Why every traveller should splurge

I'll always remember the Peninsula in Beijing, for reasons both good and bad. The first that springs to mind is the bad.

I botched the exchange rate, somehow. I thought I was getting a rolled gold bargain at $250 to spend a night in one of Beijing's fanciest hotels. That might still seem insanely expensive for a backpacker, but you have to remember that I'd just spent five nights on a train without having a shower – for my partner and I this was a carefully thought out splurge.

And anyway, what's $250 in the grand scheme of things?

Only it wasn't $250. By the time I slung my credit card across the desk at check-out I'd calculated that the exchange rate meant it was actually closer to $500 for the night – not a bargain by anyone's measure. In fact, insanely expensive. Oops.

But still, I'll always remember the Peninsula in Beijing. I'll remember the fact that the room was bigger than my apartment back home. I'll remember that there was a TV in the bathroom above the giant jacuzzi. I'll remember the look on the concierge's face the next morning when I asked him to call me a taxi to take me to a $13-a-night hostel.

But that's no surprise, because the fact is I remember pretty much all of the times I've gone a little crazy overseas and spent far too much money on the good things in the life.

I thought about this the other day when I was travelling with a Canadian writer. We were chatting about some of our favourite travel experiences and she started one of hers off with: "Well, you always remember the times you splurge."

And you know what? It's true. They're always memorable.

To most backpackers, splurge is a dirty word. You're not supposed to talk about it. It's a badge of honour to be stingy, to save as many pennies as possible to stretch out the trip. No one runs around hostels boasting about the super-expensive meal they had the night before – they talk about the $1 street food.


But that's one of the great things about being a tightwad – when you finally decide to loosen the purse strings and lash out on something fancy, it's all the more exciting.

I hired a Mustang convertible in California once. Well, that's not strictly true – the person I was travelling with hired it. But still, I was behind the wheel and it was a massive step up from the family sedan I'd been picturing.

The 'Stang proved the perfect vehicle in which to roar down Highway 1 with the top down. Of course it guzzled about a million gallons of fuel and looked ridiculous, but who cares when you're in charge of an American muscle car with the wind blowing through what's left of your hair? I'll always remember that.

I ate dinner at Arzak, a three-Michelin-star restaurant in San Sebastian that's ranked in the top 10 in the world. The bill for a meal for two came to about 400 euros. But that included two bottles of wine, and 10 courses of the most amazing food you can think of.

It was worth it. That was four years ago and I'm still talking about it.

I paid something like $180 to go to a football game. But it wasn't just any old football game, and they weren't just any old seats. This was a Real Madrid game at the Santiago Bernabeu, and I could have stuck my leg out and tackled Mesut Ozil from where I was sitting.

I got to see Cristiano Ronaldo in the flesh. He scored a hat-trick. He took a free-kick. And yes, he's just as annoying in real life. But I don't regret the expense for a second.

I went on a ridiculous buck's party that lasted a week. My mate decided to have his last bachelor's hurrah in Japan. At a ski resort. So we all had to pay to fly over there and drink and ski for six nights. It must have set me back about $3000 or more. And it was one of the best trips I've ever been on.

Successful splurging is all about choosing wisely, picking the expensive things you really want to do and then saving up and splashing out. You'll never regret it.

That is, as long as you double-check the exchange rate.

*All splurges paid for by the writer (or someone nice he was travelling with)

Do you remember the times you've splurged? What's been your favourite splurge? Any splurging disasters?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater