The Opportunity Cost of Long-Term Travel


Today’s inspired update was born on the streets of Prizren, Kosovo. It took place over a casual conversation with a lady from S. Africa. One of those conversations where you had met two days prior and you’re already sick of each other, they could get abducted by a random rogue white van and it would be seen as a welcome relief. Suffice to say in some of our final parting words, we discussed the “the opportunity cost of long-term travel“. Until that point, had never considered it a cost… Mathematically, the equation would blow your mind.

She asked why I was traveling for so long and questioned if I’m not disturbed by the large cost of long term travel? I told her that part of traveling was because I had this sinking sensation that I was “missing out on the world” as though there is a whole world, lots happening at all times and if you live in one part, well you’ll miss it. She countered saying that although life is occurring everywhere, your life is being put on hold by being in another land, you’re missing out on friends, family, the chance to build a family etc…

The reality is that there is a large opportunity cost to everything you do but we’ll focus on travel. Those who opt to start breeding and nesting (lol) in their early years will indeed have more time as they are older, fact is they have missed out on their youth and may be sick by then. Also factor in that random health issues pop up for everyone at all ages. Going on a trip around the world in your 20’s is distinctly different than your 30’s and probably a completely different experience in your 40’s. Most people travel with a spouse as they get older, again very different experience than alone. Retirement? Welcome to the cruise / guided tour scene, that said you’ll probably meet another lovely couple and become pen pals.

If you travel and explore in your youth, you’ll probably have kids when you’re older and a whole new set of opportunity costs arise. Then there are those that never plan on having children or progressing to the “next step” in your development. My personal view is that those who do not wish to reproduce at some point in their lives are either too lame to find a partner or too selfish to care that they wouldn’t be here had their ancestors not made the sacrifices necessary. Can’t imagine being 60 with no offspring, must be a lonely and boring life?

Ultimately whatever you do, there will be large costs. Ignorance is bliss to those who see nothing but the road ahead like a horse with blinders. You need that mentality to make it, there are paths leading everywhere and never more than a footstep and a commitment away… The more options you see the more you realize the ultimate costs in all the activities you do. It’s also empowering to see your life as a reality version of “choose your own adventure”.

There will be opportunity costs for everything in life, we can’t be everything to everyone and do everything all the time. Think long and hard about what it is you really want from this life and follow such said path. Will note that with the internet and television it’s incredibly easy to forget your vision and simply play along in that of someone else.

In the end, well all pay the highest price, make sure you get what you ordered AND MORE!

Feeling chatty? What do you think? You do have an opinion, don’t you?

Tips hat,

P.S: I’m looking for cheap flight to Palm Springs, easier said than done.


  1. PHIL

    October 13, 2011 at 8:12 am

    The secret to eternal life is to have kids.If you spend your whole life traveling the world who will remember it?? who will you pass on your life experiences. How else can you live forever? forget about traveling the world imagine if someday they can transfer consciousness to your offspring… then we could travel the universe forever….

    • Rob

      October 13, 2011 at 8:26 am

      “The secret to eternal life is to have kids.” -> Pretty much man,

      “forget about traveling the world imagine if someday they can transfer consciousness to your offspring… then we could travel the universe forever…. -> That’s the deep stuff, no comment necessary!

  2. Clujo

    October 13, 2011 at 8:51 am

    You only live once, if you are in a hurry to have kids no one can argue with you that you should wait.
    Amongst the people I know however most are not in a hurry to focus on a child and forget about themselves, so the question becomes do you travel before or after school ?
    And then, do you travel before beginning your career or after ?
    So you will be either in your early 20’s, late 20’s or 30’s.
    After that, in my humble opinion it is too late to do a multi-month / year trip because it becomes rather difficult to have your first kid at 40. I don’t believe in golden ages travel…
    I did my around the world 9 month trip at 35 and I LOVED it. Now I got a first kid, perfect plan for me !

    • Rob

      October 13, 2011 at 8:58 am

      Well played, sir, well played.

  3. Craig Zabransky

    October 13, 2011 at 9:12 am

    I traveled (RTW) in my early 30s and totally believe it was what was best for me. And I often think about sayings like this Ancient Japanese saying:

    “There are many paths up the Mountain, but the view of the moon from the top is the same.”

    But then I often think about the fact our paths were all different. You need to be happy with your journey, that is the only one you are on, and that is all you can do. Kids early, later or maybe never… The key is to follow your path and be happy with it. We all reach the same end at some point.

    stay adventurous, Craig

    ps – if she (photo) is teaching opportunity costs, just let me know where and I’ll sign up.

    • Rob

      October 13, 2011 at 11:30 am

      Glad I’m doing it at this age, earlier would have been better perhaps but you’ll never know. Do know that leaving early or when established would be best, if you just did nothing for most of 20’s then left, could be “behind the game”.

      Not sure but she came up for the search term ha.

  4. The Welsh Wizard

    October 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Good thoughts

  5. Ian [EagerExistence]

    October 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    One of my favourite travel books that I have read after I started travelling was “All the Right Places” by Brad Newsham (shameless Amazon link).

    Anyway, in this book Newsham says “I’m in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, doing exactly the right thing”. I love that quote. Life is a “choose your own adventure” book/game… but you HAVE to believe that every choice you make is the right choice.

