Merah Filko

Justifying the Cost of Travel

Merah Filko
Justifying the Cost of Travel

Every day on my walk home from the gym, I pass stores to the tune of Valentino, Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Goyard.  I see the most beautiful clothing and accessories money can buy, and the glamourous people who purchase them.  I fight back my jealousy regularly, and wonder what I did wrong in a past life that cursed me to never owning everything from every store ever.

Do I look like a Valentino model, yet?

I often have to defend myself to those around me.  When I tell people that I spend majority of my money on travel, the first question is usually, “Why?”  Why would I deprive myself of a brand-new handbag so I can eat authentic tacos in Mexico City?  Why would I choose to own a smaller, base model car just because it means I can stay in a traveler’s lodge on the beach on Thailand?  It seems ludicrous to most that I would rather stay in and cook dinner, rather than go out to eat if it means I can buy a quick getaway flight to San Diego for a weekend.

 I must admit, I never really feel compelled to answer any of these questions they pose to me.  How and what I decide to spend my money on is of my own personal discretion, and I have never really felt the need to justify myself to…well…anybody.  Something is usually mumbled to the tune of, “Ah you know me, I’m just a gypsy spirit and can never be tied down,” and the topic is immediately changed to the weather, the local sports team, or whatever is going on in the news that day.

Let me use this as my P.S.A. to the world.  I love to travel because it makes me an incredibly interesting person who understands that I am not the only type of person inhabiting this planet.  Before my travel intensive life began, I lived in a bubble which was dictated by the necessity for a young woman to get married, have 2 children, and own a house in the suburbs.  I wanted nothing more than an SUV to cart my children around, and a spot on the mother’s board at my children’s’ school.  It wasn’t until I saw just how diverse life can be that I fully grasped that there is more to life than keeping up with my neighbors and throwing the best parties.

I see now that there is extreme poverty.  People can go their entire lives and not have running water in their homes.  An idea that once seemed so far-fetched to me that I didn’t believe it.  But it’s true.  I saw villages in Cambodia that only receive water in their home once sponsored by foreign families.

The beautiful streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia...a true culture shock for me!

I see now that not everybody wants to live on a large plot of land.  People stack themselves high into the sky in skyscrapers that disappear into fog, and go for years without ever driving a car.  I used to equate driving everywhere with freedom, but see it now as the complete opposite.  That very car that takes me where I am going, also ties me down to paying a bill every month for the next 5 years.  I have to fuel the car, give it regular maintenance, and have it regulated by state governments.

I see now that owning expensive purses and jewelry is a luxury most could not care less about.  The people I have met on my journeys are less enthused by what I have, but more by what I say.  They ask me questions about life in America, how I like their food, what kind of music I listen to.  Everything except what label I’m wearing, or how big my house is.  The vast majority of the world just does not care what I can afford.

People around the world are always so excited to hear your life story!

Travel has made me far more curious, intelligent, thoughtful, understanding, and richer than any designer ever could.  I see people for who they are instead of the car they drive.  I hear the opposite opinion far better than before, and am able to reason without yelling.  I know that there is so much more in this world than myself and my small, contrived, insular bubble.

So, next time I walk past Valentino and drool over the latest Rock Studs that are staring me down from the freshly polished window, I will remember this: there is not a single pair of shoes out there that could make me feel as good as dancing to local music in a bar, eating a hot bowl of soup on a cold day in a family owned restaurant, or hitting cruising altitude with a subpar in-flight meal.  After all, a pair of shoes last a season, but my photos of me twirling in the wind in Hvar will last me forever…or at least until Instagram becomes obsolete.