The Currency of Pad Thai

Derek Travel Costs, Travel Tips & Advice 72 Comments

I just can’t stop thinking about pad thai.

Lovingly tossed rice noodles, mixed with fish sauce, tofu, vegetables, egg and chicken (or shrimp) and topped with a sprinkling of chili powder, bean sprouts, ground peanuts and freshly squeezed lime juice. It is hands-down the most splendid dish on the planet.

However, even though I love to eat these noodles as often as possible, the reason why thoughts of pad thai so constantly occupy my mind actually has much less to do with its ingredients than it does with…shopping.

Think about this for a moment. You’re shopping for a new television and you find yourself standing in the store deciding whether or not to buy the sleek 32-inch Sony Bravia or to save your money for something else. Your mind debates back and forth, weighing the options…

‘It’s only $499, that’s a good deal. But I could use that money to pay half my rent this month or pay off some credit card debt. Or maybe I should just buy that $200 jacket I’ve wanted for a while and use the rest of the money to buy two tickets to that Don Henley concert in three weeks.’

This can go on for a few minutes, a few days or even a few weeks until you ultimately decide what to do. There is no doubt that spending money can at times be a tough decision.

Here’s where the pad thai comes in…

Now picture having to weigh every single potential purchase against the number of plates of the most amazing pad thai imaginable that you could receive for that same amount of money.

What am I talking about?

Let me introduce you to the Currency of Pad Thai, a currency with such an attractively high exchange rate that it is guaranteed to transform all of your wildest fantasies of world travel into realistic and achievable goals, while motivating you to get started on your dream journey right away.

In order to understand the system, you need to first be aware that there is a particular Thai woman who runs a simple food stall located at the corner of Chakrapong Road and Soi Rambutri in Bangkok. This kind lady never stops cooking as she spends her days and nights dishing out tasty, generous plates of pad thai to a constant line of customers. One plate of her out-of-this-world pad thai costs a mere 15 baht (44 US cents).

Now, with that knowledge in mind, let’s return to shopping. Whenever I’m about to make a non-travel related purchase, the internal debate inside my head goes something like this:

‘Should I buy those sneakers? They’re only $65. I don’t know. For that amount of money I could feast on 140 plates of my favorite pad thai in Bangkok!’

Crazy, I know. I could eat for four and a half months in Thailand just by keeping the perfectly good sneakers I already have and saving $65! It blows my mind every time!

If you need to buy a new camera, think twice before spending $400. Buy a perfectly good camera for $200 and you now have enough money left over for 444 plates of pad thai as you travel around Southeast Asia.

Too many of us think that world travel is simply impossible or that it requires an amount of money that we simply don’t have. This just isn’t true.

The money is there, you just need to re-arrange your spending habits. And that is exactly what the Currency of Pad Thai forces potential world travelers to do. You will forever be reminded of how far your money can take you in foreign lands, motivating you to eliminate some of the unnecessary purchases you regularly make so that you can start traveling as soon as possible.

Perhaps you need further inspiration than just pad thai. Luckily, I have a solution. I often use another, much bolder, value comparison system that works with remarkable success. It is known as the Currency of Nights in Bangladesh. This system is not for the faint-hearted and it has its roots in the 42 taka (60 US cents) I once spent for a hotel room in Bangladesh (not the most luxurious of accommodations, but a bed nonetheless).

Let’s take another look at those $65 sneakers. We already know that $65 can buy 140 plates of pad thai, but here’s the shocker…it will also get you 108 nights of accommodation in Bangladesh. You could backpack around this land of tea fields, monkey-filled jungles, friendly villages, Sundarban mangrove forests and the Chittagong hill tracts for three and a half months by avoiding one simple purchase!

Here’s another example. When I bought my Sony Vaio laptop last year, I had to think twice before dishing out that kind of money. I couldn’t stop thinking about the 4250 plates of pad thai (enough for 3 meals per day for 4.5 years!) I was giving up or the 3225 nights in Bangladesh (yes, almost a decade!) I could have enjoyed for that money.

I would imagine that some of you are thinking ‘why would anyone even want to go to Bangladesh in the first place or eat so much pad thai?’ Those are indeed reasonable thoughts, but they are not relevant to the overall purpose here.

‘Pad Thai’ and ‘Nights in Bangladesh’ can be whatever you want them to be. They can be activities in Europe, hotels in Bangkok or bottles of local wine in Chile. I happen to love pad thai and third-world backpacking, so that is what personally motivates me, but there are an infinite number of choices…

Take a look at these typical expenses of life in the ‘real world’ and what a budget traveler could do with that kind of money while on the road:

$10,000 new car = 22,222 plates of pad thai or 16,666 nights in Bangladesh (yes, 45 years)

$1,200 furniture set = 5 weeks of accommodation, food and transport in South Africa

$375 barbecue grill = flight from NYC to Costa Rica

$199 watch = 10 nights of budget hotels in Eastern Europe

$145 cell phone = 3 days of accommodation, meals and travel in Turkey

$99 shoes = 6-month visa, 7 nights of decent hotels & a meal at my favorite restaurant in Delhi

$65 spent at a nightclub = 3-day/ 2-night boat trip around several remote islands in Thailand

$50 to fill up your car with gas = 3 nights in Buenos Aires

$35 bottle of wine = one week in a bungalow on a white sand beach in Indonesia

$4 cup of coffee = 9 plates of pad thai or 7 nights in Bangladesh

Just think about those numbers – if you eliminate 4 cups of coffee in one month, you would save enough money for four weeks of budget accommodation in Bangladesh or 36 plates of pad thai. Not to mention a train journey across India, 2 days of surfboard rental in Mexico, a wine tasting tour in Argentina, entrance fees to the Pyramids of Giza or a night in Prague. Just from $16 saved!

Imagine the results from eliminating your $30/month landline, sushi takeout three times a week, unnecessary clothes and a few random gadgets that you don’t really need anyway…you’ll be on that plane to paradise before you know it.

The point is – if you really want to travel, you can.

All you have to do is stay focused on the pad thai.

*Please share your comments below and let me know what methods you use to motivate yourself to save money for travel…

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