Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Why travel should be a tax deduction

It's tax time once again.

Normally I don't mind my annual visit to accountant Greg (such an accountant name) to have my tax done as I usually get a little bit back.  Though I always enter his office with the slight concern that I might have to pay even more tax.

This was the case a few years ago when some capital gains left me with a nasty surprise to pay.   Judging by his complete lack of reaction, Greg had seen tearful taxpayers before.

And it is about this time each year I feel like my travel really should be classed as a tax-deductable education expense.

A class in Hue, Vietnam, but the kids teach travellers a lesson
After all, is there any better teacher of history, culture, places, geography and human behaviour than travel?   And I'd like to think that travel helps make us all slightly better and more useful global citizens who can look a little further than the back fence.

I'm happily a student of travel with hopefully a long way to go before "graduation".  To prove it, here are 10 sometimes contradictory things I've learnt so far from travel:

1.  Same same, but different
Regardless of whether you're in a village in Cambodia, city in India or hamlet in England, it's pretty amazing how when we get together in groups and communities we tend to do the same things: talk, eat, laugh, play, hope, cry, share and create.

2.  Life's a lottery and it's a matter of geography
Chances are your religion, what you wear, what you eat and even your life expectancy have all been shaped by your geography rather than any conscious decision on your part.  Be grateful for what you have as you could probably be a whole lot worse off.  

3.  There are a lot of us
I'm usually reminded of this fact when I'm boarding a plane to some unusual destination and I've convinced myself I will have the plane to myself as who else would be heading there?   Needless to say, the plane is packed and clearly there are a lot of people in the world.   Visits to some Asian, Indian and European cities also confirm this.

4.  It 'ain't easy being vegetarian
Travelling with a vegetarian friend through Germany (possibly one of the most carnivorous countries) made me realise how difficult it can be to meet different dietary requirements when travelling.  Thankfully I'll eat most things - which is just as well as often you don't have a lot of choice when travelling.

A classroom in rural India
5.  My travel experiences would have been different if I wasn't a white, male Australian  
I've come to realise that being a white male from Australia  has allowed me the freedom to have fairly untroubled travel experiences so far.   I'm reminded that in some destinations, women and people from other countries or ethic backgrounds might not have such a great time or receive the same treatment.

6.  Some people shouldn't travel
At a Moroccan hotel last year, I began talking to a group of Australian and New Zealand travellers.  Surprisingly, not only could they not tell me where they had just been in Morocco or where their next destination was, but they also had no intention of leaving the pool to discover the beautiful town they were currently in.   It begged the question why they left home in the first place.   Cheap beer is less cheap when a European airfare is added in.

Learning new things while travelling

7.  You're nowhere without a map
On one of my first trips overseas I was unexpectedly left in Bangkok for the day without a map.   I had absolutely no idea where I was or what I really saw, though I know there was an Emerald Buddha and Reclining Buddha in there somewhere.  I learnt my lesson.

8.  Small fish, very big ocean
Sometimes I get anxious before going on holidays, feeling I'm leaving others in the lurch or that maybe "everything" will collapse in my absence.  But the world does keep turning and life goes on well after I've boarded the plane.   This reminds us me that we are all small fish in a very big ocean and that very few things in life are worth worrying about.

Mahatma Gandhi, just one of the world's many teachers

9.  No one cares what your food looks like so stop posting pictures on Facebook
This one speaks for itself.

10.  Australia isn't the best place in the world...
... but it isn't the worst either.  People who claim Australia is the best place in the world have usually never left it, or have travelled with tainted perceptions and a hint of arrogance.  Most countries have their positives and their negatives.

What have you learnt from travel?

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