top of page

7 Financial Lessons I learnt travelling 1900km to surprise my girlfriend for Valentine's Day

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

It’s 5am, 25th of February. I’m stranded in the airport in Bangkok as I’m typing this out.

Money Maverick’s (limited) rep as a Financial Consultant comes primarily from 3 things:

1) Truthful and technical knowledge

2) A near-complete lack of bedside manner

3) Working really, really long hours

I modelled my style after my brother – who crushed every level of academia by working like a demon.

As a result - my clients think I work 100 hours a day, and that’s pretty much what I want them to think.

To be fair, most of the time it’s kind of true. It’s said you never work a day in your life if you love what you do, and for the most part – I do. Especially on this trip, I realized how mentally stimulating (and thus enjoyable) it is to work.

But I hit a breaking point a couple of weeks ago when I realized that for the first time in our relationship, I wouldn’t be celebrating Valentine’s Day and my birthday on the day itself.

Valentine's Day, 2017. Cooked for her (thanks for the assist Mum). Continues to remain 1 out of 3 things I can actually cook.

I had been working almost non-stop since October 2018 and even then, that particular break I was sick, so I hadn’t actually mentally rested properly since August. I was already a little burnt out, and the realization made me even more miserable.

Valentine's 2018. Couple Rings.

So despite sales going pretty well at the time, I couldn’t take it anymore and dropped my boss a message, asking to take leave on the week after Valentine’s (unfortunately, I had made too many commitments on the actual week itself – but that also meant she’d never see me coming!)

Some Context

Now you might be thinking – Why is he making such a big deal of a visit to see his own girlfriend?

Well, my girlfriend was/is going through quite a few personal changes in her life that are keeping her extremely busy. She couldn’t afford to leave her family at this crucial time.

The problem for me was that usually she kind of meets me halfway when I visit her in Thailand.

It could be Bangkok, or Phuket, or a quaint mid-way area called Surat Thani. But I’d never travelled to her hometown without her assistance before.

That green highlight is about 200km. Or so.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Just for example:

1) The more rural the area, the harder it is to attain reliable transport

2) Statistically, crime rates are higher in rural areas

3) Even if it wasn’t as far as a crime on paper, a foreigner (that’s me) in a non-tourist area without a local guide (ie: my girlfriend) was basically just begging to get scammed one way or the other

And by the way, these were not conclusions I drew.

These were conclusions SHE drew way back in the first 3 months of our relationship, when I offered to visit her parents to show I was serious, and she had to escort me for 7 hours from Phuket to her doorstep.

That’s 14 hours of travel for her and half of it was by her lonesome, which I thought was even more dangerous.

But really – it had been almost 2 and a half years since the first time.

Couldn’t I do it?

Wouldn’t she be thrilled, if I took the effort to show up all the way at her doorstep from mine – and gave her flowers for a (belated) Valentine’s?

Lesson 1: Time is Money

I already knew that I had a crazy hectic schedule in late February and March, so I had to shift around a bunch of appointments and book flights asap.

Nothing went smoothly.

And some clients will be harder to follow up with a whole week after the first meet up (statistically speaking, within the 5th day a client has forgotten 90% of what we talked about. There’s actual research on this phenomenon in classroom teaching, for example).

Favorable flights did not always have favorable costs, and I was only willing to shell out that money for the prospect of having a few more hours with her.

Time isn’t just money in the sense of thing being more expensive as a tradeoff.

There’s plenty of opportunity cost too, and we tend to forget that when we put off things. Had I started this process earlier, it could have cost me less, both in terms of money and opportunity.

Take investing as an example. A 7% dividend fund makes 140 times the interest that a savings account makes.

In less than 3 days, it makes more money than the savings account does for the entire year.

Putting off a decision to invest costs you a lot.

For insurance, the potential consequences for procrastination are far worse.

Lesson 2: Security costs Money

I opted to take two flights from Singapore to Surat Thani, instead of one flight from Singapore to Phuket because even though the travel time was roughly equivalent, I only needed to secure two bus rides instead of 4.

Public transport when you don’t know the language can be a doozy. I didn’t want to take that chance.

It cost about another $50.

Lesson 3: Kindness is Priceless

I left my home at about 6.30am.

15 hours of travel later: using a car ride, a train ride, two flights, two bus rides and about two and a half miles of walking (due to getting lost) - I was carrying a large heart shaped pillow and chocolates and all my luggage scouring the village for a hotel or her house, whichever I could find first.

This was the part of the plan which I anticipated the most difficulty. In Phuket and Surat, you can rent a motorcycle.

Here, I could not. I had to walk. And her home in the village was not easy to find in the dark, exhausted and hungry and carrying heavy things like gifts and stuff.

I was getting very dizzy when I saw a light up ahead, like a mirage.

How strange. This area didn’t look rural at all. There was a security camera above a glass window, next to a door. I jogged up to it frantically.

“Hey!” I yelled, throat parched and a little delusional. “Is this a hotel?”

