Surprising Financial Lessons from a Caribbean Cruise

By Manisha Thakor

Do you ever tell yourself, “Some day I will…”?

After going 16 straight months in my new entrepreneurial life without taking a single day off, I slammed head first into a mental wall.

So I sought help from business strategist Alexis Martin Neely. I figured we’d dive right into my business model, but one of the first things Alexis asked was what I did for fun. Silence. Terrified that if I slowed down for a nanosecond in this economy I would plunge into the deep dark abyss of permanent career mal-function, the only word that I could manage to utter was a feeble…“Work?”

So Alexis asked me what long-term dream I’d fulfill after all this work was done and I’d finally “arrived.” No hesitation. “Take a luxury cruise,” I immediately blurted out. That was something I’d fantasized about for over 15 years but never felt I could afford to take the time off to actually do. With the encouragement of my wonderful husband and Alexis, I finally went on a Caribbean cruise.

On the enjoyment scale I’d give the cruise a 5, but on the life lesson scale it was an absolute 10. Here’s what I learned and how it can help YOU spend your hard earned money & time more mindfully.

1. Experiences give you the ultimate bang for the buck. The average age of my fellow travelers was roughly 75 (by comparison, I’m 40 years old). Many had climbed to the top of their respective industries. When I chatted with them about the most memorable moments during their working years – time and again they spoke of simple experiences: a good meal, a memorable outing, a daily ritual that brought them joy. Not one mentioned the acquisition of THINGS.

2. Few female breadwinners = no men in the laundry room. Given the age of the average traveler, it probably comes as no surprise that virtually none of the women I talked to had careers outside the home. But what really struck me was that not once during the cruise did I see a man in the on-board launderette. Instead I saw female guests of every nationality washing and ironing their husbands’ clothes. That really got me observing the dynamic between the couples. Time and again I saw the connection between earning money and having choices in a relationship. And as politically incorrect as it is to say… it was very clear to me the first often drove the later. For more on this – I highly recommend reading Leslie Bennett’s wonderful book, The Feminine Mistake.

3. Test driving your dreams can save you money and time. Because I booked the cruise at the last minute and deliberately sought out ships that were close to sail date and had extra rooms, I was able to find an Italian liner with a nearly 50% off special. It was lovely to save that money.  But what was really wonderful was realizing this “dream” that I’d had for so long really didn’t make me that happy. Cruising is for many people – I’m just not one of them. So now I know. And I’ll waste no more time day dreaming about the month-long cruise I’d once thought I’d wanted at 5x the price I had paid this go around!

What about you – what dreams are you waiting for, and what can you do today to take them for a spin?

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Want more financial love? You can follow Manisha on Twitter at @ManishaThakor and sign up for her weekly email updates here. Manisha also teaches an innovative online personal finance course called “Money Rules.” Founder of the Women’s Financial Literacy Initiative, Manisha can be reached via her website:

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