Amazing Race winners: what to do with the money?

This article contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen the finale, please do not read this.

The answer to “Now what?” of TK Eriwn and Rachel Rosale’s Amazing Race million dollar win is travel first. Rachel is taking some time off and they are hitting the road with a hefty sum even though savings is part of their idea as well. I’ve done some imagining to see how the dollar amounts might work out. Each won $500,000. Let’s say taxes take $200,000–maybe less, but for these purposes, let’s work with $300,000 remaining. With $300,000 for each person what would you do? Both Rachel & TK did say they are going to travel. Since they are getting along so famously, they’re going to travel together. Rachel also said she is going to do some work on her house, buy a few new outfits and save the rest for later. TK already got a haircut.

Let’s say Rachel decided to save $100,000 in some sort of aggressive funds. She’s young so she can do that. Risk taking is on her side. In 8 years or so, she’ll have $200,000. In 16 years, $300,000. In 24 years, at age 46, she’ll have $600,000, and by the time she’s 52, if all goes well, she’ll have over $1,200.00. By 60, over two million. That’s if she doesn’t touch that $100,000. That strategy could give her a very sweet deal for later travel. But, that’s later; this is now.

Let’s talk about the remaining $200,000. Even if they each spent $50,000 on travel over the course of a few years, providing she rents out her house so someone else is paying the mortgage, what a great time they could have.

As a budget traveler, I’ve tended to stay in two-star hotels unless at a conference where the conference hotel has a terrific deal and my employer has helped pay. We did spring for the Westin in Taipei once. This is a honey of a hotel and well worth the money for a treat, but in general, we don’t stay in our rooms much when we’re traveling, so paying for elegance is wasted on us, but in some places elegance does come cheap. In India, even if one stays in a former Raj palace, such as a Grand Heritage Hotel, something I highly recommend, the chances of spending over $100 for a wonderful room is not going to happen. I should amend that this is funky, historical, artsy wonderful–not plush linen, a bed fit for a king, and fine china wonderful. I went to Neemrana twice.

Besides staying in a Raj style hotel, here are three other suggestions for Rachel and TK based on my most deluxe trips.

Pack mule trip to Ladakh: The most expensive trip I ever took was a pack mule trip to Ladakh where each grouping of people had their private guide who made sure stragglers didn’t wander off into the hills, or if blisters were too unbearable, he had the means for doing some doctoring. The mules carried our stuff and there were cooks along to prepare wonderful vegetarian meals three times a day. They also made tea and gave us snacks. I’d suggest a trip like this one to TK & Rachel. They could do a private trip with two mules and one guide and a cook. Don’t give up the cook and don’t give up the guide. What’s the point of all that money if you’re on a mountain in Ladakh trying to breath and cook dinner? Better let someone else whip up a delicious dahl and rice dish. The guide is a necessity because this is a place of trails that head off in every direction without destination makers pointing the way. (Here’s a detailed account of someone else’s trip published in The Seattle Times three years ago. I bet the prices are not that much more.)

Cycling in Western Australia: Another wonderful trip I took was an everything included cycling trip in Western Australia. That lasted for 9 days, but didn’t cost me a cent. I went along as a chaperone for high schoolers–mostly 9th grade boys. Let’s just say, I more than paid my way fair and square. If anything, I wouldn’t have minded if someone had slipped me a $20 for my efforts of staying cheerful and upbeat. For Rachel and TK, they’ll have the added bonus of being able to buy beer in one of the many pubs in Freemantle. Chaperones weren’t allowed to drink, so I only gazed into the pubs with small whimpers of I can’t believe I’m in Freemantle with all these great pubs and a slew of adolescent males. (Here’s a previous post. There are links to companies that do such trips.)

Antique Rice Barge Cruise in Thailand: If TK and Rachel have a feel for romance, they should take a rice barge cruise in Thailand. The one I took with my husband, dad and daughter (our theme was not romance) was one night complete with gourmet meals, tropical drinks and a full moon. The trip went from outside of Bangkok, including Ayuthaya and traveled along the river back into the city. Watching life awaken along the river as the sun came up was quite special. A warning though. The trip included a visit to a temple where we gave gifts to a monk who sprinkled water on us. It was part of a holy day. I got very unexpectedly pregnant right after. Perhaps there’s no correlation, I’m just saying. Okay, maybe there was some romance.

What advice do you have for TK and Rachel for how to use their travel money wisely, but with style?