On any given day, I can ballpark the average airfare to most anywhere in the world from the major North East airports. Possibly from US airports elsewhere if I know there's been a recent sale. Flexible date search is my temptress and flash fare glitches the bane of my existence (last January's Delta glitch still haunts). I spend my mental breaks refreshing Airfarewatchdog's Twitter feed and exhausting the Kayak "Explore" function, desperately scanning for That One Flight: the perfect combination of affordable price, exotic destination, and convenient time period. The unicorn of airfare searches.
I'm Sam, and I have an airfare addiction. Sure it's not dangerous like drugs or alcohol, but it is equally (and literally) escapist. They say acceptance is the first step on the path to healing, and I saw a recent quote that made me admit my problem. I'm not usually one for quotes, but after an hour or so spent trying to secure an unrealistic escape to Costa Rica, this one struck me at the right moment:
"Travel is the best investment you can make in yourself." — Joel Sartore.
With the exception of those who are fabulously rich, most people don't travel on a whim. We don't wake up on a Tuesday morning and secure a spontaneous trip to Greece, following our second cup of coffee and a surprise deal from US Airways. For most of us, travel takes planning and careful saving. It often means sacrificing something we want now so we can stay at a nicer hotel or treat ourselves to dinner at that fancy Parisian restaurant with a "Chez" name.
Like most investments, travel yields returns. But we can't calculate travel returns because they're emotional, and thus difficult to imagine beforehand — particularly when spending a large sum of money up front.
But investments with more risk always have the potential to reap greater returns. In my searches for That One Fare, I wanted low risk, but big reward. To pay the least amount I could for a flight that would send me off on an epic adventure while still leaving a comfortable amount in my bank account.
It's just not realistic. Investing in travel (and thus ourselves) means putting our money where the mouse is. That One Fare is an escape — but not the way I intend it to be. It's a convenient excuse to never book travel because it's "too expensive" or "not the right time." Airfare deals can help us finally secure that trip we've been dreaming about, but they shouldn't be determining our dream trips.
So, I've decided to stop scrolling and start investing. Maybe one day I'll catch the airfare unicorn. But before that, I think I'll just catch a flight.