In the effort to pay down our debt in as short of a time as possible, we have had to make some lifestyle changes to the way we spend our money. Along with being on a grocery budget and obvious restrictions around things such as shopping, we’ve cut spending on things like going out to dinner, going to the movies, throwing parties at our house (unless it’s a potluck sort of situation where everyone is bringing something), manicure/pedicures, regular hair salon visits, buying fancy/expensive food items, buying takeaway coffee, buying anything decorative for the house, doing any kind of non-urgent repair work on the house or yard, limited spending on gifts for each other, using up everything we currently have before buying more and not taking vacations. When I reread this list, I have to admit, all the things we cut truly fall under the category of “luxuries.” Nowhere on our list are things like “heat for the house” or “food.” So yes, we are blessed.
And for the most part, I’m not feeling a ton of yearning around most of those cuts. Yes, it’s nice to be able to buy a coffee whenever I feel like it, but it doesn’t ruin my day to not be able to do that. I was talking to my friend Rose a few weeks ago about our budget restrictions and she wryly commented, “Yeah, you and your first world problems. It’s not like you couldn’t afford groceries or had to go out and get a new job during any of this – it just means you can’t always do the stuff you WANT to do.” She’s totally right. I may not be able to afford luxuries, but I still get to do my erratically-paying dream career and I’m not homeless or food insecure as a result. It’s good to be reminded of that.
The one area though, where I do feel the sting of our cutbacks is travel. God, I love to travel. I didn’t travel much growing up – we drove from Oregon to Washington every summer to visit relatives, but we didn’t take “We’re going to Disneyland!” style vacations – my family couldn’t afford it. My mom stayed home to raise kids, and we survived financially on my dad’s income. I know we weren’t rich, but I never felt poor or deprived. Because we had never taken vacations as a family, I never really had anything to miss. Summers meant sleeping in, swimming, picnics in the park, popsicles, riding bikes and watching soap operas. All are very happy memories for me.
But as a young adult, I started to travel, both in the U. S. and overseas, as a touring actor. On my first overseas trip I was completely terrified, but once I got the hang of it, I got a serious case of wanderlust that has never been cured. If I had to choose between living in a gorgeous mansion but never being able to leave town, or to live in small apartment and take several trips a year, I would choose the apartment without a blink. I love exploring new cities and countries and seeing what life is like for the people who live there. Travel gave me a totally different perspective on the world and myself, and is a huge contributing factor to who I am today.
As I’ve mentioned before, we didn’t take an annual vacation this year, because we couldn’t justify spending the money when we were trying so hard to get out of debt. The loss of that trip has not gone unnoticed. Ron and I spend a lot of time talking about where we would go if we could, and where we will go as soon as we are able to afford it. The top two contenders at this point are Easter Island in South America, or Santorini in Greece. Easter Island is a bucket list item for both of us – to see those moai in person has to be nothing short of mind blowing. And Santorini, with it’s gorgeous views, food, weather and charm, looks equally sensational. We were discussing the pros and cons of each place, dreaming together, as we often do these days, since we can’t take any action for a while, and part of me started to feel a little depressed as we talked. Even though we’ve made really incredible progress on our debt, we still have a ways to go, and this last dragging part of it feels oddly longer and heavier than when we owed almost eight times as much – probably because after almost a solid year of scrimping and saying no to things, we’re just sick of it. Instead of feeling hopeful, I felt bitter, like the whole thing is a pipe dream because we will NEVER see the end of this debt, so what was the point in even dreaming about going somewhere? So I irritably shut the whole thought of a vacation out of my mind.
The next day however, I opened the mailbox, and was greeted by the sight of this catalogue:
Once again, well played, Universe. Of all the places in the world the catalogue could have been themed around, it was Satnorini? It seemed oddly coincidental. I even wondered if it was a sign of some kind – like that’s the place we should indeed go. Whether it’s a sign or not, I’m choosing to take it as one, to remind me that even when life feels like a grind, it’s important to keep hoping and dreaming.