On Living to Travel vs. Traveling to Live (Or How Buying Faux Leather Forever21 Pants Gave Me an Anxiety Attack)

As I wrote in a previous post, I’m headed off to London the weekend after this weekend. I’m BEYOND excited. London is one of my favorite cities in the world, I have lots of friends I consider family there, and it’s one of the places I am lucky to consider a second home. I must admit however, that given my recent personal finance crisis, it was probably not fiscally prudent of me to book. I purchased the ticket on somewhat of an impulse and with only a week and a few days left until my flight, I looked at my bank account this morning and became a little nervous about my finances and spending money for when I am there. Although London doesn’t have to break the bank (especially when you have the luxury of staying with friends), it is an expensive city and you go there expecting to put a solid dent in your savings.

After several months of ridiculously tight saving to dig myself out of my financial hole, I have to admit, I have loosened the reins a little too much this month (including that impulse flight purchase in the final days of April). Birthdays, weddings, Mother’s Day, end of class gifts for professors, I have been spending a little more than I would have liked to this month, when I really should have started being extra frugal the second I booked that flight. I’ve felt guilty about it, but with a week or so left to go, there’s not much I can do to change the spending that’s already done.

This brings me to the topic of today’s post. I tend to be a person who is constantly saving saving saving to bolster my travel fund. Every purchase I make, I think about the tradeoff in terms of travel. In a red haze of finals-induced stress (last one tomorrow, can you tell I’m burnt out and procrastinating?), I purchased a pair of faux leather leggings from Forever21 for $17.50. Under 20 bucks. I am a huge fan of having fewer material items and especially when purchasing clothes advocate for purchasing quality rather than cheap trend pieces. HOWEVER, I had been thinking about the purchase since probably November, and knew if I was getting something as trendy as leather pants, then I definitely didn’t want to break the bank for them. I digress. The point of the matter is that while filling out the online payment, what was running through my mind was “that’s a third of a round trip bus ticket to New York, what are you doing?!” The past several months I had imposed a shopping ban and had declined invitations to so many dinners, nights on the town, movies, etc, in the interest of saving first, to get myself out of my financial mess, and second, to rebuild my travel fund. In the process of saving, I had forgotten to live my everyday life here in Boston. For a while it was necessary because I had these surprise bills to pay and needed to do so to make ends meet, but after I thankfully dug myself out of that, I didn’t loosen the reins at all. On the one hand, I’m going to London in a week and a half, and if you had asked January Amani, I would have never in a million years thought it was financially possible, but on the other hand, my social patterns weren’t exactly happy and healthy. I had started living to travel. Without realizing it, I had stopped living my life so that I could go on funding my travel, to the point where I was stressing about a $17.50 pair of pleather leggings that I had been ruminating over for seven months. Seriously, I was sweating there for a good 20 minutes at the online checkout before pulling the trigger.

Obviously living on an entry level budget and aspiring to travel the world requires some sacrifices. My finances are such that I could never drop $50 bar tabs three nights a week and eat lunch out every day at work like some of my friends do, but there has to be some balance. You can’t be frivolous with your spending and still expect to have tons left in your savings account for that trip to Paris; it just doesn’t work that way. When I reevaluated my budget in January, I was shocked by how much stupid spending I was doing on unnecessary things- books I could pick up at the library, snacks and lunches I bought during the work day because I was “bored” with what I packed, takeout dinners because I was too lazy to cook. These things added up, and when I eliminated them, I was amazed at how much I was able to transfer to my savings at the end of the month. A lot of people’s barriers to realizing their traveling dreams are because they think they can’t live without some of these things, or because they consider things that should be “treats” as every day necessities. I’m totally 100% about getting serious about your budget as a means to making world travel possible when your salary is less than substantial. I also believe that many young professionals who say they don’t have the money to travel often do, but rather they prioritize different expenditures, and that’s why travel doesn’t fit in their budget.

However, we also have to remember that you can’t live your life for a week overseas every six months to a year. Yes, I am obsessed with travel (hence why I write a travel blog) but I can’t cut out having a full and diverse life the other 50 weeks of the year for the sake of the small amount of time spent traveling. Over the past few months I got this balance wrong, restricting myself so much that I wasn’t living my life, nurturing friendships, or spending a little bit to take care of and treat myself from time to time. This proved to be unsustainable, and the result was, this May, I impulse booked a trip (I don’t regret that although it was slightly stupid of me), and then went over my budget in the lead up to my trip and caused myself a boatload of stress for doing so.

It’s easy to become obsessed with saving for travel, and thinking about the monetary trade-offs of purchases in terms of travel expenses is an effective way to save. “Will I enjoy this fancy dinner out today, or would I enjoy it more if I were in Istanbul?” These are the trade-offs that run through my mind (and I’m sure lots of you out there). But it cannot control our lives. It cannot become an obsessive compulsion that impedes our ability to have a full life outside travel. Traveling is a huge part of my life, it’s one of my biggest passions, and I can’t imagine a me who isn’t constantly itching to book the next ticket to somewhere. I prioritize it over fancy clothes, cab rides, expensive apartments and furniture, and nights on the town that have no spending limit. However, instead of traveling as part of living a richer life (no pun intended), I was living a life exclusively for travel, and that’s not ok either. I’ve still got the vast majority of the year in Boston and those weeks have to be happy too, not just the weeks where I throw my stuff in a bag and head to the airport.

Happy Wandering


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Such a great post. I have more of a time issue than a money issue when it comes to travel, but I can definitely get way too wrapped up in my budget. Sometimes I have to give myself a “fun budget” – but instead of “you’re only allowed to spend this much this month” it’s more like “you HAVE to spend this much this month”! Otherwise it’s way too easy to get caught up in not wanting to spend the $15 it’ll cost to go out to lunch with your friend. (I do the same thing for clothes too. “Ok, the Loft has a 60% off sale and all your basics are disgusting. Go spend $200. Now.”)


    1. That is such a great idea! I am absolutely the same way in terms of easily getting super wrapped up in my budget to my own detriment. I love love the concept of switching the mentality around from “you’re only allowed” to “you have to” for the fun budget. I recently started using the GoodBudget smartphone app- it’s only my first month, but it’s been really good for creating a visual image of how much I’ve budgeted vs. how much I’ve actually spent as I go through the month. It could totally be used not only to make sure you don’t spend too much, but also to make sure you’re actually spending what you budgeted for the fun stuff. I will definitely be trying your way of thinking with my budget next month 🙂


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