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The 30 Cheapest Places To Travel In 2017, if your new year resolution is to Travel
Time to start packing your bags: 2017 is shaping up to be a banner year for budget travel. The dollar is enjoying historic highs — meaning your money goes much further in many destinations around the globe — and according to an American Express Global Business Travel report, airfares are expected to fall in 2017.
1. Mazatlan, Mexico
Why: The current exchange rate ($1 = 20.69 Mexican pesos) makes Mexico one of the most affordable destinations.
For the frugal traveler who wants to enjoy more culture than they might in the Riviera Maya, my top pick is Mazatlan. As the shrimp capital of Mexico and a foodie paradise, Mazatlan is teeming with awesome eateries and fresh, interesting dishes. Hotels (including all-inclusive properties) are extremely inexpensive and authentic since most aren't part of the huge chains. El Cid Marina has awesome pools that are perfect for families, great food and huge rooms. (Rates are as low as $100 for a family of four.)
You can also enjoy superb dining at a top-notch restaurant like Casa 46 for less than half what you'd pay in the United States.
Side note: Sinaloa (the state where Mazatlan resides) grows the bulk of produce in Mexico, so Mazatlan produce is unbelievably cheap as a result. You see this reflected in top restaurants all the way down to street markets.
2. South Africa
Why: In South Africa, the exchange rate is in our favor, but so is the fact that it's a developed tourist destination with a solid infrastructure. In spending a month in Cape Town earlier this year and relying on Uber to get me to and from meetings, activities and lunches, I averaged under $20 in transportation per day — a major win.
Hotels are cheaper, too: Take a standard room at Taj Hotels & Resorts in New York, and you are out about $786 a night, whereas in Cape Town, a room at a similar luxury property costs $266. Remember, South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, so seasons are the opposite: Consider going in low season (our summer) when hotels and safari lodges are even less expensive.
Airbnb and private villa rentals are also reliable and cheap options in the major cities. Travelers should also consider booking domestic airfare in advance for the greatest cost savings, since flights on South African Airways can sell out quickly.
The best value of all is the wine: Travelers can order a glass of one of the best locally produced varietals for less than the cost of a can of soda. For more information on travel in South Africa, watch "Michaela's Map: First Timers' Guide to Southern Africa."
3. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Why: The best way to get a deal in the Caribbean is to travel during the low season (end of April through mid-December) to destinations that have direct and frequent fights from your gateway; plenty of hotel inventory; and economies that aren't euro-based.
Puerto Rico fits the bill, and I'm a big fan of San Juan, which I think is seriously underrated as an easy and affordable getaway, especially for visitors from the East Coast of the U.S. Old San Juan oozes charm, and if you stay within the old city's two-square-mile radius you won't need a car rental to access great restaurants, sightseeing and shopping.
U.S. citizens can save themselves the cost of a passport since it's not required to visit, and since the U.S. dollar is the legal tender, there's no money lost on currency exchange. Hotel Casa Blanca and Villa Herencia are two of my favorite high-style/low-cost boutique hotels.
Why: Europe is on everyone's list of value-added trips this year and for good reason — the exchange rate is more favorable for American travelers than it has been in years. But the destinations I most dream about and long to return to are in South America, a destination that has long given travelers great value for money.
In Chile, I love Santiago for its vibrant food and wine scene — think tucked-away wine bars, delicious tapas and hip hotels in a beautifully chaotic city. For a lesser-known and truly special corner of the world, I love the small lakeside town of Puerto Varas. It is part of the lakes district in Chile and the northern start of Patagonia.
It is easy (and cheap!) to rent a car and explore this area. There is a surprising German heritage, so you'll see signs for "kuchen" (cake). With Puerto Varas as a hub, you can explore great places within a two-hour drive from the city: going to the top of a volcano, exploring waterfalls, finding the best cakes and food.
This area sees very few American visitors and everything is CHEAP. It's one of those places I almost want to keep to myself, but it's so special that I can't.
Why: With the U.S. dollar strong against the euro right now and the economic crisis in Greece keeping prices lower than other parts of Europe, it’s the perfect time to visit the beautiful island of Crete. Crete is a foodie dream come true.
A place where farm-to-table isn’t a new fad, it’s a way of life. The people here often live to be well over 100 years old so they must be doing something right! With truly stunning natural beauty (like Balos beach) and locals that welcome tourists with open arms, you are bound to have the trip of a lifetime and save a few dollars at the same time.
