I just returned from 10 days in the Caribbean, where I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. This wedding felt surreal because the bride and I were together when she met her future husband.
They met three years ago. She and I were trekking in the Himalayas. My bum knee was slowing me down, so she reached the hut below Annapurna Base Camp several hours before I did. By the time I limped into camp, she and a tall, tanned Frenchman were tangled in each others arms.
They became inseparable from that moment on. We lost track of each other within a few days — I ventured south to India, they headed north to Tibet.
Eighteen months later, we reconvened in Central Australia to swap travel stories. We followed the same basic path — a wide loop across Southeast Asia, followed by a jaunt down to Australia — but our timing had always been a few months off. They would enter a country as I was leaving, or vice versa.
Yet we shared a bond from experiencing the same places and enduring the highs and lows of our distinct lifestyle. We carried our lives in our backpacks. We had no jobs, no home, no car. Only a map and a limitless imagination.
Another year passed by. I returned to the U.S. after two and a half years of overseas vagabonding. They moved to the Caribbean, where they work at an upscale pizza restaurant. When I flew to their wedding last week, we swapped stories.
“I mean, I write about how to live the life you want,” I said. Their faces brightened. The guy gave a slight nod.
“I write about how to use money to create your ideal lifestyle,” I said. “I write about cutting crap costs so you can spend lavishly on what you love most.”
The French groom smiled. His English is now smooth, solid, after three years of dating my American friend.
“Everyone asks how I could afford to travel for three years,” he said. “Once you decide to do it, it’s easy.”
How Could You Afford It?
When acquaintances hear how much we travel, they assume we’re rich. Or in debt. Or both.
These same friends don’t bat an eye when someone:
- Buys a new car. I don’t care if it’s “just” a Honda Civic. Those cost $15,800 new.
- Enrolls in grad school. Price tag: $40,000 or more.
- Buys a home. Notice that a 20 percent down payment on a $250,000 home requires $50,000.
But as soon as you spend a fraction of the cost of graduate school on an unconventional life — an exceptional life — questions and assumptions start popping out of the woodwork.
That doesn’t make sense.
If a new car is your deepest desire — if every morsel of your soul yearns for a brand-new Honda Civic — then by all means, buy one.
But if you dream of quitting your job, selling your car, packing your life into a backpack, and buying a one-way ticket to Egypt, cut ruthlessly in other areas of your life to make it happen.
Ignore Convention. Spend on Your Dreams.
It’s not hard to “give up” driving a nice car or living in a chic apartment. None of these so-called sacrifices are tough. You trade a few creature comforts for a life-changing experience
The year before I set out on my trip, I lived in a microscopic studio. I could wash the dishes while touching my bed. I’m not exaggerating. I could stand at the kitchen sink, kick one leg backwards, and rest my foot on the top of my mattress.
My Toyota had no seat belt. It was almost 25 years old, with 285,000 miles on it, and the fibers on the seat belt wore through. The rust hollowed out sections of the door. Snow blew onto my lap through rusty gaps as I drove. In hindsight, driving it wasn’t the safest decision.
But my bank balance was climbing at a frightening pace. Every month — heck, every week — I’d watch it scale higher and higher. It reached an amount with which I’d be comfortable traveling for one year. Then it doubled.
I was free. And what had I sacrificed? A car that’s a great conversation piece? A studio apartment that was perfect for cozy nights in?
I traded the mundane for the exceptional. And my life has never been the same.
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