He Said/She Said: What is Priceless?

He Said/She Said: What is Priceless?

Can you put a price on experiences?  While we’re on a tight budget, but how many times do you get to visit the Great Barrier Reef, walk on the Great Wall of China or spend the afternoon chatting with a Burmese monk?  Below we share the experiences that remain priceless and a couple that we could have missed.


Let’s start by acknowledging a hard fact: we’re over budget.  The most frustrating thing about being overbudget is the amount of effort and discomfort we’ve endured to save money on a daily basis.  All those un-airconditioned rooms, overnight bus rides, and daily skimping; yet, we still spent more than we wanted to.  In the long line of rationalizations an overbudget traveler makes here’s the one that resonates: the memories we’ve made are priceless.  Are they?

We were on budget for the first half of the year until we caught the travel bug.  How did we catch the travel bug six months into a round-the-world trip?  As strange as it sounds, it was only then that we realized we were free to do whatever interested us, whatever we wanted to do.  It was also then that we accepted the rarity of our circumstance: when would we have weeks at a time to travel again?  We made the decision to make the most of our time, knowing that skipping a $300 cost now isn’t justifiable when it would cost us $3000 in airfare alone to be in the same place again.

Hitting the manic button and the internet we added several countries to our plans: Myanmar, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and the Philippines.  Even as we began planning to go to these places we intended to stay within budget.  As the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so is the road to bank balance zero.  The reality was that this trip was about traveling, about doing, and seizing the opportunity.  It was not created about maximizing a count of days traveled, it was about maximizing our days on earth.  This is easier said than done, the reality is that it pains me to pay a credit card bill, it stresses me that our bank account moves in only one direction.

There are certainly places I wish we had cut out, if you’re ever thinking about going to Kapit, Sarawak, Malaysia, don’t.  If your friends are trying to convince you to go to Bohol, Philippines, say “no”.  Taiwan and South Korea…honestly they are amazing, functional places, but let me put it nicely: if I were fixing you up with one of them on a blind date and you asked me to describe them, I’d say, they have “a good personality.”

As the office and administrations manager for LivingIF, I see the damage this trip has done to our savings, but looking back I don’t regret the things we’ve done.  We’ve been able to take advantage of our time-richness now and do things we wouldn’t have if we held firm to budget.  At current rates we’ll definitely be on the road a few months less than was possible at the beginning, but if this trip has taught me anything it’s that the experiences are priceless.  Thankfully, touts, tour guides and airlines are always willing to name their price.


North Korea tour…$330 per person/per day

North Korean beer…$2

Seeing North Korea before Kim Jong Il passed away…priceless

The credit card company, Master Card has worked very hard to convince consumers that they should never miss a priceless moment.  But what is priceless?  There are a lot of experiences this past year, and throughout my life, that have had a price assigned to them.  However, I still find it difficult to put a monetary value on the experiences I have had on this trip and in my life, which makes decision making tough.

How much are you willing to pay for a trip to the Great Barrier Reef?  We were told $187 USD, but what about going on that tour with your two best friends from home, thereby crashing their honeymoon…priceless.  The whole priceless campaign was created to appeal to someone just like me, emotional and sentimental.  thinkCHUA has an uncanny ability to see the logic in everything and discern from a purely monetary point of view what’s worth the money.  While I hem and haw wondering if each experience will be the one that ends all others.

We try to discuss big ticket items in a pro and con fashion and be realistic about our budget, but I inevitably can’t help but throw in an emotional plea, which on this trip has worked like a charm.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the cheapest people around, I’ll always opt for the 42 hour local bus to save $20 before choosing a more comfortable alternative.  However, when it comes to experiences I can’t help but fall into the priceless trap.  What if we never come back to (insert country)?

Ultimately, we have found a good system of discussing the things we want to do and trying to name our price.  In many countries we can haggle to arrive at our chosen price and in other places we have to make some difficult decisions.  On many occasions we have discussed our favorite experiences of the trip and those we wish we had splurged for. Lucky for us the “wish we would have…” list is always shorter than the countless incredible experiences we have had.  After 13 months on the road we’ve had more priceless experiences than money can buy, how’s that for ironic.

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» Kate C :
Jan 18, 2012

Oh, I know this argument well. Often traveling alone, I get to be both of you! While traveling I’m always checking the budget, trying to get back on track, and trying to remind myself that I won’t be back so do it now. But when I’m not traveling, I remember everything I did and not a bit about how much I payed for it. I look back on some experiences past over in favor of money and regret them. Love that artwork but can’t carry it? In Ecuador, I didn’t buy it. In Asia, I forked over the extra dough to ship it home, and now every day I look at my treasures and have memories flood back to me. You two are living an amazing experience! I highly doubt you’ll ever look back at this trip with any regret over an extra 3-6 theoretical months. Have fun!

