I’ve just completed my first ever complete luxury tour. It included premium air travel, premium hotels, luxury cruising and a luxury national park experience. It was all wonderful… But that’s the thing. That luxury left me with uneasy feelings about whether spending all this money on me was the right thing to be doing. Luxury and me don’t seem to be good company.
So why did I choose ‘luxury’?
Part of the trip was chosen for me. I was part of a group going to a desired destination. We’d travelled together before and had great fun, in cramped conditions on an adventure holiday. The group had chosen the cruise and invited me, so I accepted – hang the expense. I rationalised that it was an early ‘special’ birthday and a one-off life experience.
Part of the trip was chosen by my partner, who needs space on planes. We finally decided to pay for that space and upgrade to what I have regarded as obscene pricing for a short term discomfort.
Part of the trip was an accident. Our chosen economy hotel for part of our trip had burnt down and we were offered premium accommodation as the only available alternative. We accepted. Another accident was a 24 hour plane strike in Argentina. Our economy flight was cancelled, none were available for 3 days. We were offered an executive charter to get to the next leg of our trip. We felt we had no choice but to take it.
Overall, though partly by accident, our total experience represented different decisionmaking from normal, when we might have just ‘put up with it’, found cheaper alternatives and had a very different, but probably still very enjoyable, holiday.
So why do I feel uncomfortable?
My financial planner told me many years ago, ‘If you are a saver, when you stop work you will remain a saver and vice versa if you are a spender’. In other words, your values don’t change much over life.
I’ve always been a saver, a value for money spender. I’ve never felt that I got what I paid for if I was in a luxury situation. I was always happier buying cheaply and feeling I got better value than what I paid, whatever the product or service. I’ve experienced lots of luxury in my consulting life, at someone else’s expense, when they made the choice of what we were doing or where we were going. Naturally that was very enjoyable for me, since my cost was essentially zero. But these were never decisions I would have made if it was for me.
So the experiences of luxury on this trip – which I was paying for – made me uneasy. Not just because I didn’t feel I was getting value for money, but because the amount of money spent was obscene by my standards. OK, not by the mega-wealthy standards, but still obscene. Only a very small percentage of the world’s (or even Australia’s) population could afford what I have just done. For an egalitarian, that doesn’t make me feel good. It’s the first time I’ve been on a trip and friends have said, ‘I’d love to do that, but I couldn’t afford it’.
What does this mean for the future?
I’m in conflict.
- I can afford this level of travel.
- This level of travel doesn’t fit my values.
- I have a limited time left to travel and to enjoy experiences.
- Should I spend my life savings or should I leave it to my children or special causes?
- If I decide to spend it all, should it be on me or on others less fortunate?
Watch this space…