[Hey guys! Welcome back to the site our friend Cubert from AbandonedCubicle.com, who’ll be dishing the dirt on his recent travels, and how he had to curb himself from spending an extra $100,000 upon his return ;) Something I’m sure we could all relate to at multiple times of our lives! Hope you enjoy, and find this helpful!]
In late June, I traveled to Switzerland for a good friend’s 50th birthday party.
Money-wise, things looked good from the get-go: I had a free place to shack up as well as free airline tickets from all the credit card hacking I had done over the past few years.
So far, so good. A cheap trip to one of the most expensive countries on earth – SCORE!
But soon after arriving and settling in at my friend’s smart, modern row house outside of Zurich, I started getting pangs of spendthriftery.
My buddy had two BMWs parked in the underground garage, and man are they pretty. In contrast, I drive a 2009 Honda Fit. It is not fast, nor a particularly sexy automobile, and it accelerates from zero to 60 in about, oh, forever.
Easy (Pricey) Rider
The day after I arrived, following a miserable night’s sleep on an air mattress, we went for a little 40 mile bike ride in the Swiss countryside.
In case you were wondering, I’m from the Midwest, where the only hills are formed when snow gets plowed into the corner of the shopping mall parking lot. How the heck will I keep up with two European cyclists who live to ride hills??
[Ain’t she a beut? That is not pee in the other bottle.]
It was convenient for my packing that my friend had spare shoes, helmet, and bike. And of course, that spare bike — a $2,000 carbon-fiber 56cm frame zippy doo 2-wheeler — got me thinking… I definitely should get a new bike when I’m home. So light, so pretty, so fast going down these hills!
My buddy is serious about his cycling. If you’re going to climb hills in Switzerland, you absolutely MUST have a $400 Garmin Edge computer with bluetooth heart-rate monitor as well. ESSENTIAL for any serious Saturday bike ride.
Of course, I didn’t have one, but now I wanted that too.
Bed, Bath, and Beyond
Over the next couple of days I came to appreciate more than just some fancy Beemers and bikes. My buddy has a nicely decked-out pad. Living outside of Zurich, you gotta keep up with the Schmidts’s, right??
“Ooohh Karl, did you see ze nice iFondu pot ze neighbors brought home from Wal-Mart? Jaaaavohl….”
The large flat screen TV, the fancy $800 push button coffee (and espresso) machine, the Sonos speakers. Sh*t, I even fell in love with their Weber charcoal grill he had bought in Minneapolis before moving to Europe! WHAT IS MY PROBLEM?!?
A little research might explain it. I checked out an article over at BBC.com that shed some insight on the psychology behind my sudden shiny object syndrome. The snip that stuck out for me was this:
“We are likely to justify our spending based on present circumstances, rather than sticking to a strict budget to control spending.”
I guess I’ll just blame it on currency values playing tricks on my brain. Psychology. It’s what’s for breakfast!
How to Enjoy Switzerland 101: Zip Around in a Sweet, Red Convertible Corvette
My favorite part about this trip was the day my friend got his ‘vette out of the shop and we proceeded to tear around the canton like bats out of hell. It was nail-biting fun, especially for someone used to Honda Fit level acceleration.
And of course, no Swiss-based Corvette is complete without a tricked-out exhaust that makes the car sound more like a Harley Hog than a sports car. You also learn quickly where all the speed cameras are hidden.
Suffice it to say, there were a lot of hair-raising moments bopping through them hills. But it was absolutely glorious. I even started to imagine myself behind the wheel, back home, with my wife as my co-pilot… Mmmmmm…
Okay, okay. You get the idea :)
By the end of the five day trip I was exhausted. The jet lag, the wee bit of celebratory drinking, the air mattress… It all added up.
What ALSO added up was the miscellaneous expenses you manage to compile in such a short amount of time vacationing. For this trip, it came out to a whopping $912!!! And remember: the flight was paid for by bonus points, and the lodging was completely free!
Where Did The Nearly $1,000 Go?
- Meals. I think I treated my friend at least three times, but have no qualms about that. The problem is that in Switzerland, even a basic pizza costs 20 euros! Then there’s tax and beer…
- Excursions. I also picked up a cogwheel train pass up Mount Rigi which had glorious views. No time to hike up it, hence the train, but it was not cheap at 45 euros.
