The Biggest Thing I Learned In 2012 (And Why You Should Take The Plane)

As we reached the 2013 new year, I was reflecting on what I learned in 2012.

I feel like I learned a lot this year– particularly a lot about myself and what I am looking for as I traveled around South America (and am now back in Colombia).

When 2012 started, I was thinking it would be the year where I started bringing in loads of online income to support my dream of becoming location independent. I did start bringing in some income with some projects, but it was a lot less than I had envisioned.

I had a number of failed projects, including a terrible business partner who did absolutely nothing for me but rob me of my time and energy. I feel grateful that I finally cut the chords and officially ended everything with him a few months back.

Not all was failure, however. For example, I managed to post on this blog consistently this year, and as a result my traffic increased 4-fold. I’ve been getting a lot of emails from readers, which is a good sign. I might be doing something right. :)

*** By the way, if you haven’t filled out my readers survey, I’d really appreciate it if you did! ***

But what I really think I’ve learned in 2012 is something that I think most people don’t learn unless they run a successful business or realize how to really become wealthy.

It is something which the average Joe doesn’t get, because he looks at things only one dimensionally.

What I learned is this: the idea that low-cost is the default way to go is completely wrong. Completely wrong. 

My life these days has a different course… I have stopped looking for the lowest-cost hostels because I am sick of sweaty, smelly dorms and dirty bathrooms. I have stopped looking for the lowest-cost transportation because I am sick of wasting my precious time on a bus. I have stopped looking for free information on the internet because I am sick of the amateurs who really haven’t proved themselves to me… I now purchase from people I trust.

I have stopped spending my time in countries that I don’t like, even if they are cheap.

Instead, I have started to spend MORE money because I believe nowadays I think in a multidimensional picture of value.

Take a concrete example– Several weeks ago, I was in Peru and needed to get from Cusco to Lima. The bus ride is about 20-22 hours. The plane ride is about 1.5 hours.

The bus costs something like $45. The plane cost $120.

I took the plane.

I took the plane because my time is valuable to me, and I essentially got one full day of my life back if I paid an extra $75. This would allow me to continue with my various life projects, work on my business, write new posts, explore Lima sooner, move my life forward etc. With a bus ride, on the other hand, I’ve lost one day of my life.

You see, a typical ‘budget’ traveler is only concerned about one thing: cost. He will take the bus because it’s the cheapest.

Now, I have about the same monetary budget as a ‘budget traveler’ but I took the plane because I value my time.

Time is the one resource you cannot make more of. You are only given a limited number of days on this planet… How much would you pay for an extra day of your life?

A multidimensional view of value also extends to getting business smarts…

So when I buy products now (or sell them), I no longer look for “lowest cost” to be the major part of the equation. I look for products which will best solve a problem that I have at the current time, or that provide me with a decent return on my investment. (There’s a saying in business circles that competing to offer the lowest-priced product is a ‘losing battle’… Couldn’t agree more!)

So, if my problem is getting from point A to point B, a plane is the answer for me if it substantially gives me my time back (like it does from Cusco to Lima!).

Or if I am going through the trouble of processing and fulfilling an order for someone, I make sure I’m not going to be earning just a few dollars for doing so.

Or if another place in the world has 10x faster internet, I would seriously consider moving there because I get my time back.

This also extends to other considerations about your life in general. For example, I was unhappy living in Ecuador in late 2011. I was spending less, yes. But I was not happy.

How much would you pay to be happy?

So you see, my life was being affected by this one-dimensional view of value, i.e. that low-cost is everything. It was poisoning everything I did, and stealing my time and happiness.

In 2012, I finally said goodbye to the low-cost-is-all option.

If there’s something valuable I need or want, I’ve realized the answer is not to sit back and only think of carefully preserving my current cash stash. The answer is to hustle, earn more money, and create the life I’ve always dreamed of.

And isn’t that what you really want? :)

Published January 7, 2013

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  • David Lee

    I actually believe you lose two days if you’re taking a long bus ride, because after 20+ hours on a bus, you’re going to be tired, and possibly ill (as I was after arriving in Lima from La Paz).

    Actually, I blame that 26 hour bus ride for my back problems that began a few days later, and lead to hundreds of dollars in medical and prescription costs, not to mention a loss of time and ability to sit down and get work done (because sitting aggravated the problem).

    It’s taken 6 months for me to feel almost back to normal. Next time, I’ll either take shorter bus rides, or pay to fly, even if the difference is a few hundred dollars.

    • Ryan

      Really good point about recovery time and aches and pains. It definitely makes it worth it to take the plane… Maybe we can start a ‘Just Say No To Buses’ campaign? ;)

  • Andrew

    Completely agreed, it’s a shame some people never figure this out: you really need to determine just how much your time is worth and therefore how much you’re willing to pay in order to save X quantity of it.

    Great post.


    • Ryan

      Bingo! :)

  • Rinu

    Really good advice. Thanks!

    • Ryan


  • Josh

    I’ve spent close to 4 days cumulative time on buses in the last month and I’m definitely not taking any more long trips by bus. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor because I f’ed up my back in a non bus related incident, so I’m especially sensitive to these long sitting hours. It was real stupid of me to get on a bus the day after I went to see him, it pretty much cancelled out all of his work. I took an overnight bus to get to my current destination and now my tail bone hurts when I sit on it. Not worth the discount price, I should’ve flown. Its a simple thing but I don’t think I would’ve done it if I hadn’t read your article.

    • Ryan

      Eesh man, sorry to hear about all that. Hope you recover soon!…. I just took the bus from Cali to Medellin which literally did not have enough room for my legs (I’m only 6′). So I had to sit awkwardly the whole trip and it’s taken me a whole day to recover from the back twistage.

  • Jamie Alexander

    Reading the part about the low-budget options sounds like me. It’s definitely a habit you can fall into. I refuse to get a long distance bus now and I’ll fly everywhere. I’m also switching cities in a few weeks and will get something much better than my $250 Thai cheap special.

    • Ryan

      Probably some good moves there… I just can’t stand wasting a whole day of my life to ride a bus anymore!

  • Simon

    You could meet nice people in that bus ? Ok it’s exhauting but in term of interaction etc
    In Peru I guess only European or rich peruvian have the money to fly ?

    • Ryan

      I think the possibility of meeting people on the bus is overrated… You’re seated in one spot for an ungodly number of hours, and the 1 or 2 people within chatting distance might smell, take up too much room, or not be that cool. I’d even say meeting cool people on a plane is much more likely.

  • Simon

    And if we think strictly in term of budget one more day is one more night in the hotel etc so there are side costs ;)

  • Andrea Nicholas

    Very interesting thoughts, Ryan!

    I definitely can see your point. I’m in the place in my life where I’m still okay to rough it (and my bank account thanks me for that), but I’m sure I’ll likely eventually have your mindset!

    • Ryan

      Hey Andrea! Yea, you can always make more money, but you never get your time back once it’s spent. This has become a lot more real to me these days.

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