Don't Wait Until You're Broken To See The World
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Don’t Wait Until You’re Broken To See The World

The Mediterranean is chilly in the Fall, ranging from 48-75 degrees Fahrenheit. My cruise ship was packed with a couple thousand explorers. Not only that, there were three other ships just as large following us around. Pretty good for the tail-end of the season as the world economy continues to recover.

One of the best ways to travel is via a really large boat. Every other day you’re waking up to a new city. There’s never a need to pack and unpack your bags. Meanwhile, the amount of activities on board are endless. If you like service, food, casinos, travel, and a variety of entertainment, then cruising is for you regardless of your age!

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Another positive about cruising is that you have to time to reflect. You’re captured, with nowhere to go except for the multiple buffet lines on every other deck. When you’ve had your third helping of peach cobbler, all you can do is contemplate about all the missed opportunities.

I lived overseas for the first 13 years in the Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Zambia. It felt normal moving around every two-to-four years as a son of US foreign service officers. But once I came to the US for high school, I began to feel restless. Travel was in my DNA and I tried to leave the country every summer dependent on how much I could save from my random $4.25/hour jobs throughout the school year.

Waiting until we are old to see the world is risky. At the age of 37, my knees have finally begun to sometimes give out when I walk up a flight of stairs. A torn meniscus from too much tennis does that I guess. I can’t imagine going on five hour long treks when I’m in my 60s or 70s. Perhaps my knees are the least of my worries. Maybe my poor -425 vision will just get worse until glaucoma clouds everything in site. Or maybe my heart stops beating one day due to too much prime rib. (Related: The Keys To Living Longer – The 90+ Study)

I’d like to share with you some lessons learned after spending two weeks out at sea.


1) Old habits die hard. During formal night, we sat next to a well-dressed couple in their late 60s. They were from Indiana and it was clear Diana was in charge. Diana’s husband, Bob wanted to eat the final morsels of meat on his lamb chops by hand like I did. But as he began to grab the lamb chops with his fingers, Diana wouldn’t let him. So he obediently listened and dropped the contraband. Fifteen minutes after I had already finished my lamb chops, Bob finally exhaled a sigh of relief. It was as if he burned more calories trying to eat than he consumed. He still looked hungry.

2) There is no substitute for good service. When we checked into our room, we were greeted by Deden, our porter assigned to our particular wing of the ship. He told us that if we needed anything, to not hesitate and give him a ring. He brought us fresh fruits and a copy of the latest New York Times and Financial Times every morning without fail. Deden also even helped look for our missing Croatian Kuna that was mistakenly left at home. Deden was cheerful every single day. He showed us that it doesn’t matter what we do, so long as we do it with grace and a good attitude. At Personal Capital, we do our best to provide the best service possible for our clientele.

3) Regret is a real killer. Over 70% of the passengers were over 60 years old. Several were in wheelchairs and many had walking canes that also served as expandable stools. At least half the passengers I spoke to told me some story of regret. “I should have come to Santorini earlier.” “I should have gone after that boy.” “I should have taken more risks.” At each city, we spent 5-7 hours walking. We were exhausted, but we were constantly smiling given there was something different to see at each turn. I kept thinking to myself how I’ll be able to walk around so sprightly when I’m 65. Don’t wait until you are old to go after what you really want to do.

4) Complaining is counter-productive. Our ship of 2,000 couldn’t dock in the port near Athens because the dockworkers decided to go on strike. Each passenger would have spent on average $50, which would amount to $100,000 injected into the local economy. Multiply $100,000 by the five other ships who wanted to come visit, and that’s $600,000 a day. Given the strike lasted 2 weeks, that’s $8.4 million dollars in lost revenue for the Greek who depend on tourism money. The protesters are only hurting themselves as the money is diverted to another city of workers. If you don’t like your situation, do something that isn’t self-inflicting.

