I’d always saved up every penny I earned.
For several reasons:
- My parents are both hardcore savers who taught me to stash my paychecks for the bigger things in the future.
- I started building my career 3 years ago and haven’t made much.
- I live in one of the most expensive places in America — Silicon Valley.
Because of this, I became more frugal with money and would only buy what I needed, which was: groceries, gas, and utility bills. Everything else? Straight into my savings.
Of course there are times when my friends would ask me to eat lunch or dinner with them, and I’d get very tempted. But instead of spending $20+ on a meal (and possibly a drink afterwards?), I’d suggest coffee. I figured it was a good middle ground to satisfy both our interests. They’d have a companion to eat with. I’d have extra money in my pocket.
Now I knew saving money was a good habit, but what was I saving for.
A home? A car? My wedding?
Everyone aims for those achievements nowadays. And the thought of spending decades of my life working for things that are now considered “standard” by today’s expectations no longer inspires me to work (as) hard.
Not to mention, our value of these things drop every passing year. Just think, are you going to be raving about your new home or car in the next 5, 10 years?
The thing is, too many of us in our 20s-30s focus too much on working and saving up every dollar that we forget how precious our youth is. We exhaust our minds. We sacrifice our health. We succumb to what everyone wants, simply because we believe that’s what makes life fulfilling.
Only to realize, it’s not.
Luckily, I’d found one thing that has made my life more meaningful and keeps me hard at work. And the best part is, it’s realistic with my budget and gives me a much longer payoff than the most expensive thing you can find on the market.
At first, I was shocked to see $4,500 on my bank statement. I mean I wasn’t there to splurge for fun, but mainly to work for my startup.
But as soon as I thought about all the things I’d learned from my trip in the last 3 months, it made every dollar seem well spent.
My experiences in a nutshell
I learned how to protect my valuables from pickpocketers.
From what people told me, I had to be extra careful around the places I stayed: Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Bangkok (Thailand), and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam).
I learned that Southeast Asia has a ridiculous number of coffeeshops and cafes, almost one on every corner. AND they offer free wifi! Surprisingly, many restaurants offer free wifi too (super convenient if you want to eat and work in one place).
I learned Uber is the cheaper ride option, but Grabtaxi has more reliable drivers.
I learned Cheapflights offer the cheapest flight deals.
My cheapest trip was $63 from Thailand to Vietnam.
I learned how to take the subway train and Skytrain without getting lost (after the 8th time).
I learned to trust my gut more than the mouths of locals.
Usually, they’d lead me towards the wrong direction when I asked where [restaurant/coffeeshop/train stop] was or show me the wrong item in the store. And that’s because we had a huge language barrier, so most things I’d say would be misinterpreted.
I learned over 50% of Malaysians are Muslim.
That explains why a lot of Malaysian restaurants displayed signs with “pork-free!”
I learned that Thai people are some of the nicest, most laid-back people you’d ever meet in the world. They don’t judge you based on your ethnicity or your beliefs. In fact, they thought I was one of them (even though I’m Chinese).
I learned you can negotiate 20–30% less from the original price in Thailand. And that walking away isn’t an effective strategy to help you seal the deal.
I learned theft is more common in Vietnam. If I walked into a supermarket, an employee would fasten a cable tie on my backpack zippers and cut it when I got to the register. That was to prevent stealing.
Travelling gives you more stories to tell, more friends to connect with, and experiences no one else could have.
If I could go back, I’d have travelled earlier (in my early 20s). There’s just so much you learn as you walk down the streets, hop on the bus, eat at a cafe, and watch how people interact. Not many people in this world can afford this kind of luxury. So if you have the money and the opportunity, go for it!
After all, you only have one life to make the most out of yourself.