Why: For many, Morocco is the ultimate dream trip, and yet cost tends to keep most from visiting. But what you might not know is that it's one of the most affordable African countries, particularly when comparing flight costs. R
eaching Marrakech from cities such as Lisbon, Madrid and Paris may only set you back $40 to $100 roundtrip with many budget airlines. And this past Black Friday, flights from New York were a mere $400 roundtrip.
Food is by far my main reason for visiting as often as I do, and typical meals can range from $2.50 to $15 for two, which includes appetizers, entree and unlimited mint tea. For vegetarians and vegans, the country is especially great, as veggies are cheaper than meat and fresh fruit smoothies are barely $1.
Souvenir shopping can get a bit intense when you realize leather goods such as wallets, handbags and weekenders run from $5 to $60. (A shopaholics dream!) When it comes to accommodations there's something to fit everyone's budget, my favorite being Riad Yasmine (only $80-$160 per night).
For those looking for Moroccan luxury while still on a budget, my go-to is Riad Kheirredine, which will have you living like a queen without breaking the bank and even provides a cell phone during your stay to ensure guest safety.
Why: Modern conveniences and history collide in Belize. It's a perfect place to take a budget romantic vacation. Many of the four-star hotels offer extras, like bicycle rentals, included in their low rates, as well as Belize's excellent local wines.
Some affordable resorts to check out are George Hardie's Las Vegas Hotel in Corozal (Northern Belize) and the oceanside Royal Caribbean Resort in San Pedro along Ambergris Caye. Both can be booked for under $100 per night.
Meals are also crazy cheap, but delicious. Two can eat at an upscale restaurant for less than $30, and much less at an everyday venue.
Why: Affordable upscale accommodations, cheap and remarkably healthy food and beautiful sights make Vietnam a standout among budget-friendly South Asian destinations.
Eat your way through historic Hanoi, kayak in the emerald waters of Halong Bay or relax in ancient Hoi An and the nearby beaches. There are clean, safe accommodations to fit everyone's wallet. In Hanoi, my favorite is the Tirant Hotel, near the old town, where you can bag a room for less than $70 a night.
Don't miss the Hanoi street food tour: For just $20 per person, a guide will lead you on foot or by scooter through backstreets, markets and footpaths.
You will eat like the locals and learn the names and ingredients in the dishes so you can order them again. And be sure to take the time to sip a bowl of steaming "pho" noodle soup in restaurants, push carts and food stalls, where a street meal and a beer can cost the same as a caramel macchiato at Starbucks.
9. Costa Rica
Why: Costa Rica is the one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and to be able to see this on a shoestring is an incredible opportunity.
There's a ton of national parks to explore, for instance, that only cost a few dollars to enter. Once there, you can then enjoy free self-guided walks that won't cost you a cent, but will deliver some great encounters with amazing wildlife like tapirs, monkeys, sloths and macaws.
Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Parks are two of the best. Public transport is also super cheap in Costa Rica, with buses generally less than $10, even for an eight-hour ride. This makes traveling between destinations in this compact country very affordable and means you can see a lot in a short amount of time.
In addition, budget accommodation in Costa Rica — even at some of the best surf beaches — can be as little as $6 per person. And a "plato tipico" (local dish) can be enjoyed anywhere for as little as $2-3.
Why: Portugal is a pocket of affordable travel in contrast to the rest of Western Europe, especially if you get off the highways and take the back roads (where you can also avoid tolls).
A bottle of delicious port and a plate of the day with a glass of wine can be found for around €5 each. Nowhere else in the world can its "California Highway 1 meets Tuscany" landscapes be enjoyed on such a budget, especially now that the dollar is strong against the euro.
Why: Although Ecuador is not quite as inexpensive as Peru to the south, it’s an easy and affordable destination to travel to, especially if you stay a bit off the beaten path. It’s a short cheap flight from Florida with budget airlines like jetBlue and TAME, and accommodation is pretty cheap.
Shop at your local market and you can get a week’s worth of groceries for $10. And Ecuador has lots of variety; from surf beach towns like Montanita, to the volcanic Banos with famed hot springs at the gateway to the Amazon basin, to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cuenca in the high Andes, there’s a lot to see. The bus systems are good and domestic flights cheap and plentiful. F
ind a free accommodation option like house-sitting or volunteering, and your trip can be even cheaper.
Why: Barcelona is ranked right up there with cities like Paris and London as one of the most popular European cities, but it is by far the most affordable. This is thanks to low-cost tapas restaurants, endless free attractions and affordable things to do.