It was not. Also, the owner had no idea what I was saying since he didn’t speak English.

But it WAS a villa, thankfully. Not the glamorous kind, but a villa nonetheless.

Valentine's 2019. From the inside of my villa. In the jungle, the mighty jungle...

What happened next was taking out my 20% battery phone and using Google Translate. Things got much better once I showed him a photo of me and my girlfriend – she’s pretty well known for her charity locally, especially with looking after the neighborhood kids, his included.

10 minutes later, the owner dropped my stuff into a cozy room and kindly rode me out to see my girlfriend in style – heart pillow and chocolates in hand.

My girlfriend was at the porch with her niece, and her eyes widened as I got off the bike.

Turns out, I had only been one good right or left turn away from her and just a few hundred meters from the villa – I just couldn’t see in the dark. The owner gave me a thumbs up and a big grin before riding back.

I don’t know the owner’s name - but I know the villa name, and every single time I’m there in the future where I’ll be staying. Good service is priceless. And appreciating, encouraging that good service begets more of it.

Lesson 4: The little things are worth paying for.

The next 6 days were not exactly bursting with relationship magic. She was very busy running around for her brother, her mum, her dad and her niece. It was 3 whole days before my departure - but I had already read all the books and done all the work I had brought.

I had not gotten a romantic moment alone with her since I arrived, and it was beginning to get pretty lonely.

But it was childish to think only of myself, especially since I had come uninvited whilst she had responsibilities.

There was a slightly more expensive room in the villa, and I decided to buy that after several nights in my previous room, moving over. It had a better view, overlooking a little pond, a TV and a fridge.

Such things didn’t really matter to me, but I knew from experience that she liked them.

Whatever little time she had to spend with me, she could now have a cold drink and we could have a few quiet moments feeding the fish while her niece had a bigger, colder bed to play on.

It cost only about $5 a night more, and I could tell she was a little happier.

Lesson 5: Punctuality is a value.

All values are Financially Quantifiable. This means that you can literally put a price on a value you display.

Imagine if you showed up for every single meeting in your life perfectly on time.

What a message that would send to your friends, family, colleagues and potential employers!

I’d be willing to bet good money that across your lifetime, that impression would be worth tens of thousands of dollars, easily.

Conversely, yours truly missed my connecting flight – I had a delayed flight from Surat Thani to Bangkok (Domestic) and I was supposed to get my flight from Bangkok to Singapore. Thanks to the flight delay, it never happened.

Unfortunately, there are no such excuses in the working world.

This is how I ended up writing an article at 5am in the morning, in a Bangkok airport at a 24 hour Burger King. Consequences for failure.

Yummy breakfast at least.

Lesson 6: Supply and Demand is no joke.

I needed two things now – a new flight and a place to sleep before the new flight took off.

Obviously, a last-minute flight is a little more expensive than one which you booked weeks in advance. As the number of seats approaches zero, the probability of adding one more zero to the back of your bill becomes higher.

The most outrageous supply-and-demand effect I got to witness was this place called Sleeep Box (correct spelling). It’s like one of those airport hotels.

This was taken moments before the crowd arrived. A huge crowd.

Every hour costs 500baht (about $22), and the cost for a shower was separate too ($13).

Yet people in my shoes were queuing up in droves. Amazing business.

For context – the villa I had stayed in costs 500baht per night.

Sleeep Box costs 500 baht per HOUR.

2400% inflation is not appealing to me at all, but such is supply and demand.

Lesson 7: People get really creative when you back them into a corner

I’ve often said that Robert Kiyosaki’s ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ is a stepping stone.

It’s a good entry for people to the financial world, but its lessons become hard to take seriously after a certain point.

Still, one of the lessons I keep on me is an example he gave about commitment – if you force yourself to save before spending, you’ll find some way to manage the rest of your expenses on whatever is left over. Somehow.

You’ll get creative: find ways to cut down on expenses in a manner you didn’t think possible, find an additional source of income, etc.

This is psychologically and statistically true, and it’s one of the principles I encourage clients with. If a family tragedy happens while your emergency fund is simultaneously wiped out and a meteor hits the planet – well, you get the idea.

It’s bad, but people get really creative when you back them into a corner. Really, really creative.

Improvise. Adapt. Prepare for a lot of clothes washing.

We find ways to overcome adversity much more efficiently when it is almost unfairly forced upon us.

And when you have a Financial Planner like myself in your corner as a trainer, a waterboy and serious backup, you can come out swinging hard. And you’ll be financially stronger than you were yesterday.

It’s 6.20 am now – I’ve been writing for almost an hour half. Not too shabby.

I love writing about money and working with money. I really do.

Money is really just an expression of your labor, and your labor is often an expression of your experiences, and you use your money to get more experiences.

And experiences give you a great life. Not necessarily a comfortable life – but a pretty great one. That’s all you should ever accumulate money for – to spend it on purposeful experiences.

Like trying to surprise your girlfriend.

I hope you enjoyed my story.

Money Maverick

120 views0 comments


bottom of page