Oh my god. I cannot believe we are less than three months away from trading in the American Dream for a passport and a crazy idea. I feel about how you feel after a nasty car crash; vaguely unhappy, extremely disoriented and a nagging feeling that I should be doing or feeling something else. Like any good accident victim, I don’t exactly know how we got here and especially how we saved the money for the trip.
I want to write about how awesome it is to be here, 85 days and counting from leaving to travel the world. I feel like I should be SO happy and bang out an uplifting list like the ones that have given me hope. You know: 1) Just think about Vietnam instead of buying that coffee when you’re bleary eyed and cranky as hell at 6am and 2) Remember that buying stuff won’t make you as happy as buying experiences so put a little duct tape on the blinds and move on with your life. I honestly love articles like that. They’re validating and encouraging and who needs someone to tell you that not spending your money sucks? But saving for the trip isn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows.
Right now, before its paid off… giving up the American Dream is just hard. It’s hard in a million different ways. And pretending that everything is super great, is the ultimate suck fest.
How can I sit here in my in-law’s basement, on the bed my parents bought me when I was still in high school and whine about saving to travel the world? How can I complain about a choice I’m actively making? A choice that too many don’t even have the option of making? Especially because I can buy stuff. I’m not writing this just because I’m a whiney little shit with a bunch of first world problems. Trust me I’m grateful for my life and everything in it. I’m writing this because I feel like if you’re going to do something like this, if you’re reading about it, if you’re curious about it, you should know that in the three years before the trip it sucked. A lot. Pretty much every day. I know I have no right to say poor me but fuck it. I’m going to tell it to you straight and trust that you won’t judge me too harshly.
It sucks to have to bunch your sweater up just so, to keep the holes from showing. It sucked when people came over and our furniture was shabby. It sucked when all of my friends were looking fabulous in their nice clothes and their new cars and their gorgeous homes where everything worked properly. It REALLY sucked to realize that it was time to buy new jeans because I sat down in the restaurant, a big deal in itself, and felt the pleather seat on my bare butt cheek. It sucks when you can’t tell what color your shirt was originally. It sucks to dip out on plans that sound expensive. Don’t even get me started on the weeks long suckiness after getting rid of our stuff and selling the house. Minimalism has sucked.
We’ve implemented a self-imposed shopping ban and we’ve gotten used to cutting down on stuff. But it still really sucks dealing with the pressure to buy that sneaks up on us when watching commercials, visiting friends who have so many beautiful things, going to a shopping center and seeing SO MUCH stuff. I don’t even know how it could possibly be distributed so as to fit in all of the places people live. I’ve spent hours and hours filling up my virtual shopping cart and fighting back tears when I exit the screen without checking out. I fantasized about how much better my life would be with granite countertops, a new car, hell even a pair of leggings was going to improve my life somehow. In some sick little corner of my mind, that I fight very hard every single day to silence, I STILL think that. It feels like we’re betting a lot on the fact that it will pay off.
I don’t feel sorry for myself, I know we’re lucky to be in a position to do this, I’m thankful I’m an American, I’m more grateful now than ever for my stuff. I know what it’s like to be poor not by choice but by circumstance. Growing up wasn’t exactly a time of plenty, my parents kept us housed, clothed, fed and I have so many awesome memories from my childhood. I’m so fortunate to have family who did SO MUCH for me, who made substantial sacrifices for me, whose love I never questioned for a second. I learned that $30.00 for jeans was too expensive, that brands weren’t actually all that cool, how to spend the least amount of money at the grocery store, that you didn’t ask for the new shoes because you knew your mom needed that money for something else. I learned to celebrate people and not things. As an adult, its more than a little incredible how wonderful they made it while running so close to the line.
It’s given me faith that its going to be worth it but I still spend countless hours agonizing over purchases, talking myself in and out of something over and over. I’ve been on the hunt to find the perfect items for traveling for a couple months now, slowly choosing bottoms, tops, and a dress. Obsessing over whether everything will match, whether things will wrinkle easily, considering cultural standards, and most importantly, that there were only a handful of things that would make the cut. Drawing out the experience for as long as possible to savor the deliciousness of buying.
You would think it would get easier to not buy things but it doesn’t. They say that you get used to new things, like buying a new car only makes you happy for a little while and doesn’t increase your overall happiness level. Its easy to assume that the flip side of that would be having an older car doesn’t matter, you’ll get the same amount of satisfaction over time. But I haven’t found this to be the case. Maybe a new car wouldn’t permanently raise your happiness level but having a car that makes a frightening clunk every time it shifts sucks. I’m betting it will be worth it. Please let it be worth it, there’s no turning back now.0