5) The older we get, the more we are aware of our mortality. I started talking to an elderly lady about politics in the live jazz lounge one evening. She said, “I’ll be gone in 10 years, so I don’t care so much about what happens to me. But, I fear for my children and the debt our government has put us in.” To be able to come to grips with the reality that one might not be around in 10 years is both courageous and frightening. I know I will die one day, but I never assume that it will be within 10 years. It’s all fine and dandy to say that we should live today as if it were our last, knowing full well that it likely wont be our last since we’re only in our 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. It’s another thing to say those same words in your 70s.

6) The goal of money is to buy more freedom and happiness. Many of the passengers I met either saved well or were living off pensions, a luxury many younger folks today will unlikely receive. Almost every passenger I met couldn’t help tell me about how frugal they were, or how they methodically invested in the stock market, or how the youth of today don’t seem to know what it takes to sacrifice and save. “In my day…” was a common starting phrase. The trick is to accumulate as much money as possible to acquire the most amount of freedom and happiness as long as possible. And if accumulating money quickly is not possible, then one has to figure out how to balance work and play more evenly.

7) Going on vacation isn’t a license to be stupid with your money or your health. I can put on 10 pounds in just one week if I’m not careful. Given this was a two week cruise, I was being extra mindful of what I ate until someone told me, “You’re on vacation, just go crazy!” Of course the person telling me was super skinny. Easy for you to say, I thought to myself. The same thing goes with money. I was at the poker table when a husband whipped out two, $100 bills and gave them to his wife. “We’re on vacation, so go have fun playing craps. But remember, only on vacation!” It makes no sense to go way outside our normal spending and eating habits on vacation due to the repercussions that may last much longer upon return. Someone has to pay the bills and spend 100 extra hours at the gym.

8) Only fit people seem to work out at a cruise gym. There aren’t a lot of healthy looking people on a cruise due to age + an abundance of all you can eat food. So when I forced myself to the lonely gym after eating one too many lemon merengue pies one day, I only saw super fit people at the gym. I sat down for a “Secrets to a Flatter Stomach” seminar conducted by this beefy South African fella in his mid 20s. He reminded us to avoid processed foods, caffeine, coffee, tea, desserts, sodas, alcohol, and basically anything that puts the liver into overdrive. One tip he gave was to eat anything we can “Pick, Skin, or Pull.” Eat more seaweed he told us. It’s the best alkaline base food one can consume to counteract all the acid and toxins we eat.

9) Don’t take your work for granted. I spoke to our waitress Angely from Indonesia and she says she puts in 11 hour days. I asked her how many days a week she works, and she said, “From Monday to Monday, every day sir!” Wow, hardcore! She responded it’s a lot of work, but she was also glad to be able to send money back to her family in Jakarta. She gets to vacation two months a year, and she’s not complaining. The cruise director from England said he works 9-12 hour days depending on if the ship is docked and takes no days off either. In fact, nobody gets a day off, just time in between shifts to unwind.

10) Figure out how to leverage the internet. Being “untethered” is a dream. It’s becoming increasingly unnecessary to always be physically at your cubicle thanks to the internet. The hour you spend commuting could be spent working. Not only will your stress and costs go down through telecommuting, you’ll likely get much more done since there are less work-related distractions. And if you can figure out how to create an internet-based business, then you can really become untethered and travel the world while working. (Related: The Surprising Cost Of Your Commute)


There’s no point making money if all you’re going to do is hoard it. All those long hours working on your business or at your job should be balanced with pleasure.

If you’re fortunate enough to amass over $5 million as an individual, or over $10 million as a married couple, then definitely figure out a way to enjoy your money. Otherwise, the government will simply take a majority of it.

You don’t need anybody’s permission to see the world. Let us know how your next trip goes!

Enjoy Your Travels With Personal Capital

Regards, Sam

Photo credit: Fira, Santorini-Greece April 2010 by Lee Cannon is licensed under CC BY 2.0


The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

Sam Dogen is the author of the new personal finance book "Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom." Sam has been using Personal Capital to keep track of his finances for 10 years. He is the founder of Financial Samurai, one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites with over one million visitors a month.
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