Some would argue that we have everything we need in our own backyard and, for those some, that may be true. If you have had the great honor of meeting your mate, having a child, and/or retiring in a home you love with a community you are involved in, you very well may have won the game of life and may not feel the need to search further. You have cultivated your own utopia and are completely content with your surroundings. If that is you, I give you my sincerest congratulations. I, on the other hand, am not quite there. My seeds are still being sowed. 🙂
Last week I tweeted about my gypsy soul and my homebody nature always being at odds with one another. From the responses, it seems I am not alone. This is a constant battle I fight within myself. While I appreciate all that I have, my ideas for utopia and my reality are not quite matched up. Some of that is work-related, a fair portion is timing, and some other shit I have brought on myself. I love the idea of “home” and being completely settled…I can even picture what it looks like in my head! But a life of contentment takes a certain amount of polishing. It takes time to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. It takes time to build that tribe around you. And it takes freedom to fully explore the ideal life outside of the glimpse you get before or after work.
All that being said, I can’t pretend that once I find “home” I won’t still be tempted to travel. Because travel does more for me and my insight than any book in the world can. I’m one of those weirdos who need to actually touch and feel something to have it make an impact.
While I don’t often write about my travels, they are always being planned or occurring behind the scenes. For someone who writes about money, that may seem counterproductive. And I get it. Travel takes money. Money that, for me, would otherwise be allocated to savings which in turn could bring me days, weeks, or years closer to financial independence (FI). So why do I do it?? Why do I sacrifice the financial gain for a series of adventures? To me, the answer is clear – because traveling brings me so much more than the experience of going someplace new. When you leave the safety net of “home” you are a child once again. You see things and gain the pleasure to experience different smells, sounds, and tastes that you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity. You get lost, get found, and gain knowledge from both. You test your boundaries, expand your horizons, and round out the edge that you have unintentionally set in your personal opinions. You grow.
Leaving home will certainly cost you money, but I can almost guarantee the return on investment will be a positive one.* To explain my gypsy side, I want to share with you 3 reasons why I choose to travel over FI in an effort to calm the nerves of some of you who may be struggling with the same issue.
#1 – Making New Friends
I have hiked all over Europe. I have hiked solo across Portugal and Spain several times, every time arriving in the same city. A city that feels like a home away from home even though each time I stumble into town the neighbors have changed but are always welcoming. I have hiked a different not so fabulous, terribly gruesome, and unmarked path through 5 countries with a group of complete strangers and, due to the challenges and triumphs such a hike entails, I made lifelong friends out of several of them (and a nemesis out of one…nobody’s perfect!). I volunteered in Thailand with a different group of fantastic people and came home with a few friends that, again, will be around for years to come (one whom I get to visit this weekend in Denver)! I went on a retreat earlier this year and met a tribe of people I instantly connected to, some of which put a mark on my heart not soon forgotten.
In all of those examples, camaraderie brought us together. A shared interest shared passion, and/or a shared struggle (for realz, that 5 country hike was a BEAST!). We knew nothing of each other when we arrived but shared sacred things about ourselves before our departure. It is amazing to see what happens when all your walls are down. Or when you are in survival mode. You never know what part of YOU has been hiding until you force it out with discomfort. ;),
BONUS! You get to visit your new friends in their hometowns and host them when they come to yours. From 1 night to 2 months my couch has been a bed for many.
Pushing yourself outside your own backyard gives you the opportunity to see what else is out there…who else is out there. If you are perfectly content with your life, your family, your friends, ask yourself how you got to where you are today. It wasn’t by staying in your own backyard. It wasn’t by never leaving the nest. Your parents pushed you out because they knew there was a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to those experiences.
#2 – Learning New Cultures & Appreciating Your Privilege
Leaving your own country gives you the chance to understand another countries issues far better than reading about them in the paper or on the internet.
