Forgive me in advance, this post is a little goofy. I was hoping this would be a Travel Triangle™ but that didn't quite work so Travel Square it is. This is something I came up with when I was winging across Asia a few years ago. I'd often find myself debating over another night in a flea-bitten hostel or to splurge on a decent hotel if I needed a break. Granted not all hostels would qualify as "flea-bitten," many are quite nice. Nice or not, they are by default more adventurous than any hotel because you get to meet weirdos from all over the world, someone might try and steal all your shit, and you might be subjected to the joy of listening to strangers having sex mere feet from you.
Hotels on the other hand, are relatively comfortable, the food tends to be better, and they're often in better areas with better access to the stuff you came to do. But they're often BORING compared to the relative thrill of a scummy hostel, sleeping on the beach, or a couch surf. You will be safe and comfy locked away in your private hotel room but speaking from a lot of experience, you'll probably not meet interesting people and go on adventures with them. If you want adventure, you need to get out of your comfort zone.
I started thinking of this simple way to visualize the constant interconnectedness of safety & comfort, adventure, and expenditure while traveling. All are important in their own way. Your ideal trip might be one where you don't spend a fortune on hotels so you can spend it on ATV riding, shooting machine guns, and bungee jumping into ravines using ancient, rusting harnesses. Or maybe your idea of adventure is just not spending any money at all. You have $1500 cash, half of which you spent on a one way ticket to Bangkok. Now you have to not just survive but eventually get back home on dwindling funds, much of which has already evaporated on Ping Pong shows and betting on Muay Thai. Fun!
Or conversely, perhaps you just want to spend the morning frolicking in your 800 threadcount sheets, then having a leisurely brunch with a bit of the "local flare" like hummus instead of the usual brioche and espresso. When you're good and ready, the concierge will call your personal driver who will spend the next two or three hours showing you the sights and being clever to ensure his tip, getting you back just in time for sunset cocktails on the rooftop lounge.
In other words, everyone will have their own idea of what constitutes a great trip and they will all be wildly different.
Here is my idea of A Well Balanced Trip. And notice I didn't say vacation. In my opinion, vacations suck, trips are awesome. Trips mean traveling, moving forward, encountering the unknown, and growing. Vacation means spending a shit load of money and coming home broke and disappointed. This diagram shows a nice balance between safety & comfort and adventure, and expenditure at a level that's neither slumming it nor breaking the bank.
As you can see, you start pushing the red dot around and the dynamics of the trip changes drastically.
Let's start looking at some—
The Gap Year Backpacker—seeing the world with change jingling in your pocket. Though not necessarily age specific! Backpackers come in all ages and socio-economic levels.
Compare the Backpacker to the next step in this direction. What I call "Gone Native." We travelers know the type instantly. You show up in some tiny village in the middle of nowhere and hey, there's a white guy in a loin cloth! And what an odd accent he has despite after some cajoling you learn that he's actually from Nebraska.
Gone Native—probably the most adventurous. Definitely the cheapest. Careful though, this guy went native in Himachal Pradesh and then vanished without a trace.
Here's pretty much the opposite—Neither fun, nor adventurous, nor all that cheap for matter—Your Parent’s Time Share
Here's another fun one—Packing The Kids Into The Van And Taking Them To An Amusement Park
I don't know because I don't have kids but I imagine you won't be very comfortable though you will spend a shit load of money. The kids might like it if you can get them off their smart phones.
Here are a few more—
The Savvy, Slightly Conservative Solo Traveler
A Meditation Retreat In A Western Style Wellness Center aka Fake Meditation in A Hotel!
A Meditation Retreat With The Locals
Budget Vacation In Cancun
Not every kind of trip can be well represented by the Square. For example, super high end adventure travel in the lap of luxury doesn't really fit into the model. For example—
Luxury Caribbean Adventure Vacation (Surf Lessons, Paragliding, Etc.)
Here's an even tougher one—
A Chartered Luxury Yacht To Antartica Accompanied By A DJ And Your Beautiful Friends
I guess it's equal parts luxury and adventure so it sort of works. It would definitely be insanely expensive. This one also has the real chance of death or bodily injury, so is definitely qualifies as adventure.
The truth is "adventure" is totally subjective. "Safety & Comfort" is as well as is the notion as to what's cheap or expensive for that matter. Of course it's also possible to spend a whole lot of money and get jack shit! In that case, you suck at travel. Better stay home.