Even a budget traveller can use a splurge now and then!
1.) Visiting Vimy Ridge on Canada Day
Next to the town of Arras in Northern France is the beautiful monument and preserved battle grounds of Vimy Ridge, in honor of the decisive WWI battle won by the Canadians.
Travelling north took me out of my way and the small hostel in Arras filled up long in advance, requiring me to take a small hotel room (reasonably priced, but way over of my budget nevertheless). I was visiting on a Sunday and the lack of public transportation required me to take a taxi instead of a bus.
The no-frills trip came in several times over my usual budget, but it was well worth it. It was a very interesting experience, I greatly appreciate the historical significance of my visit, and I found the experience to be very moving. Overall, it was money well spent.
When travelling in rural Ireland and staying at a hostel, a situation arose when I recognized that I wasn't safe. I grabbed my bag and walked in to one of the many private B&Bs off the main village square. I was taking the chance I would be leaving a bad situation and coming into a better one. And I was right. It was the right move. The safety, security, and cozy reassurance of my charming single room was well worth the 40 Euros - the last cash I had at the time. Still shaken, I visited the neighbouring restaurant - I know, a restaurant! Hot food! - and had, what was for me, a very expensive dinner. Grilled salmon was involved, as was white wine, and my credit card came to the rescue. At this point I was well over $100 above budget, no small amount for me. And I never regretted listening to my instinct and paying the extra money.
In Zambia, close to the border of Malawi, my safari group stopped at Tribal Textiles. Tribal Textiles is community collective which makes beautiful fabric art, including wall hangings, cushion covers, duvets, and more. While I did stick to shopping in the "seconds" bin, I did shop a lot. A few souvenirs but mostly things for myself. At the time, I envisioned myself to be travelling more and more in the coming years and I imagined being able to easily pack these beautiful fabrics with me no matter where I go. Not everything is displayed these days, but they are still some of my most precious possessions. They remind me of one of the most beautiful times I had in Africa and it was well worth the expense.
It's no secret that I often advocate choosing the most basic room in a nice hotel- you get the benefit of the beautiful location, an serviceable bed, but you don't pay for attractions you'll rarely enjoy. On our first trip to Hawaii, we stayed in Oahu at the Hilton Prince Kuhio and chose a king sized bed with a "mountain" view over the queen sized bed with an ocean view room. Our room was beautiful, but most of all we LOVED the mountain view - the gorgeous hills of Honolulu at sunrise, the beautiful twinkling lights at night. The limited ocean view was 3 blocks away - I'm glad we had the bigger bed and, in my mind, the better view.
But through a series of strange events (ie: I think my husband was easily persuaded!), we ended up upgrading more than once when we visited Hawaii a second time and stayed in Kona at the Sheraton Kona Keauhou. The ocean was just feet away from our balcony and the first night we were rewarded with massive, crashing waves that sent spray and shock-waves up the side of the hotel. In fact, the noise from the waves was so loud we had to close the balcony door to sleep at night! We could see manta rays surfing the rolling waves and spent many hours mesmerized by the site.
I often joke now that I'll never get an ocean front room again - anything else would surely pale in comparison! This is one time when paying for an upgrade was everything you imagined it to be and more.
Oh, the money I have spent on stationary over the years! The latest Harry Potter book found in Belfast and Minette Walters mysteries in Cork. Several collection of travel stories from Paris' Shakespeare and Co. Leather bound journals with homemade paper in Brighton. Baobab and elephant dung paper scrapbooks in Lilongwe. Tiny spiral-bound notebooks from the British Library that I used to record my expenses. Piles of magazines when I arrived back in London from Africa. Heaps more as I dragged my belongings between universities. Mystery novels that I can't remember but was desperate to have across Malawi. A new journal in Edinburgh. Oh, such uncharacteristic expenses. And the weight! What was the point of leaving half my clothing at home, wallowing in dirty rags, when I replaced the saved weight with heavy books? But the comfort and companionship of books and paper has always been worth it, more than any other splurge. I'd rather have a good book than a meal at a restaurant. A beautiful notebook means more to me than a new outfit. I'd rather curl up with a magazine than a glass of wine (most nights!)
Sometimes I thought I was making a good choice in saving money but it only served to hurt me. Not buying a new pair of shoes when my feet got blistered from my sandals after endless walking in Paris. You should have seen those suckers! Letting old sneakers become absolutely ragged before replacing them - and paying full price for new ones in a rural village in Ireland. (I still have them, more than 10 years later!). Holding out in investing in a digital camera, yet spending a fortune in small increments to buy and develop film. Avoiding small treats only to have inevitable breakdown days when I needed every indulgence.
Spending money for the sake of spending it, buying luxurious you don't enjoy - this is no way to use your hard earned travel dollars. But investing in unique experiences, unforgettable memories, safety, comfort, and never-again souvenirs can be a great way to enhance a trip. Your trip is for you to enjoy. Don't care about hotels but love wine? Then slum it in a hostel at night and spend a fortune to ship home rare cases of wine from your daytime vineyard tours. Love nothing more than deep tubs, silk sheets, great views? Then cut out the easily forgotten coffees, cookies and magazines and turn those dollars into glorious real sleep. Value travel isn't about not spending money. It's about getting every penny's worth and having the best possible experience and loving ever minute you travel.
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. What was your most enjoyable travel splurge?
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