In short, I define luxury as sometimes living in the just-skating-by range and sometimes living like Beyoncé.
The concept is very simple, but I’ve realized the actual action of living this way is much more difficult, because in its truest form it’s about figuring out what you like and choosing (here’s the hard part) to put your money towards the things you like.
When you find yourself under the influence of friends, old people, an ad on the back of a milk carton, or a highly curated Instagram account, you may find yourself placing value on things you don’t really love. Lots of entities vie for our attention, trying to talk us into putting our hard earned money toward hand-welded water bottles with rich mahogany finished caps.
If I had all the money back I’ve spent on things I didn’t care about, I would definitely be rich enough to travel for a year without working. Easily. Money for drinks at bars I didn’t want to go to. Money for gyms I talked myself into going to even though I strongly dislike gyms. Money on food and wine that were at best mediocre.
At the moment, I have the luxury of traveling alone, meaning I run into less instances where I feel like my true nature is compromised when it comes to how I choose to live. Every now and then, however, outside influences creep up on me.
For example, I’ve had more than a few people say to me, “OMG YOU HAVE TO STAY IN A HOSTEL YOU’RE MISSING OUT ON SO MUCH!”
For a second I feel some FOMO. I feel like maybe I’m not experiencing everything I should be experiencing as a nomadic twenty-something. But this is absolute bull malarkey. Hostels? Nope. No thank you.
I don’t stay in hostels, because I don’t want to stay in hostels. I like the quiet of my Airbnbs where I can work and relax and have a place to recharge after being out all day meeting people. I like that my hosts are locals who can give me city tips. I like that I can generally find Airbnbs cheaper than hostels in almost every city.
There are a number of things that 99% of the time I don’t pay for while traveling, despite the fact that they are widely accepted and advertised traveling purchases. Multiple drinks a night multiple nights a week. Run-of-the-mill guided audio tours. Group tours. Tours. Cover charges of any kind besides museum entrance fees. Transit, unless walking is completely out of the question. Flight upgrades. Tourist food. I will go hungry before eating tourist food.
When I do encounter luxury, it’s the luxury I choose for myself. A luxury I can afford, because I no longer spend money on things I don’t choose with my own heart. It’s my own definition of luxury.
For me, this typically involves really, really good food and the occasional stay at a nicer Airbnb, depending on the season and location. But mostly, my luxury equates to nice-ass restaurants with heaven-is-inside-my-mouth food and holy-shit-dead-grapes-can-taste-like-diamonds wine. There are few things I love more than a well-crafted meal, not to mention the cultural and historical knowledge that accompanies tasting the best native food wherever I am.
So I say to you: Travel how you want to travel. And by extension, live how you want to live. Stop spending money in places where your heart isn’t and never let anyone tell you you’re “not doing it right.”
What’s the point of having pieces of paper that get you things if those things don’t reflect your truest choices?