Tag Archives: Savings Plan

The Value Of A Dream

Finally, I’ve made it over the humps; both Wednesday and the halfway mark for planning this trip! I now officially have fewer days to wait, than I have waited so far. I have also surpassed the halfway point for my savings goal; I have just over 60% of the money I need, with plenty of time left to save the other half! It has been tough at times, just waiting and saving, and I am proud of the discipline that I have demonstrated to myself in this process. But honestly, my success thus far shouldn’t be attributed to pure will; it seems I have undergone a value shift.

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Value: relative worth, utility, or importance

I still make the same amount of money as before, but now, my money is so much more valuable to me. Before I started this project, I wouldn’t think twice about spending $30 or $40 on an outing of drinks and nachos with friends or $50 on a pair of pants or $10 on lunch while at work. But now, I see every dollar for its level of UTILITY while in Guatemala or Chile or Italy, the experiences I could have, the people I could meet, and the places I could go (I felt like Dr. Seuss just there). All of that is simply more IMPORTANT  to me than expanding my wardrobe (which I won’t be able to take with me anyway) or eating out at work. Today, the thought of wasting $50 on one pair of pants or $30 on drinks causes me actual anxiety. To others with greater means or different priorities, this may sound ridiculous. But for me, those things are just not worth that many of my precious dollars, and WORTH has become the very conscious and driving force behind every decision I make.

It’s not that I didn’t prioritize or selectively spend before I started planning for this trip. Afterall, I have always been somewhat of a minimalist in comparison to the people around me (I do without A/C, have never owned a smartphone or a television, for example), and work a second job so I can afford my most coveted luxury; at least 1 big adventure a year. But, I am comparing myself to other Americans, other New Yorkers, which isn’t saying much! So many people all around the world do without all the crap and excess that can clutter up our lives, and don’t seem to be combusting into a pile of dust on the floor. They live in modest sized homes, get around without an SUV for each member of the family and manage to satisfy their hunger without supersizing their meals. Still others make do with infinitely less than that. I want to be someone who doesn’t need stuff to be happy.

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I have often felt like I won’t ever have anything good in life because I have so much student debt that I will never earn a dollar that is truly mine. It seems like ownership of anything is out of the question and a comfortable retirement is equally as impossible. Sometimes I think to myself that I will be stuck in this stupid spiral forever. But, with these new value tinted glasses on, I am beginning to see new possibilities for my future. Now, the solution seems so obvious; if I live a life carefully aligned with what I value most, one well within, or even below, my means I might be able to slowly dig my way out of debt. If I don’t buy things I don’t need or rely on conveniences I can do without, maybe I’ll have a chance at owning something one day. Soo simple…

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Planning for this trip is what got me to change my habits and shift my perceptions of worth. It’s not something I expected to happen so easily, but now that I am in this place, I hope I can find a way to stay here for good. Next year will be one of exploration in every sense of the word; while I discover the world I will also be searching for ways I can live the simple, but beautiful life I want. Now that I have proven to myself that all I really need to change undesirable habits is a solid, achievable goal and the desire to make it happen no matter what, I will try to apply that lesson to other aspects of my life too. Still, right now, I don’t know how things will turn out, or where I will end up, or what I will do post SoleJourn, but things are looking up.  It’s all part of the adventure, right?

My Itinerary: An Updated Plan

While the waiting is my least favorite part, I have been enjoying the chance to really think about what I want to get out of this trip, what I want to do and see, and how to make sure it is all that I am dreaming of. As I have talked about in other posts, two of my biggest goals are to greatly improve my Spanish and to move and explore at my own pace, lingering or leaving as I see fit.

I have slowly been shaping an itinerary with these things in mind: 7 months in Central and South America and 2 months in Italy for a total of 9 months of travel. Ready to get down into more specifics about what towns and cities I want to visit in each place, I began to research Belize in-depth and realized I might have a bit of a problem- I could easily explore this tiny country forever, but had allotted about 3 weeks there in order to get through all of the countries I wanted to before heading to Europe. My plan also involved about 6 weeks of Spanish language school in Guatemala and 2 weeks exploring the rest of the country for a total of 8 weeks. This would mean that in 3 months I would have just made it out of the first two countries I’d hoped to visit with only 4 months to go and at least 10 countries left to see…typing this now it was clearly a terrible plan.  I was also realizing that this plan would plant me solidly in Argentina and Brazil in June and July, two of the coldest South American months- no bueno!

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So, I started thinking about how I could make some adjustments and bring my plan back into the realm of the reasonable. First, I tackled the length of my trip: I originally chose 9 months because I thought that with the money I spent on paying off my loans I would be restricted in the number of months I could really afford to spend out in the world. But, with some more strict cuts to my monthly spending (at this point I literally can’t cut anything else out) it looks like I may still be able to meet my original goal of $25,000 after all. Also, after re-evaluating, I decided that I don’t need as much money to come home to as I was originally planning to keep, and that it is safe to spend more of it on the road. So, I have now extended the length of my trip back to a little over 11 months.

Another important piece of the puzzle: my best friend is getting married in Spain in July of 2014! Obviously there is no way I am going to miss this. So, a new route is in order!

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After thinking it all through, I have now settled on an itinerary that takes care of almost all of my issues and leaves me with something I feel better about: I will still begin in Belize and make my way down through Central America to Ecuador. From here I will fly to Spain, then hit Italy while I’m already in the area. Once I am finished in Italy, I will fly back to Ecuador and finish the rest of South America! With this new plan:

  1. I will get 6 whole months in Central America and Ecuador allowing for the slower pace I have wanted. I will be able to linger in Belize for 4 weeks without losing out somewhere else.
  2. I will cut Spanish school in Guatemala down to 4 weeks. I still want to learn as much as I can, so I will attend for another week or two along the way in other countries- maybe Honduras or Ecuador. This way, I will have time to practice actually using Spanish between formal lessons and will get to brush up and build on what I have been learning in real interactions. I will also get to stay put in other locations for a week or two and learn different accents and local slang. I think this is the best plan for my language retention.
  3. There are direct flights from Guayaquil, Ecuador to Madrid, so it will be easy to get a round trip to Europe half way through. I will get to spend time in Espana and then easily jump over to Italy. While it will be high tourist season, it will be summer and I’d prefer to be there in the warmth. I will also get a chance to practice Spanish in Spain and break up the culture of the Americas with a little stint in Europe. Not to mention, after 6 months out on my own, it will be nice to see a familiar face.
  4. I will miss the South American winter and will be in Argentina and Brazil in the spring when temperatures are much more pleasant. I’ll have 3.5 months or so to dedicate just to the South American countries I haven’t visited yet, again allowing for a slower more pleasant pace.

This new itinerary feels good to me and I think doing my trip this way will help me get everything I want out of next year!

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Oh, and today my countdown hits 299 days until I go- I have finally made it out of the 300s!