A luxury is defined a state of ‘a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense.’ As with everything in life, it is relative. What is a luxury when you’re on the road? For me, it depends upon what I am doing and how I am doing it.
When I worked full time, I would take short vacations and splurge excessively. While working as an English teacher in South Korea for one year, I took one vacation, a three day trip to Japan. I took buses, slept in hostels, and ate out for every meal. Eating out at that time was more of a necessity than a luxury – I had a limited time and I was happy to pay for the convenience of quick food. That trip spawned my idea of hitchhiking across Europe and taught me how to survive with very little money. By contrast, during that trip (which lasted around half a year), I ate out on three occasions that I can recall. Eating out was a huge luxury and each place that I ate out at, was probably (definitely) not a luxury venue by most people’s standards.
I have found that the further you push yourself – both physically and financially – the more you take great satisfaction from small things in life. These small things become luxuries because they offer you great comfort, lavish thrills. When my brother and I finished our walk across Iceland, we stopped for a pizza and fizzy drink. That greasy, 15 inch pizza and those two 500ml cans of fizzy drink, were beyond amazing. Why? Because we had been eating semi-frozen chocolate bars and uncooked instant noodles while walking 50km a day for many days.
The world changes constantly and luxuries range from alcohol, experiences, cigarettes and e-cigarettes (which are an electronic vaporiser version of a cigarette, yet cheaper than regular cigarettes and save your lungs – possibly, although research is yet to be proved conclusive), through to food and transport. And even then, it is a fine, indistinguishable line between necessity and luxury. Was I hitchhiking because I couldn’t afford public transport or was I hitchhiking because I wanted the experience? I think it was both.
Last summer, I spent two weeks on a Greek island, living by the beach. Many people would call this luxury. My friend and I slept in an abandoned building. It was a lot of fun. For me, it was a luxury to be in such a place. Many other people would not agree – they like having doors and beds and other such conveniences. But as with life, everything is relative.
What is a luxury on the road? For me, a day of sweating and a night under the stars, tops most things.
Yessss…. You may already know this story, either way it captures what we’re talking about well.
The Mexican Fisherman and the Investment Banker (Author Unknown)
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”
The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?
The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed. “I have an MBA from Harvard, and can help you,” he said. “You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middle-man, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening up your own cannery. You could control the product, processing, and distribution,” he said. “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “Oh, 15 to 20 years or so.”
“But what then?” asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time was right, you would announce an IPO, and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The American said, “Then you could retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”
To which the fisherman replied, “With all due respect sir, I do all those things already. Why would I waste 15-20 years to do what I am already doing?”
(Insert smiley face here….!)
I do know this story and I like it very much. In fact, I am currently working on a second book, a story about walking across Iceland, and a lot of it is based upon the idea of this story. When we spend too much thinking about the long term goals in life, we lose track of what is right in front of us.
For me the idea of luxury is closely connected to an ‘attitude of gratitude’, appreciating abundance in the here-and-now, which you do well and is why I enjoy reading your posts. As you say, it is all relative – I see many people in the world living a (so-called) life of luxury and yet still in an eternal quest for more, bigger, better….nothing ever seems to be enough. In my own life, I live a simple life of abundance – I own little and want for nothing. I feel gratitude for the abundance I enjoy all around me through the simple pleasures of life, both tangible and intangible. Money comes, money goes, as does everything else…I have had many quiet moments in a beautiful place in the outdoors on my own or with a friend, taking in my surroundings and smilingly wondering what the ‘rich’ people are doing… – I wouldn’t trade these simple – and free – pleasures for any luxury item I could buy.
I really enjoyed reading this – it sounds like you live life in (what I think is) a good way. Everything does come and everything does go. What would you do if you were rich? I think I might go and live in the forest for a bit, hopefully in a treehouse that I build. Oh wait, I don’t need to be rich to do this…