When I met my ex-husband, I was enthralled by his background. Having grown up in Sarajevo, he witnessed his entire country fall to pieces…a devastation I can never imagine. Losing his father in the war and moving to the states soon after is incomprehensible. In my years with E, I learned a lot about his country, the faith he was brought up in (Muslim), and the political and economic issues his mother, sister, and the rest of his family constantly faced back home. In 2009, Russia cut off gas supplies during the height of winter leaving everybody to wonder how long they could go without. Can you freaking imagine??? Getting that call was complete insanity, but before I traveled there, these were only stories.
When I finally had the opportunity to step foot in Bosnia, my life was changed forever. Our relationship was changed forever. I had never seen anything like the destruction I saw there. My American mind wondered why they wouldn’t rebuild. Why they didn’t fix what was broken. It took days to wrap my brain around an answer and with it I finally had a slight understanding what it meant to live the way he had. When we visited his father’s grave, surrounded by thousands of other men who died fighting for their country, I gained a small bit of perspective on what it meant to lose the way he had. When I saw the bullet holes scattered on the face of the buildings and the crumbling divots formed by mortar shells in the streets, still there 15 years later, I learned what it meant to have a country completely under siege for five years and how much pain and suffering that came with it. I also understood that I would never understand completely.
On the volunteer trip in Chiang Mai, I worked at an elephant sanctuary and gained an insane amount of knowledge on all things elephant. While there I swore an oath that I would do my part to educate others on the perils of elephant rides, circus acts, logging industry, and any other wild animal related “experiences” that tourists participate in that are largely harmful to these magnificent creatures. I also learned oodles about the Karen tribe, Mahouts, and Buddhism while visiting Thailand as well as Hong Kong. I learned to appreciate our advancements in plumbing. I learned what to eat and what not to eat (durian…never eat durian and, if you do, never ever bring it to your hotel room. Trust me.). I learned never to wear my bathing suit to hot springs or horrified looks ensue (my bad!). And I learned that I should never be afraid to explore a new country just because I don’t speak the language…there is so much you can communicate without the spoken word. I left Asia knowing I had only scratched the surface and the hope that I can return someday.
This year, in Cuba, I learned what it’s like to live in a communist country. To have to stand in line for supplies and food. To wait your turn in another line at the bank for your government stipend. To not have access to feminine hygiene products. To watch the young boys run after the water truck and stick their tongues under the leaking spout just to catch a few drops before the truck takes off again. Despite the fact that Cuba is surrounded by water, safe drinking water is scarce and treated as such. These are all issues that I have read about and pondered for moments, but I never had to endure. I came home with a higher sense of gratitude for the USA and the freedoms we are allowed as citizens.
Travel opens our eyes to the people we meet abroad…but it works both ways! I met a man on one of my hikes and after a couple hundred miles walking in sync, we soon became an item. For over a year we flew back and forth visiting each other’s countries and learning each other’s cultures. He taught me the difference between Spain and Catalan, all of the issues with their government and economy, and which of the coastal towns was the most authentic and unspoiled (that I’ll never tell). He taught me how to make paella, tortilla Espanola, and instilled my love of freshly grilled sardines. On the flip side, when he visited the states for the very first time, he learned a ton about my culture. n case you were wondering, yes, McDonald’s tastes the same here as it does in Barcelona. After expanding his palate with Chicago delights such as hot dogs and deep dish pizza, we moved on to other nuances. Try explaining to a 45-year-old Spanish man why people are walking around with coffee cups instead of sitting at a cafe for 2 hours to savor every drop. “Noooo…this is ridiculous!” Try explaining downtown Chicago and the hustle and bustle of a moderate 6% unemployment rate compared to the 35% his country was suffering at the time. As an engineer and no economic growth in sight, his job was included in that number. Seeing my world through his eyes gave me a greater appreciation for certain things and a definite yearning for others…culture being one of them.
BONUS!! You learn how to cook all new cuisines!
