How getting fleeced on a trip helped calm our nerves for life

Sean Shadmand
Apr 22 · 3 min read

For the first few months of our 1-year trip around the world, we experienced an insane amount of cons. Every day, at least one experience involved us gettting overcharged for something. Each of those experiences added to our stress level and put us more and more on guard from getting fleeced. That atttude had a negative impact on our trip, not only in our ability to enjoy ourselves, but in how we imposed our skeptical attitudes onto some innocent citzines that were on the up and up.

We hit the end of our rope in a small market in Madrid. I bought a bottle of water for 1 euro, gave the cashier 5, and walked out the door with 2. I realized the “mistake” as I walked out the Store. I walked back in, and, in a tired and beaten down way said, “Hey man, I gave you 5, the water was 1. What’s the deal?” Without a word, the man placed 2 euros on the counter, as if he knew what was coming the moment I walked back in the shop. I didn’t make a fuss, took the 2 euros, and left.

It was that moment that I realized the energy and stress of not getting jipped was incurring a higher cost, one that took away from our overall experience on the trip. The principles we were protecting saved cash, but cost us time and stress. Recognizing this, my wife and I made a pact.

From then on, we would assume that between $5 and $15 a day would go toward small grifts and overcharges we called “Travelers Tax”. Almost immediately after coming to terms with this reality, our stress was lifted, with our expectations reset. We continued to get grifted (which is messed up) but we moved on and enjoyed our adventure. I will never forget how that single decision changed our vacation experience for the better in a dramatic way. We went from feeling cheated, to feeling philanthropic. We went from being on guard, to living carefree. That “tax” paid dividends on our trip ten fold. Is it right what those cheats did? No. Was our trip the time to fight it? Also, no.

I have since taken that Travel Tax lesson with me. There are many things that indeed happen TO you, but you can choose to not let them AFFECT you in negative ways. The issues don’t disappear, they just have less power over your life plans. There are certain obstacles that may add stress to your life, but when you step back, you may realize that the overall impact of that consequence is insignificant; you may find better places to exert that energy. It is a question of recognizing and setting a consistent level of expectations, not avoiding potential hazards, and dealing with all of them real-time.

Sean Shadmand

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