Do you follow the herd or do you make your own decisions?
Don’t be so sure of your answer. We’re all influenced by something, be it an ad we forgot about, a story we read, or a friend’s photos we saw. The key is to decide based on what you want to do and can do, not on what you think someone else wants you to do. And above all, you have to avoid the herd mentality.
If you regularly invest like a contrarian, you made out like a bandit the past few weeks buying great stocks on the cheap. A day trader could take the next few months off after that wild ride.
If you’re buying gold in some form right now because everyone—from your taxi driver to your uncle—is talking about how gold is the only safe investment, you’re about to get sucker punched. Gold has now decidedly topped the level, adjusted for inflation, that it was in the 1980s. Meanwhile, if you loaded up the truck with stocks then, or when the sky was falling in 2008, August has been but a blip.
The same is true for travel, where going with the flow can really cost you a bundle.
A recent survey showed, as most of these surveys do, that Americans’ dream vacation destinations (if money were no object) are mostly in Europe, with Italy being tops. This is no surprise to anyone subscribing to a major travel magazine as Italy is on their covers multiple times per year. The other places you see a lot in these magazines are also high on the list: England, Ireland, France, Greece, Spain, Australia, yada yada yada.
I start yawning just looking at that list because it’s so predictable. A feedback loop, a self-fulfilling prophecy, a tail wagging a dog, and a mountain of travel cliches.
If you’re planning a summer backpacking trip to Western Europe or Australia, be advised that in no way whatsoever will you find more than a fleeting bargain unless you stay with friends or spend the whole time mooching in another manner. Every day of your travels will be spent trying to keep money from flying out of your pockets at an alarming rate. Because you are joining the herds, conforming to the idea of what must be done on your summer vacation, you will pay top dollar.
A few times a year, I’ll get an earnest e-mail from a relative or a friend of a friend asking the wrong question. “I’m trying to find a good deal for two weeks in Europe in July. Can you help? You’re a travel writer, right?”
The answer to the second question is yes. The first? “Sorry, but no, I can’t help.”
The original title of this book I wrote a few years ago was supposed to be The Contrarian Traveler. The publisher asked for a title change because the distributor didn’t like it. “It sounds too negative.” Well, call me Mr. Grumpy, but in investing, buying real estate, or travel, the people who score the best deals are the ones who watch the masses and do the opposite. The real contrarians. There’s simply no way to score dramatic bargains if you’re doing what zillions of other people are also doing. (That’s also why an iPhone costs 5 times more than my more powerful Android phone. But that’s another post.)
I’m not saying you have to go to Tripoli next summer instead of Tuscany, but you can easily cut your travel budget in half by just going where the masses are not going. Get this book for 21 ideas to get you started.
If you go where everyone else is going, when everyone else is going, then you’re going to pay what everyone else is paying, with a little variance here and there. Sure there are luxury budgets and backpacker budgets, organized tours and independent travelers, but you’re still locked into the funnel. Bust out of there and be free.