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.
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.
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…
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?