“In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself”
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] recently saw something somewhere that was a simple phrase that really hit home. It said “Collect moments, not things” and it really resonated with me. When I was little we didn’t travel a ton growing up. We would take road trips but not crazy vacations. My parents didn’t have a ton of money when we were little. We would go to Minnesota and Wisconsin a lot but my first time on a plane was when I headed to Mexico for almost a month one summer for school. I wouldn’t say I was an avid traveler by any means after that. My sister moved to Arizona so I started flying more to see her but it really wasn’t until 3 or 4 years ago I was traveling much more than I ever have in my life.
When I was in my mid 20’s I was doing pretty well for myself. I finally had a nice paying “big girl” job. I had broken up with my ex-boyfriend and for the first time was on my own living by myself (something I tell everyone under the age of 28 or younger that they HAVE to do before they ever get married!) and I was saving a TON of money. I had a financial advisor at the time that was roughly my age and made probably double what I did but she also didn’t do much. She worked all the time. 8-8 most days and then even on Saturdays. She didn’t have time to spend her money. She also didn’t have a lot of vacation time so she didn’t travel much. I followed suit. I started saving a lot of money, but my “problem” was it was all tied up. I had a really high percentage going into a 401K, I had money going into an IRA, money into a life insurance fund, money into a money market that my advisor had control over so I had to ask when I wanted money out of it which prevented me from ever going to her because I felt “bad” when I wanted to use my own money. Most of this money though was not liquid. It was for retirement. I couldn’t touch it without paying the IRS a HEFTY fee if I wanted to. Which we all need right? Pensions are a thing of the past. We are in control of our own retirements now so I understand the principal and knew it was something I had to do. The bad thing was, I felt strapped for cash! I was making a good living, didn’t have a ton of debt (car payment, student loan payment but that’s about it) and I seriously felt like I was living paycheck to paycheck. It was awful. It wasn’t until I got another new job that included a substantial pay raise did I finally feel financially comfortable and that was when I was 29!
My girlfriend my age (I’m sorry my “I-will-not-mention-your-name-friend”, I forgot, you are really 27!) had been to Europe like 5 times already at this point in her life. I was inspired. I finally had some money and I was turning, SIGH, thirty! Her and I planned to take my first European vacation for my birthday. I always said Spain, Greece and Italy were my 3. We decided on Spain and it was such a great trip! We hit up 4 cities in 10 days, went to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, partied like 19 year olds in Ibiza, suntanned on the beaches of Barcelona and went to a Flamenco show after a tapas and wine stroll in Madrid. I could honestly say that was still to this day one of the best birthdays I have ever had (and paid for it for a solid 2 days after!).
When I came back from that trip in my mind I planned to go to Europe again and try to make it every other year. I then started yoga teacher training 6 months after my return. I knew things would change when I took teacher training. I guess I just didn’t know HOW much my outlook on life would change. I started realizing how I really have not lived in the moment. I was so focused on my future self that I forgot to have my eyes open right now. I was always thinking about the next thing. Whether it be my next position at work, my next trip, whatever it was, I was forgetting to live TODAY. I realized I didn’t have a balance between the present and the future.
This might not be the best advice, so don’t take it as advice, you are just reading MY story, so do with it what you will. I decided I was saving too much money in accounts I couldn’t access for a really long time. I also have a financial background. Am I a financial planner? No. But I learned enough to know what basics to do to save money. Could my 401K be making more, sure, couldn’t ALL of ours? I ended my relationship with my planner and lowered my monthly contributions (which is still a nice respectable amount and probably higher than most people) and saved money to do what I wanted to do! Which included traveling and traveling LOTS. I decided to have a balance between the life that I have right here, right now and making the best of that as well as saving for the future.
My every other year trip was coming up in 2014 and my Greek friend takes his nieces and nephews to their “motherland” when they graduate from high school. We knew for years that one would be graduating in 2014. I was looking forward to this trip since meeting my friends after they returned the last time someone had graduated. When I met my husband and we were dating I had flat out told him, “I am not sure what YOU are doing, but I am going, even if I have to go without you”. When he got his bonus from work and tax returns he handed me a check and told me to plan our vacation. We went to Greece in 2014 and he actually proposed while we were there. All of our travels even inspired our destination wedding in Italy this past summer. I knocked out my “3” and went to Europe 3 out of 4 summers. I have learned so much from my trips. I come home after each one with a new outlook on the way I live my life.
I am now out of vacation time which makes me sad. I have a few long weekends planned here and there but when 2016 starts I get a new set and am getting so excited to plan my vacations. I have never been a huge shopper. I actually HATE trying on clothes and going to the mall. I am pretty practical. Yes, I have shoes, jewelry and purses like any other girl but I probably have half of what most have. My yoga teachings and practice has taught me that it doesn’t matter how many possessions you have. Your possessions will not make you happy. Money doesn’t even make you happy. Yes, it might afford you a nice lifestyle but you can have all the money in the world and be alone and miserable. It’s not about possessions, it’s about your experiences. My “shopping” is traveling. I might not have anything in my closet to show for it but I wouldn’t trade my experiences for a purse ever. I read that traveling is the one thing that you buy that makes you richer. I could not agree more.
My “advice” to you is live.this.moment. Do all the things you “want” to do. Don’t wait until you are retired to travel and go on that dream vacation. Your life might change by then and you might not be able to make that trip. When you are at a concert or a game, put your phones down. Enjoy the LIVE game or music instead of trying to take a picture or video to upload to Instagram or Facebook. When you are at dinner with friends make a “no phone” rule. Make memories and wake up and be present EVERY.DAY. You never know when that chance will come to an end.