he says, “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting at first, but then we adapt to them.”

As much as spending money is great, safety nets shouldn’t be overrated.

Bottom line is, we adapt to material items, whereas experiences shape us for years to come. Buying a new car might redefine your outlook on driving, but spending money on experiences redefines your outlook on life. Of course, you don’t have to spend $30,000 to do this. But if you can and want to, why not?

Thinking of it as an investment

It’s no secret that travelling is psychologically good for you. It’s the ultimate life investment. Among other benefits, it boosts your creativity, gives you perspective, and makes you more open to change.

For my line of work and what I’m interested in, getting these experiences made sense – even financially. Instead of stifling my career options, travelling for an extended period of time inspired me to take freelancing more seriously, to think about my work-life balance, to understand how important putting yourself out there is, and how a job overseas could look great on the old CV. I didn’t set out hoping to come to these realisations, but I seriously doubt that staying put would have got me there.

What about a backup plan?

I’d already made a super vague plan about jobs and career, but where would I live and how would I survive when I got back? As much as spending money is great, safety nets shouldn’t be overrated. I decided to come back from my trip with a couple of grand in the bank – fully prepared to jump straight back into casual work, or even move back in with the folks until I found my feet. Not everyone has this option, but it’s one way of doing it.

The truth is, if you’re going to spend most of your savings on a holiday, expect to make sacrifices on your return. I lived on couches and went right down to the wire before I got offered the full-time job I wanted. But looking back, it was a small price to pay for a lifetime of formative #mems.

Doug Whyte is a freelance writer and copywriter. He’s worked in branding agencies, digital publishing and written a bunch of articles for a bunch of publications.

Open a Westpac bank account
in less than 3 minutes

Open a Westpac savings
account to take control
of your money

Find Out More