Why spending $20,000 on a year-long vacation was absolutely worth it

Had a curious email come in asking about my vacation spending and if it was worth it.

Don’t forget that I am also not factoring in all of my LOST income, which if you assume I would work about 6-9 months in a year, it is approximately a gross salary of $120,000 – $180,000.

So really, it’s “spending $140,000 to $200,000” on a year-long vacation 😛

Many people might say: ‘Well DUH! Spending $20,000 on a vacation is always worth it if you have the money to spare‘, but I think there are many people who’d feel differently and would rather save the money for the future or for something else, perhaps their wedding, a new car, or a down payment on a home.

All awesome ways to spend money.

Written completely from my perspective, I need to give you a little background first for those readers who haven’t been following for a while:

  • I’m in my late twenties
  • I amassed a net worth of around ~$180,000 in 2011
  • I worked January and February making about $40,000 total*
  • …therefore $20,000 net is a little more than half of my gross earnings for the year**
  • In 2011, I decided to take the rest of the year off to travel
  • I’ve been 1.5 months to Asia, 2 months in Portugal and Spain, 2 months to France, England, Austria, Belgium & Sweden and 2 months around the U.S.

*Yes, I make a lot of money per month, but that’s gross not net and I don’t work the whole year as my contracts vary in length.
**Taxes haven’t been factored in the amount above. $20,000 in a gross salary is not $20,000 net. More like $15,000 net.


The very first thing I should mention is that I’m debt-free.

I don’t owe anyone anything. No mortgage, no bank loans, no credit card balances, and certainly no lines of credit.

By mid-2008, I already kicked $60,000 of student debt in the arse, clearing it in 18 months because I became obsessed with budgeting.


Where you spend your money is where your priorities lie, and watching my budget has really displayed that over the years.

Check out your top 3-5 spending budget categories in a year.

Mine are usually:

  1. Rent
  2. Food
  3. Donations
  4. Electronics
  5. Travel

So spending $20,000 on a vacation? No problem.

Why? Because for one thing, I owned a car that cost me $2000 (paid in cash), car fees around $200 a year and car insurance at $300 a year.

(I donated the car earlier in the summer of 2011.)

I didn’t spend a whole lot of money on a car because I don’t really drive it and I am not interested in showing off or being in the right kind of vehicle as long as I’m safe and it works.

For another, I don’t go crazy shopping or buying junk I don’t need any longer. I’ve learned how to tone it down, become more of a minimalist and save my money to spend on what I actually care about. This is all partly due to my project of cataloguing everything I own in my wardrobe on my iPod Touch for easy access when I am out, and to curb my spending.

Suddenly, even though my income has shot up since 2006 (I went from making $5000 gross a month to $20,000 a month when I work), my spending has actually decreased significantly (lifestyle DEflation) because of my careful budgeting and analysis.

With all of this extra cash, I’ve banked it and used it where I’ve seen fit — on vacations 😛

I NORMALLY SPEND $20,000 – $30,000 IN A YEAR

My regular living expenses range from $20,000 – $30,000 a year depending on where I travel and how long I travel for.

I really don’t need a ton of money to live on, but I am certainly well above the threshold of people who live in the extremes of frugality.

Since I’m taking the rest of the year off to travel and my vacation budget for that is about $20,000, I’d say it sounds just about right. I’m substituting paying for my living expenses with traveling the world on a budget instead.

I should note that in between my travels, I come back to Canada for 2-3 weeks to rest, unpack, unload gifts and re-pack for my next trip.

So when I travel, I’m in a hotel room or in a rented apartment (depending on how long I am in the country for) and I don’t pay any rent or utilities — it’s included in the hotel’s nightly rate.

Granted, it can range from $25 (rented apartment) to $125 a night, but the bottom line is I don’t need shelter.


A vacation to you might be sitting on a beach in a 5-star resort sipping martinis.

That is not my cup of tea. My vacation is more of the walk-for-12-hours-a-day, cook-in-the-hotel-room, take-a-billion-photos kind of style.

These vacations are exhausting!  I need a mini vacation after these kinds of strenuous, intense trips, but they are not uber expensive.

For 1.5 months in Asia, I spent around $7807.38, which included gifts as well, but I don’t go on vacation to shop.

Most of my trips for a month or so operate on a budget of $5000 in total. If I go for a week to a city in the U.S. or Canada, it’s $1000. That’s the kind of budget I work with.

We don’t pay for tour guides, even in countries where we don’t know a single word of the language (*cough* China *cough*).


As for it being “worth it” when I am spending my prime working years lolling around and traveling, I know it sounds ludicrous NOT to make a ton of money now, save it all and travel when I am retired.

But really….I’m in my late twenties. I have another 20 – 30 years of work left in me, and I make a pretty good salary. Combined with decent gross income and fairly low general living expenses, I can work for two months to pay for a year.

I also don’t want to travel to finally see the world when I’m a senior. Who knows what kind of condition I might be in by then?

I see them on trips and they are not walking or doing as much as I can at the age I’m at. I think traveling intensely is perfect for the 20-to-30-something-year-old, and when you’re a senior, more relaxing and less strenuous vacations are in order.

When I’m a senior, I want to go back to the places I love, not see new countries, get lost and become extremely frustrated by not knowing the language or being in utter culture limbo.


So in conclusion — yes dear reader, it was absolutely worth it. I have no regrets in spending that money on a “wasteful” year (my words, not his or hers) by not working and basically becoming a world traveler.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, because once kids come along I can’t just up and go like I used to.

I’m being realistic about that, and I am also aware that not many people my age get the chance let alone the opportunity to do something like this.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.