Ed and I just spent a couple of weeks in Florida followed almost immediately by several days in Pennsylvania, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to get home in my life. We had a great time, but I’m exhausted and feel like we’ve hardly been able to get any traction in Indiana since we moved at the end of November. First we had Christmas in PA, then a Florida wedding in February, and then a couple of church retreats at the end of April followed by a wedding. Literally every other month that we’ve lived here, we’ve endured a long drive to another state. As of this last set of trips, between the sleep deprivation and our constant presence in ubiquitous fast-food chain restaurants, I keep forgetting what state we’re even in.
So, on the drive home from Pennsylvania on Monday, I started compiling a list of the costs of travel. These are not merely financial. These are everything I could think of. Does that mean travel isn’t ever worth it? Of course not. It is very often worth it, and I’m glad we went. Though if we wind up going anywhere else any time before Christmas this year, I, at least, want to fly instead.
Without further ado, the costs of traveling, according to me:
- Direct transportation costs, including plane tickets, train tickets, fuel for the car (or boat), wear and tear on the car (or boat), parking, tolls, and the like.
- Food costs. Though you’d be eating anyway, you’ll be eating out much more often, and some of that will be expensive for a local “foodie” experience. And sometimes you’ll buy a meal to thank your host.
- The cost to your body of eating fast food way more often, typically on a road trip or in airports.
- Bottled water for a road trip or a visit to a place with unsafe or bad-tasting drinking water.
- Lack of sleep due to strange beds, jet lag, temperatures you can’t adjust, bed bug nightmares, or new snorers in the room with you. This also includes all the side effects of lack of sleep.
- Financial and physical costs of an increasing caffeine addiction due to lack of sleep.
- Vaccinations or other preventative measures against potential new illnesses and injuries. This can include a first aid kit you wouldn’t otherwise own, mosquito netting, etc.
- Actually getting sick (or injured, or having a loved one/traveling companion get sick or injured) due to an accident, failure to prepare, or, you know, generally overdoing it just because you’re traveling. Really, anything from a poison ivy rash if you normally never encounter the stuff to the likes of Lyme disease if you travel to the woods from a tick-free life in the office to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) after sitting in a vehicle for too many hours.
- Anxiety due to thinking you have DVT or Lyme disease or malaria or Zika or whatever even though you’re perfectly fine.
- More anxiety due to the local flora, fauna (especially arachnids), language barrier, culinary options, cultural expectations, cell phone reception, or other “different from home” things.
- Pills and misery associated with new local allergens.
- Clothes and accessories suitable for climates that differ significantly from your own.
- Traffic tickets or other legal fines or lawyer fees due to unfamiliarity with, and failure to follow, local laws.
- Vacation days at work if you get those, or paid hours of work if you don’t.
- Whatever you have to pay your house/pet/plant-sitter.
- Things that get lost, broken, destroyed, or stolen along the way that otherwise would have been safe.
- Replacements for things you forgot to bring. Even if the replacement is something you’d use up anyway, more often than not it winds up being more expensive than if you’d just brought it in the first place.
- Destruction of your exercise schedule and habits, especially if you’re not staying somewhere with gym access or a good place to run.
- Slowing down of anything else you were trying to gain traction in at home, including making new friends if you just moved somewhere. Ahem.
- Relational costs, if you and your travel partners can’t handle long trips together. (Not a problem for Ed and me, FYI.)
- Whatever it costs in time, money, and stress to play catch-up when you return.
- Physical and psychological stress from simply being away from home.
Boy howdy, that’s a downer. Do I write this to dissuade people from travel? Of course not. Really, I think most people go in (at least after a time or two) with eyes wide open. I just like making lists.
As far as the costs of travel that no one intends to pay, like horrible diseases or downed planes, you do what you can to reasonably prevent them and then carry on with your life. If the only way to ensure your safety is to avoid the risk entirely and lock yourself up in your house, I’d argue that in the long run, it’s no better to be safe than sorry.