Have a meal of tapas and wine at El Xampanyet for around €10-15. Soak up the rays on the beach at Barceloneta. Get lost in the La Boqueria Market.
And take the tram up to Tibidabo (only €5) for sweeping panoramic views of the city; it's also where you can experience a vintage amusement park and a gorgeous cathedral.
13. Where: Guatemala
Why: Often bypassed in favor of nearby Costa Rica, Guatemala is unique unto itself in Central America. And because it's a bit more "off the path" in the region, it's also easy on the budget and a nice place to splurge.
The villas and hotels rimming Lake Atitlán have all the beauty you could want for a small fraction of the price you'd pay in Europe or elsewhere. From the lake, you can then delve into the country's unique culture by visiting the indigenous markets and villages in the Guatemalan highlands.
Lush Atitlan is a gorgeous, affordable place to stay in San Marcos La Laguna, the prettiest and most culturally interesting of Lake Atitlan's villages.
14. Bonaire & Curaçao
Why: In the deep Southern Caribbean, Bonaire and Curaçao are always out there on the edge of everyone's Caribbean consciousness. Both are known for scuba diving, but also for other water sports, hiking and amazing secluded beaches.
Vacation villas that let you live like a local are plentiful and affordable on both islands, but chain hotels like the Renaissance Curaçao Resort & Casino are an option on Curaçao (great if you're using points).
Bonaire gets its very first chain hotel at the end of 2016 when a Marriott Courtyard opens.
15. Las Vegas
Why: If you can avoid the slots, there are lots of free things to do in Vegas: The Flamingo's flamingo habitat, the fountains and conservatory at the Bellagio and the outdoor movies at the Container Park are just a few.
You can also find many places for cheap eats if you are willing to get off The Strip to do so. Check out the nearby Crown and Anchor, which serves up delicious British favorites, and Ninja Teriyaki Sushi 2 Go for fresh-made amazing sushi rolls in a no-frills setting.
Why: Sadly, the average income in Cambodia is about $950 per year. What does this mean for international travelers? Your international airfare might be expensive, but once you are in Cambodia, you can live well. Tuks tuks (a combo bike/taxi) and food cost just pennies. Even international hotel chains and luxury river boats down the Mekong are more affordable than other Asian destinations.
Before visiting, I suggest doing your homework to support luxury companies like the Shinta Mani Resort, whose foundation plays a large role in its community, building water wells, schools and farms and providing the best healthcare in the country to its employees. Culturally conscious companies like Aqua Expeditions sustainably introduce their guests to the communities along the Mekong River, including the floating markets and the farmers in the rice fields; the company can even arrange a conversation with a local Buddhist monk to discuss the significance of his journey from childhood to monkhood.
Why: If you're looking into an exotic long-haul trip, Bali offers a ton of high quality experiences for a great value. You can easily stay in a private villa overlooking stunning rice paddies with a private pool for around $50 per night. (Airbnb is a great way to go).
However, if you want to splurge a bit but not go overboard, a stay at a high-end luxury resort will still cost you less than a stay at a luxury resort, for example, in Maui. Not to mention, spa and transportation costs are quite low relative to other exotic locales, as well as the amazing and healthy food options that end up being a fraction of the cost elsewhere in the world.
Why: The weakened euro has made any trip to Europe more affordable, but this is especially true in Greece. The struggling economy craves tourist dollars and makes it known with affordable pricing on everything from hotels to food.
In Athens, you can book a three- or four-star hotel for well under $100, like 360 Degrees, a nice and modern hotel with a huge breakfast buffet included and an awesome location directly on Monastiraki Square.
Throughout the countryside, prices may be even better. Best of all, you can sit down to an amazing Greek meal with drinks (Mythos or Ouzo?), appetizers (Saganaki, anyone?) and entrees of your choosing for less than half what you'd pay in the States. Heck, you can pick up Souvlaki or a gyro for $1-$2. Souvenirs are insanely cheap, too.
Why: This forgotten corner of Europe is a wonderfully off-the-beaten-track budget destination in an otherwise very touristy and expensive continent.
With fantastic beaches along its coastline, including the fishing port of Saranda, Albania gives visitors the chance to enjoy the Mediterranean waters for a fraction of the usual price. Accommodation starts from as little as $5 per person and fishing trips or boat rides to the nearby islands are similarly well priced.
