The best experiences

There was an interesting article in The Currency a few weeks ago by Sinead O’Sullivan about what a trip to Sardinia taught her about wealth (paywall). The point of the article was the experiences she got from an inexpensive trip where she was treated as part of the family compared to those who stay in 5 star resorts, cramming in the sight seeing events.

It reminded me of the experiences my wife and I have had. The ones that we talk about the most are like the ones when we lived in a tent in Childers, Australia and worked on a farm picking tomatoes. We got the job after going for a pint in what turns out to be the rough local pub (It was only later that we found out that other backpackers wouldn’t go to this pub). The landlady got us work on a farm and even got her boyfriend to drop us out to farm every morning (5:00am lift) and pick us up afterwards. He’d arrive in the afternoon with a cool box of beers for us to have a drink after a hard day on the farm. Then straight into the pub with the first beer on the house. We made really good friends in that pub, having a great laugh every day and cheering on with the Queenslanders for the State of Origin games against NSW. They even threw a party for us when we left.

Or when we landed in the Atacama Desert in Chile. With no where to stay, we got off at the first stop and ended up staying the night in the nicest hotel in town. It had a nice view of the desert but everything was very formal and the same as every other high end hotel. The next day we headed into town and booked into a hostel. The owners had no English and I had very little Spanish but they made us feel as part of the family and used to leave a packed lunch at our door every morning so we had some food when we headed off each morning. It was nothing fancy, a piece of fruit and a slice of sponge cake in a plastic zip bag. But I still remember that they did that for us. I don’t remember what I ate in the hotel the first night.

As we get more successful in life, we can afford to stay in nicer places but are we losing out on the experiences? Will a waiter or barman who is told to call you “sir” or “miss”, bring you out for a few beers when they’re finished work and show you the best of the nightlife that his city has on offer? Or to the best food at 4am?

The greatest experiences you will have in life is when you go on trips and you meet the locals and have a good chat and a laugh with them. It is often staying outside of the main cities where everyone tends to be too much in a rush. Before you go anywhere, think about what kind of experience you are looking for. The best ones are usually the inexpensive ones.

Steven Barrett

16 October 2023