- Gifts for family. I couldn’t leave the wife and kids behind without bringing home something for them, right? I was lucky enough to get the pass to be able to take this trip! No sense becoming papa non-gratis upon landing back in the States… Ring up three Swiss watches for 300 euros, please!
- Gift for a friend. I also couldn’t forget a friend back home. He’s always spoiling us after trips, so I figured I should return the favor and keep the vicious cycle alive. That set me back another 80 euros.
- Gifts for colleagues. Finally, I had to bring back Swiss chocolates for the co-workers. But since I couldn’t squeeze in a side trip to the supermarket, I ended up paying airport prices at 30 euros a pop for tiny things of chocolate balls. Jesus Marimba!
Despite all this, I also came home with a “want” list on my phone of all the frivolous toys I now just had to have. The fancy coffee maker, the corvette, the Weber grill! Absolutely insane, especially for someone like me who’s a proponent of minimalism, and values people over THINGS.
The Beauty of “Want” Lists”
The beauty of want lists is that they temporarily trick yourself into feeling good in the moment, without having to spend a dime. And if you’re anything like me, it can be just enough time to realize they were frivolous.
Here’s my “want” list again, with updated thoughts:
- Coffee maker. No way. Even though that $800 do-it-all coffee and espresso maker was super convenient, the taste of the brew came nowhere close to our Aeropress back home. And bonus, the Aeropress takes up zero counter space! DELETE.
- Fancy carbon fiber bike and Garmin bike computer. Hmmm… I don’t aspire to race in the Tour de France anytime soon. And as nice as that feather-light bike was, I’m quite content with my current steel-framed, sturdy mule “Surly Straggler.” (“Surly Temple”, if you’re nasty.) I only ride 20 miles a day anyways, 10 miles to work and 10 miles back. And while the computer is neat, it’s also another distraction when all I want to do is ride and meditate. DELETE. DELETE.
- Sonos speakers. Those were pretty sweet, not gonna lie. Sounds so rich! Problem is, whenever I want to listen to music at home, there are three other people to please at the same time. And at this age, the twins are more likely to yell over the music to be heard anyways. So for now, I’m sticking with our little Jawbone speaker. DELETE.
- Fancy kiddy pool and Weber charcoal grill. That pool looked really fun. On a hot summer day, nothing beats a nice dip in clean, cool water. But when you have to pay through the nose for that water, and the pool gets used only a half dozen times per year in the Arctic Circle (Minnesota), why bother? And the Weber grill? Sure, charcoal is fun to light and smells like camping, but a gas grill does an equally good job and is a lot easier to fire. Your favorite restaurant steaks never come from charcoal grilling anyways. DELETE. DELETE.
- Corvette. $hiiiiit. Who are you kidding? Yeah it was fun to tool around a beautiful country in an amazingly swift sports car, but a) it’d be insane for me to even consider this with all the costs involved, and b) I’m not much of a hard-driver. My friend has experience racing around tracks and is confident handling that V8. It’d all be wasted on 4-cylinder Cubert! DELETE!
[Ultimately, you don’t need a lot of toys to enjoy the splendor of this world.
A lesson reinforced on this little trip!]
Suffice it to say, there’s a very real compulsion to spend more and want more when you’re on vacation, traveling. The trick is to just be mindful of it.
The next time you’re on a craving binge, start up a silly list of wants on your phone like I did, and then when you’re back home and decompressed, reexamine everything and see how you still feel. Maybe you end up picking up one or two of the items, or maybe you end up deleting the entire list as I did and better appreciate the memories you just built. Memories that are practically priceless.
As for the frivolous spending while on vacation? Sometimes you just have to have a little fun. And depending on where you’re at in the journey, there’s nothing wrong with spending a little money! I went a little overboard on this trip, but it’s not everyday your best friend turns 50.
Cubert is an early retirement wannabe who blogs over at AbandonedCubicle.com. He and his family reside in Minneapolis – the best FIRE town on the planet, were it not for 9 months of winter. He plans to retire early in 2019 at the rip young age of 46, to spend more time with his family and on projects he has a passion for (like real estate, blogging, and life coaching). He can be found on Twitter @cubertAC.
Enjoyed this? Try out Cubert’s previous guest post next! –> How to Lose a Million Dollars