The Price of a Dream

Published on June 16, 2024 (↻ July 11, 2024), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

From August 2013 until February 2015 I traveled the world, visiting 48 countries on 6 continents. I had shared the itinerary, a quick summary, how to plan such a journey and how to stay safe and healthy, and even wrote a book about it all.

What I didn’t share was the cost of the journey. *

Documenting its plan—if only for two close friends of mine to have a chance to track me down—, I also put down prices for accommodation and transport.

Accordingly, I can tell you what I paid for both in post-recession, pre-inflation US dollars: $15,430 for accommodation, and $9,834 for transportation.

I didn’t track spending for food, activities, and other expenses, but reviewing records about my net worth, that came in at around another $20,000–$25,000.

But is that it? Did this journey around the world “only” cost me about $50,000?

The Cost of Opportunities and Career Breaks

A decade later, it got more obvious to me how the answer is no.

Clearly, traveling for one and a half years has an opportunity cost. While I wrote two books during the time and earned money also through advertising, affiliate marketing, and capital gains, this didn’t nearly set off what I could have earned in a full-time position, which prior to the trip, during my time at Google, meant a six-digit salary. I will not review old documentation in this case, but let’s work with a lost net pay of $150,000 for these 18 months of travel.

So far, so good. What is much harder to put a number on, now, is what other opportunities this has cost, how this break affected and cascaded through my career. (That is also hard to measure because I took my first full-time position again only five years after I started my travels.)

I deem it likely that the trip (including consecutive decisions) has so far cost me a director or VP position. That’s no boasting (I’m both experienced and humble enough to know what I’m saying here), it’s also not self-pity (I take responsibility for my decisions and I still feel in charge of my career), it’s a scenario with a good probability.

If that’s the case, and here I’ll mathmonger entirely, then I’ve probably not made and will keep not making a five-digit amount every single year after the journey. That’s lousy math, but I’ll keep it conservative:

Doing the Guesswork

To wrap up, let’s keep mathing around. $50,000 for the trip. $150,000 lost pay during the time on the road. Let’s work with $20,000 not made every year since. If that’s 30 years (I was 34 at the start of my journey), the whole travel would have cost me $800,000.

$800,000.

The price of a dream. A price. Of one dream.

Was it worth it? I can probably only confirm once I’m getting ready for the next life. But I’d say, yes. So for your dream, live it today. No matter what it will cost you down the road.

* Of course I didn’t. I’m extremely grateful, I understand the privilege, and it hadn’t seemed nice—it would have probably appeared rather boastful—to broadcast that kind of information. What changed here, now, was both the long time passed as well as the counterpoint, that the actual cost has been much higher.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!