One Important Advice by a Chinese Man I met in Egypt

Few days back, I returned from a short trip* to Egypt.

*Also the reason why I didn’t post any new articles in last couple of weeks. 🙂

Advice Chinese Man in Egypt

Egypt is a lovely country. But this post is not about the destination. Instead, its about an important piece of advice, which a Chinese man gave me there.

Like me, this Chinese gentleman had come to Egypt on a mini-vacation. But unlike me, he was quite old. My guess is that he was over 65.

Since both of us were on the same ship on Nile River cruise, we did get several opportunities to get talking. Luckily for me, he was good in English.

From our talks, it became obvious that he was a big-time traveller. He had travelled to more than 15 countries. But he had one big regret – he started travelling quite late in his life (early 50s).

Here is what he said as far as I can recollect (not his exact words though):

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I always wanted to travel. But more often than not, my travel plans were put on the back burner. Reasons? Can’t get enough leaves from office. Don’t have enough money for such expenses. Other financial commitments and what not.

I thought that in a few years, I would have enough money to travel as much as I want. But these ‘few years’ went by very quickly. I am travelling now as much as I can. But I repent that I did not travel much when I was young. My body would have better supported my wishes then.

I now have enough money to visit most places that I want. But I will not be able to experience those places as well as what most young people can.

When I look back at my life, there are moments that I am proud off and there are those that I regret.

And waiting (to travel later) is what I regret now.

Most people (whom I know and) who waited to travel the world later in life, never did.

You my friend – are young. You have time at your hand. And this time will not come back. If you really want to experience the world out there, you should travel as much as you can and as soon as you can. Don’t wait.

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I don’t know about others but I am one person who doesn’t need much push to go on a vacation. It’s difficult for me to imagine a life without travelling regularly and disconnecting from routine life.

Infact, I am a firm believer that traveling can change us in ways that few other things can. World is both a big and a small place. And you get to realize this only when you are away from home.

Don’t think that I am against having a life with routine. It definitely has many advantages and helps get things done.

But unfortunately, we take so much for granted in our routines (that many are stuck with for years and even decades), that it makes us numb. We need to get off this autopilot-treadmill to realize the dynamics of life.

When we travel, we break the routine. We make ourselves uncomfortable. And this switches off the routine-controlling part of the brain and makes us feel more alive.

We wake up in real sense.

Travelling forces us to see things from a new perspective. We learn so much more about ourselves. And here is the interesting part. Its not just the travel that changes us. But the ‘coming back home’ too plays a part. Traveling changes you in a million ways. But you don’t realize how much until you are back home. 🙂

But coming back to what this Chinese gentleman was telling me.

To be honest, I was in total sync with what he was saying. His advice of ‘Don’t postpone life for tomorrow’ makes a lot of sense.

But there are many who just don’t want to travel or believe in this philosophy. This post is not about them.

Rather its for those who want to travel but don’t or cant, due to various reasons. Some are in a race to end up with the highest possible bank balance. For this, they are ready to sacrifice things that they really want (like spending time with family, travelling or whatever). Others have genuine financial constraints.

I know what many of you would be thinking.

You have financial responsibilities (financial goals that are not optional). You are already finding it tough to save for all these goals. Then how will you find more money to travel?

Its a big financial dilemma.

Whether saving for important life goals means you can’t pursue other passions like travelling.

To be honest, there is no right answer here.

Ideally, there has to be a balance between enjoying today while also preparing for tomorrow.

But everyone has to find their own unique balance. A balance that allows you to pursue your real passions today, while also allowing you to sleep peacefully at night, knowing that you are well prepared for tomorrow.

A friend of mine is a big-time traveller. And his personal finances are totally screwed up. He at times takes personal loans to travel. I don’t think its wise to take such an extreme approach. Maybe he will realize it later. Then at the opposite end is another friend of mine, who is a big-time rat race runner. She is keen on adding zeros to her networth and is ready to hell-with-everything-else. 🙂

I am somewhere in between these two friends. That’s because having a balance increases sustainability of the strategy.

For me, travelling in itself is a big (recurring) financial goal.

I try to visit a new place every 6 months.

My wife and I have a dedicated travel fund where we contribute 5% of our monthly income for this goal. When we zero down on a destination, we can withdraw money from this fund. So our regular budget is not disturbed. Or it can be vice versa. We check the balance of travel fund and see what all places can we visit given our budget.

Ofcourse this means having less money for other goals. But that is fine with me. As of today, achieving financial independence (or FIRE) and travelling are two of my biggest goals.

The world (as well as India) is a stunning place. Unfortunately, life is too short and the world is too big. And I don’t just want to read about it. I want to see it first hand.

There are many who would question me for this approach.

But money is not everything – not even close.

And to be honest, time is the real currency we have. Its limited and sadly, we cannot buy or borrow more of it. So there is really no point in trying to be the richest man in graveyard.

So as long as I can do it, I will travel as much as I can. I don’t see any point in waiting until I’m old to experience these moments because by then, it might be too late.

I don’t want to sound preachy here (and my apologies if I do).

These are my thoughts and not everyone might relate to it.

So spend money on experiences you value most. Splurge on things you really want (but don’t be greedy or foolish). Don’t shortchange your life today. Don’t live a unnecessarily constrained and ultra-frugal life that will make you regret not having lived life to the fullest. But also make sure that you keep one eye on your future. You don’t want to screw it no matter how much you believe in future-has-no-guarantees kind of theories.

You want to make sure that you make the most of the time your life has given you. Isn’t it?

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