There's also some fascinating historical sites across Albania that are either free to enter or cost only $2-$5. From the moutainous medieval town of Gjirokastër to the Roman ruins at Butrint, this is a diverse and very different side of Europe, which is definitely worth visiting before the crowds do.
20. San Luis Potosí, México
Picture a perfect class III white water rafting experience through a limestone canyon of turquoise waters, a visit to a living garden of eden, complete with art sculptures, hidden pools, butterflies and waterfalls, a hike to the largest known cave shaft in the world, which you can rappel into, and a series of waterfalls for cliff jumping.
Top this all off with a plate of homemade tacos and a local beer for $2, and you've got yourself a piece of adventure paradise on a budget.
Still very much under the radar to anyone outside of Mexico, San Luis Potosí could be compared to Costa Rica in terms of adventure and Cambodia in terms of affordability. Since Election Day, the dollar has been especially strong in Mexico, offering an even better excuse to travel south of the border.
21. Quebec City, Canada
Why: Take advantage of the weak Canadian dollar and travel north for a 25% discount on prices.
Enjoy a slice of Old Europe without the jet lag or the cost of a transatlantic flight. Indulge in some of the best French food outside France — steak-frites, oysters and pastries at a bargain price. Stroll and shop in the narrow cobblestone streets of the picturesque Old Town and enjoy night parades and ice canoe races during the colorful Winter Festival in January and February.
22. Buenos Aires
Why: One of the world's most intoxicating cities, Buenos Aires has only grown in popularity, but it's still relatively cheap compared to European and Asian capital cities. There are many green parks, French-inspired architecture, late-night dancing, custom leather shops and fantastic food.
Taxis are relatively cheap (around $5-8 a ride), but you should also walk for miles in all of the distinct neighborhoods, like Palermo (try Salon Canning, a super casual milonga, or dance hall, after midnight). Must-try cheap eat in Buenos Aires: anything dulce de leche. It is everywhere — inside crepes, drizzled over grilled bananas and in gelato.
Tip: Bring a ton of American cash and you'll get better deals in many places. For example, I bought my custom leather jacket at a shop called Uru Recoleta (close to the famous Recoleta Cemetery) and was able to buy it for much less than using my credit card because I brought American dollars.
On Sundays, the place to be is the San Telmo market for browsing leather, antiques, watches, jewelry and more.
Why: While Haiti still remains under the radar as a travel destination, many people have been flocking to the vibrant country, and I can see why: The island provides all the stunning Caribbean characteristics without the high costs. Outside of holiday seasons and the later part of the summer, flights from New York range from $300 to $500, and even cheaper when flying from cities in Florida.
The real gem is how cheap the hotels are, with many starting at $50 to $150 per night including airport transfers. Even the newest Marriott Port-au-Prince will only set you back $130 to under $200 a night for larger rooms.
One of my favorites is Wahoo Bay Beach, which has epic mountain and ocean views from its stunning pool and rooms. You can take small boat tours around the area for a couple of dollars per person. Lobster, conch and crab can be caught right from the water and prepared for you without costing more than $10.
24. Santa Catalina Island, California
Why: Santa Catalina Island is one of my new favorite places. It is way more than a weekend SoCal jaunt. Hotels are quaint and average under the $200 per night mark. The Avalon Hotel is a charming choice. It’s right in the center of town, making it an easy walk to almost any activity. There is plenty to do, like kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, ziplining, hiking or just beach sitting.
The Catalina Island Museum is a must-visit stop to get the full story of the island's fascinating history, including its Hollywood connection. Food and shopping choices are extensive.
And you don’t need a rental car. Getting to the island is easy: Catalina Express Ferry whisks you to there from three different ports, Long Beach, Dana Point and San Pedro. I prefer Long Beach because flights there are often lower priced than neighboring LAX.
Why: With 17,000 islands, you are bound to find the ideal paradise to suit your travel and budget in Indonesia.
There are stunning untouched beaches that offer world-class snorkelling and scuba diving in Raja Ampat, fascinating Unesco World Heritage Sites dating back to the 9th century in Yogyakarta and — everywhere you turn — the friendliest locals. In Raja Ampat, we found a homestay that included breakfast, lunch and dinner — plus it was right on the beach for around $29 USD per person per night. For more, see Food Fun Travel's "Bali Food Guide."
Why: The entire Balkans region is an excellent option for budget travel, and if you haven't been before, I recommend starting with Bulgaria.