LOCAVORista Reply:

Kate, I agree with you on not even remembering the price of many things. We keep detailed accounts of what we’ve spent, more for curiosity than anything, but I typically don’t recall what each thing costs. I always remember how great and memorable it was. The art is a great way to bring your memories home.

» Donna :
Jan 18, 2012

Yeh, I totally agree with Kate … the only regrets you’ll have upon your return are those places you just didn’t get to! But if you keep up the great writing and great photography, maybe your next career will be travel editors for Budget Travel magazine … and then THEY can pay your way to all those other places you missed!

40 years ago I passed up an incredible hand carved Don Quixote from Oberammergau and I kicked myself forever for not buying it. Last spring, I found another wonderful hand carved Don and Pancho there and forked over $200 … twice as much as the original cost (if monetary value were the same 40 years later). I look at them on my window over the sofa every day and am glad this time I took advantage of getting something I really wanted.

You’re living everyone’s dream … and you’re doing it right! Keep enjoying!


LOCAVORista Reply:

Donna, thanks for the positive comments and sharing your personal “priceless” moment. It is always tough to have that foresight in the situation, hence the old adage “hindsight is 20/20.” We would love to think that our next job will be working for Budget Travel, but who knows what the future holds.

» Denise :
Jan 18, 2012

I think that in general travel experiences are ‘priceless’, just because you’re not getting something tangible which you can hold or re-sell, but of course, you can visit a place on a cheap bus or a luxury tour…and how much you want to spend for that and which one you’ll choose is up to you. For me, probably, comfort is priceless

LOCAVORista Reply:

Denise, that’s a great perspective as it really is hard to put a price on experiences. I am sure that comfort will become increasingly important, but for now we are enjoying traveling like the locals as much as possible.

» Kim :
Jan 18, 2012

Hey guys. I really love your take on this and I think it’s interesting that you didn’t catch the travel bug until six months into your trip. I totally get that (and I’m collecting these experiences so that they’re in the back of my head when we set out on our trip… I’m so interested to see how we’ll respond). Anyway, do you have your budget posted somewhere? I’d love to know what you planned for…

LOCAVORista Reply:

Kim, thanks for the comment. We look forward to reading about all of your priceless moments on the road. We have not posted about our planned budget, because quite frankly we didn’t have a planned budget. However, our goal was about $30,000 USD per year. We hope to do a few more posts about budget with more specific numbers in the future as well as a little insight as to how we work our finances on the road.

» Sandie Tai :
Jan 27, 2012

I hope you guys don’t mind my random comments. I love reading your blog simply because it’s so interesting to learn about the world through another viewpoint. I can definitely relate to LOCAVORista as I tend to rely on my emotions when making decisions and get carried away with it sometimes.

When it comes to bustling Asian cities, I’d have to say Japan, HK, Singapore will fill your every desire and expectation as a traveler. I grew up spending my summers in Taiwan so for me, I not only consider it home but one of the funnest places on earth simply because of my cousins. But if I were to take a step back and take away the emotions, I’d have to say that Taiwan doesn’t exactly knock your socks off in terms of historic sites and the magnitude of the city.

So far, which country or place do you guys have that really brings out the emotions? For me, it would be Thailand. It’s the first country I really traveled in besides Taiwan that really opened my eyes to the world. As a result, Thai food is my favorite although decent Thai food is quite hard to come by.

Btw, a 42 bus ride is no small feat! You guys definitely get a gold medal for being hardcore travelers! Skimping on air conditioning in humid and hot weather is one of my biggest hatreds in life. I’d spend 3 months in Taiwan during the summers growing up there and I swear my aunt would turn on the air conditioning like 3-4 times the entire time and only at night when it was too hot to sleep. So I’ve definitely felt that pain before. :P May you keep traveling where the temperature is always above boiling alive. :)

LOCAVORista Reply:

Sandie, we love your “random” comments and really enjoy hearing from you. I’m glad that you enjoy the blog and our varied perspectives on the world. I couldn’t agree with you more on Japan, HK and Singapore- incredible food, excellent nightlife, wonderful people, it’s all there! We had a great time in Taiwan as well and were lucky enough to couch surf, which gave us a little bit of an “inside” perspective.

For me the country that really brings out the emotions is Cambodia. It is an absolutely gorgeous country and the people are so raw, I felt that I could really get under the skin of the country. All of SE Asia is so vibrant and the people so friendly that it is hard to pick an “emotional favorite”, but Cambodia really tugged at my heart strings.

Thanks for the compliments on our bus riding ability, it really is work to do the long rides. We would like to think we are hardcore, but everyone needs a rest now and again. We are getting our rest here in Australia! Happy travels to you and please stay in touch!

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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