All this being said, you don’t have to board a plane and leave the country to gain new perspectives or widen your horizons. Volunteering your time outside of your house, even within your own community, can be an enriching experience. Heading to a nearby city works just as well! There are many ways to blow your mind out there. Pick one and move forward with it. See how other people live. Who knows, you might just find something new to bring back to your bubble! 🙂
#3 – Blowing the Stink Off
The type of travel I do does not usually fall under the “rest and relaxation” category. For people with high-stress jobs, I can definitely see the allure of laying on the beach or hitting the spa. You know, a vacation that you can mentally check out and unravel the physical stress of a 40+ hour week. Now, I am not a great candidate for laying out on a beach or going to the spa (unless I am getting paid for it by my company). But, believe me, no judgment. Just because I don’t value them, doesn’t mean they don’t have value. Relaxed people are happy people and those are the type I like to surround myself with. And while I can certainly see the enjoyment in a luxury vacation, I tend to get bored within a day or two of lazing about. Instead, I enjoy the type of travel that explores my unknowns and tests my boundaries. I get to a new destination and hit the ground running. There is no right or wrong way to relax, but it is important to do so. Getting out of your norm is necessary to blow the stink off your mind. That shit gets dusty if you aren’t careful.
As much I love exploring the world and all it has to offer like the people, the food, the hidden gems you never knew existed, I also love the way it feels to return back to the familiar…my dog, my bed, my family and friends. I think that is an amazing side benefit. What do you look forward to when coming home and what would you like to change??
Getting out and about is the perfect reset button. It gives you the chance to continue the cultivation of your home life. Take all the things you enjoyed about your travels and find a way to fit them inside your bubble. Adapt. Evolve. Expand your horizons.
BONUS!! Relaxing makes your mind open up in ways that nothing else can…breath.
I am extremely grateful for every bit of the life I have. Does that mean I shouldn’t want more? Does that mean I shouldn’t want different? After learning all of the above, you would think that would be enough for all that new gained perspective to stick. And some things do. I don’t use paper towels. I don’t waste food. I don’t eat meat (seriously, the greenhouse effects of factory farming are alarming!!). I walk as much as possible (even if it makes my friends chuckle..Fritz!). I advocate for animals and volunteer on behalf of them. I take time to gather people in my community who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to meet. But let’s be honest, despite our best intentions, we soon forget many of the things we have seen and learned. We go home to our creature comforts and forget about the struggles we faced mere days ago while on the road. Our new appreciations turn into old expectancy. We turn on the tap and water comes out. We go to the bathroom and have a plethora of toilet paper and tampons (or a Diva Cup for my environmentalist friends). We go to the grocery store and can pick out whatever delights tickle our fancy. Are we assholes for that? Not really. We forget because those struggles aren’t our reality. They are temporary hiccups in an otherwise smooth lifeline. So we go on about our lives until a few months later when you read something that inspires you to step back out into the world and do it all over again. Learn something new, see something different. For that, I am always willing to step back out.
With all this talk of travel and making friends, it is only fair that I share my schedule with you guys in hopes we can meet up! My work schedule varies, but these dates won’t… Here what’s on the horizon:
- Denver June 7-9 – As mentioned above I am meeting up with a friend I met volunteering in Thailand. She also happens to be a flight attendant! If you have any burning questions about our biz and are in the area shoot me an email! 🙂
- Portland August 18-20 – Lola Retreat. If you haven’t already heard, Lola Retreat is a 3 day Women & Finance type of event. I’m looking forward to the retreat and also getting to spend some time in Portland…I may even come a day early to explore!
- Dallas October 25-29 – FinCon.
- Budapest/Prague November 15-22 – If you have any tips, send em my way!
- Gainesville FL January 5-8 – Camp Mustache Southeast. Thanks to Gwen for giving me the heads up after week 2 was already full. 😉 Love ya, girl!
- POSSIBLE September 2018 trip to Peru. Machu Picchu has been on my Bucket List for years. I will be turning 40 next year so what better way to celebrate than to be among other ancient relics and ruins?
That’s it for me! Who else is going where??
Until next time…
* Please know that I am not advocating going into debt to travel the world. I believe there is plenty to gain from a fabulous vacation, however, to be paying for it years after seems counterproductive to what my goals are. There are plenty of opportunities beyond your back door. Volunteering is my go-to cheap vaca. Hiking is the other. That being said, you do you! 🙂