From wine country to snowy peaks to the Black Sea coast, it's an adventure playground that every budget can afford. In Bulgaria's wine country you can get a full winery tour with multiple tastings plus bread and cheese for about $5 (check out Villa Melnik winery), take a hike through Bulgaria's famous sandstone pyramids and then sleep in a beautiful authentic style hotel like Zlaten Rozhen with breakfast included for about $30.
27. Cusco, Peru
Why: Most people who pass through Cusco are en route to the very popular Machu Picchu, but you should make sure to spend a few days, maybe even a few weeks in this colorful city. Not only is the city absolutely stunning and oozing with culture, most accommodations range from $20 to $100 a night. Peruvian textiles are extremely affordable and the vibrant colors are stunning.
Eating out in Cusco can be extremely cheap, if you know where to eat. Restaurants are quite affordable compared to most American and European restaurants, but street food here is the real winner. I'm personally addicted to ceviche and can't find it cheaper than $15 for a small portion in the states, but in Cusco's San Pedro Market you can find ceviche plus Peruvian fried rice for only $3.
On my last trip, I had steak and ceviche nearly every day and never spent more than $15 for two including a drink and soup.
Why: Meagen Collins: This ancient European country is starting to grab the attention of travelers from all over the world. Georgia has so much to offer — beautiful scenery, unique culture and tradition everywhere you look, and the food will leave you drooling for more.
Add to that the fact this country lays claim to being the birthplace of wine (winemaking here goes back 8,000 years) and you have the ultimate new travel destination.
In Georgia, you can get a full meal plus copious amounts of wine for two people in a higher end restaurant, with live entertainment and still spend less than $30 — total. But get there fast: Word is getting around about this little gem and it won’t be tourist-free for long.
Why: This country is one of Africa's best budget travel destinations, with some extremely affordable accommodation situated along white sand beaches and next to an azure ocean. (Check out Villa Sands or Terraço das Quitandas.)
There's great scuba diving, too, and you can easily feel like a millionaire here for nothing! For more ideas, see Big World Small Pocket's "17 Incredible Budget Travel Destinations Still On My List (That Should Be On Yours Too!)."
30. Dallas, Texas
Why: Dallas is often overlooked, but packed with fun, food and great places to stay at prices far below the national average. (The city was voted the most affordable destination in the U.S. last year by Priceline and continues to remain a great value.) Downtown buzzes with excitement and culture, and the nearby Design District is exploding with eclectic shopping for home décor.
The high-rise Omni Dallas has rooms with stunning floor-to-ceiling views of the city starting at just under $200, putting you in the center of the action. With a rental car, you can fully explore everything the city has to offer. Look at fringe cities like Grapevine and Plano for the charm of small towns of yesteryear with main street shops and eateries.
The Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine is convenient to DFW airport and offers full-out luxury at rates around the $200 mark.
China to send 30 missions into space in 2017
China plans to conduct some 30 space launch missions in 2017, a record-breaking number in the country's space history, a media report said.
According to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, Long March-5and Long March-7 rockets will be used to carry out most of the space missions this year, the People’s Daily reported on Wednesday.Long March-5 is China’s largest carrier rocket. The successful test launch of the vehicle in November in South China’s Hainan Province will pave the way for space station construction, analysts said.Wang Yu, general director of the Long March-5 program, said 2017 is a critical year for China’s new generation of carrier rockets and the Long March-5 rockets will carry Chang’e-5 probe to the space. The probe will land on the moon, collect samples and return to Earth.On the other hand, Long March-7, the more powerful version of Long March-2, will send China’s first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 into the space in the first half of 2017, according to Wang Zhaoyao, director of China Manned Space Engineering Office.
Tianzhou-1 is expected to dock with Tiangong-2 space lab and conduct experiments on propellant supplement.China conducted 22 launch missions in 2016 and 19 in 2015. The country successfully tested its Long March-7 rocket in June last year and has gradually shifted to new generation rockets that reduce the use of toxic rocket fuels.Last Month, China released a white paper on space activities, announcing plans to soft land Chang’e-5 on the moon by the end of 2017 and launch its first Mars probe by 2020.
it's been a long time...