    You can’t think about the costs of long-term travel, you should never second-guess any decision you make. Life is not for regrets, life is for living! Stop Having A Boring Life! I think you have the confidence to do what you want, when you want. There is no cost. Experience is greater than Assets. Every blogger says this. Not just bloggers. Grab the nearest elderly person and ask them about regrets, costs, and their greatest successes. Well, to tell you the truth, the majority will say their legacy is their family. So I kinda can’t use that to make my point. But, travel whenever you want. There’s time for children later. The ship only sails if you let it (or if you hit menopause… sorry ladies).

  6. Gerard ~ GQ trippin

    October 13, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Many say that our 20’s are the glory years. My friends who turn 30 say that it’s the new 20. If that’s the case, then the glory years are expanding. And it’s almost never too late to make a life-changing decision such as long-term travel. For me, I’d rather do it now before I have bigger obligations like a house or kids.

  7. Larissa

    October 14, 2011 at 7:11 am

    I was about to get all deep on this post, but I stopped myself.

    Just want to say I think opportunity costs only occur if one is not moving forward and using their time spent traveling in a way that is giving them something back. If you are traveling in such a way that you only care about yourself and “just traveling” without fully realizing how it can not only change you as a person, but also the course of your life, odds are you will wake up one day feeling completely alone, lost and spent. If you are traveling or moving around with the mentality that all the people you are meeting and all the experiences you are having are going to lead you in one way or another to where you are supposed to be, then I think you will never look back and regret that you didn’t stay in one place or that you gave up something better.

    Oh and also, as the only female that has commented so far…”sorry ladies” is right. Much easier for guys to put kids and finding a mate off not only because of menopause, but because you’re all probably going to marry younger babes anyway. I have to worry about menopause AND finding a decent/attractive man that’s into old ladies.

  8. Rob

    October 14, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Solid thoughts everyone, thanks for sharing.

  9. Rob

    October 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I don’t want to post one of those comments that starts a massive flaming war, but I must disagree with a few points that have been made.

    I respect your opinion, but somebody that chooses not to have children is more than likely doing it for reasons other than being lame or selfish. Opportunity cost factors into any decision, and the opportunity cost of having children can be considered quite high as well. Like most things, the choice to procreate can be argued until blue in the face, each side has valid points and it would be q

  10. Clujo

    October 17, 2011 at 7:00 am

    The opportunity cost of having a kid is one heck of a big question !

    I’d have a lot to say about that but if we focus on the opportunity cost of travelling I’d say that I have more memories gathered from my year travelling than the 5 years before I did, all put together.
    It’s hard to compete with the vagabond life where adventure awaits you every morning versus the not no versatile 9 to 5 living.

    I’d like to add to this that going away for 2 or 3 weeks is also beneficial, rewarding and can even be life changing, and you don’t have to sacrifice everything… but there is nothing like going away for a full year getting in the full grove and living through all the ups and downs.

    • Rob

      October 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm

      Going away for any length of time is beneficial, 2-3 weeks is plenty for countless itineraries.

  11. Ashley

    October 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I was actually talking with my friend today (he’s 44 I’m 27) He agrees with those of you who say to start a career after college before traveling so you have something to come home to. ME? I want to see the world!! I’ve always loved learning about new places through words pictures experiences etc. I cannot wait to graduate college in a couple years (yes late I know) and then go travel the world with or without my boyfriend and then come “home” and settle down have a family and career. 🙂 Just wanted to share that and thanks for everyone who said you make your own path – I agree completely! 🙂

    • Rob

      October 19, 2011 at 1:43 pm

      I hear ya and I’m sure your BF would love to read the I’m going with or without part, lol.

      Think you have the right plan of attack, madame.

  12. Icebird

    November 9, 2011 at 7:18 am

    I like to think about it as deferring life. People like to stay where they’re comfortable and defer the excitement in their life for later. “I’ll finish up with grad school and then go backpacking around Europe”. “I’ll make it out to Paris as soon as I can afford it”. “An African Safari would be great after my children are all grown up”. The truth is, all that’s happening is you’re deferring life experiences. Your life, for all you know, could end tomorrow and all of a sudden all your dreams, visions of the future, and opportunities could be shattered in an instant. It’s the extreme case I know, but it makes you think about how life is just a collection of experiences up until the current moment, and you need to maximize each and every one of them.

    Personally I think it’s fine to be rooted in a place and not necessarily hopping from adventure to adventure by traveling; not everyone gets the same satisfaction out of endless travel — it’s more about experiencing the things you want in life now rather than deferring them. For some of us, that’s travelling, for others it may be helping grow a local community. You just need to make sure you’re happy with what you’re doing or at least putting all your energy into working towards it.

    • shabl

      November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      @Icebird Love that concept of “differing life”. I don’t have much to add but will say that I totally agree with you. Thanks for adding to this discussion!

  13. Tom Pinit

    December 4, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Hey Rob, we have two young boys and have already taken the older one to Thailand and Mexico on 2-3 week trips. We are currently planning a larger extended family adventure in the near term. Until then, I’ll have to gather ideas for amazing places to hit from folks like yourself!

    • Rob

      December 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm

      Glad to see you traveling with your children. Growing up I traveled a lot with my parents and it helped shape the person I am today. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a note.

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