Freedom is experienced in different ways. You even find it from the places and things you least expected. You are left to wonder, what was it exactly about that thing that gave you a sense of release? If you had known much earlier would you have gone and reached for it? But perhaps its wasn’t time, you may have not been feeling ready and that is okay. You don’t have to settle to what is seen to be the norm and much better for you as a person altogether. Or maybe it is just a journey, time to find yourself and build yourself without needing the approval of other people. For so long I felt there was strength and power in my hair. I remember being a five year old who identified as a boy and felt that my long hair means to be a girl. I just felt comfortable with short hair, but society said it was unacceptable. I felt my hair held my identity and if only I could get rid of it I would be who I want to be deep inside At the age of 14 years I was told to cut my hair because it was being damaged by too many chemicals. But then it was at this stage that I felt like, well without my hair I am not pretty enough as a women. How could I be a woman without long hair? I often had braided or weaves sown into my hair. Different colours, styles and lengths. But it had to be long. All the time, I was asked why did you cut your hair? I was once asked what about the boys, what will they think? I could only hear the words, you are not pretty enough without your long hair. I was even compared to male footballers who had the same hair cut as me. I couldn’t wait for my hair to grow back simply because I felt my beauty came from it and that its what made me accepted. So I hid behind wigs. I could not leave the house without it. So much pressure and questions of, who am I? Does my hair define me? I had been told that I prefer you with long hair from other women too. But hey, I got tired of pretending. So, I let it out. My short natural black hair. The first time I really stepped out and decided not to care, I felt a sense of freedom. Freedom that I hadn’t felt before. I felt comfortable and proud that this is me. Society expectations lied and made me a slave. But I am not my hair. My identity is not in my hair. I am not less of a women because I have short hair. So what if I want to colour it? So what if I want to be bald? There is more to us women than the length and style of our hair. We are all beautiful and we are enough. We do not need the approval of man on what our image should be. Cheers to all of us, whether long hair, short hair, bald, pink or blue hair, we are enough!
Our struggles determine our successes
Everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.Everyone would like that—it’s easy to like that.If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence—but not everyone wants to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, without the sacrifice, without the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship—but not everyone is willing to go through the tough conversations, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder “What if?” for years and years and until the question morphs from “What if?” into “Was that it?” And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, “What was that for?” if not for their lowered standards and expectations 20 years prior, then what for?Because happiness requires struggle. The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life.
At the core of all human behaviour, our needs are more or less similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with. Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.
People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately appreciate the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not.People want a partner, a spouse. But you don’t end up attracting someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.
There’s a lot of crappy advice out there that says, “You’ve just got to want it enough!”Everybody wants something. And everybody wants something enough. They just aren’t aware of what it is they want, or rather, what they want “enough.”Because if you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the beach body, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand.If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.Sometimes I ask people, “How do you choose to suffer?” These people tilt their heads and look at me like I have twelve noses. But I ask because that tells me far more about you than your desires and fantasies. Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns. And ultimately that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have similar answers. The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?That answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life. It’s what makes me me and you you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician — a rock star, in particular. Any badass guitar song I heard, I would always close my eyes and envision myself up on stage playing it to the screams of the crowd, people absolutely losing their minds to my sweet finger-noodling. This fantasy could keep me occupied for hours on end. The fantasizing continued up through college, even after I dropped out of music school and stopped playing seriously. But even then it was never a question of if I’d ever be up playing in front of screaming crowds, but when. I was biding my time before I could invest the proper amount of time and effort into getting out there and making it work. First, I needed to finish school. Then, I needed to make money. Then, I needed to find the time. Then … and then nothing.Despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time and a lot of negative experiences to finally figure out why: I didn’t actually want it.I was in love with the result—the image of me on stage, people cheering, me rocking out, pouring my heart into what I’m playing—but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it. Repeatedly. Hell, I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all.The daily drudgery of practicing, the logistics of finding a group and rehearsing, the pain of finding gigs and actually getting people to show up and give a shit. The broken strings, the blown tube amp, hauling 40 pounds of gear to and from rehearsals with no car. It’s a mountain of a dream and a mile-high climb to the top. And what it took me a long time to discover is that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the top.Our culture would tell me that I’ve somehow failed myself, that I’m a quitter or a loser. Self-help would say that I either wasn’t courageous enough, determined enough or I didn’t believe in myself enough. The entrepreneurial/start-up crowd would tell me that I chickened out on my dream and gave in to my conventional social conditioning. I’d be told to do affirmations or join a mastermind group or manifest or something.But the truth is far less interesting than that: I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story.I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.
Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.This is not a call for willpower or “grit.” This is not another admonishment of “no pain, no gain.”This is the most simple and basic component of life: Our struggles determine our successes.
So choose your struggles wisely, my friend.
This post originally appeared on MarkManson.net. Follow @iammarkmanson on Twitter