In part 1 of this little series, I shared some initial thoughts about why many people don’t travel much, despite their desire to do so.
I fully acknowledge that travel can be costly in terms of money and time (though it doesn’t have to be). But while many people say they can’t afford to travel, I believe traveling is possible when we shift our mindsets and our priorities. My theory (actually, “theory” is a generous term . . . let’s call it “speculation”) is that people assume they can’t travel because they have one or two big misconceptions:
- A misconception about what travel is
- A misconception about our power to choose
A quick disclaimer before I continue: I have disposable income, and so do the vast majority of my friends. This is a deep privilege and a huge responsibility; I don’t take it lightly. I feel like I have to say that every time I talk about extra money. I sometimes believe that real gratitude must be accompanied by guilt.
I know. I’m working on it.
Also, to continue defining terms and being clear, when I say “disposable income,” I’m talking about money that is left over after bills, rent/mortgage, student loan payments, groceries, etc. (basically, whatever you need to pay to keep creditors away and ensure survival for your family). For the purposes of this blog, I also mean money that is left over after tithes and gifts (because for me, this category is a non-negotiable).
Now, that’s settled. Moving on to the second misconception that leads many of us to travel far less than we’d like.
A Misconception about Our Power to Choose
We have the power to choose what we do with our extra money. I know this probably feels like an obvious thing to say, but I wonder how many of us actually believe it. I didn’t truly believe this until about a year ago, and even now, I’m slowing struggling to live it out.
In my first post, I quoted Mark Scandrette’s words about consumer choices. Here’s a little refresher in case you missed it:
“If we don’t make conscious choices to resist [it] . . . the force of a materialistic and consumeristic society will make most of our decisions for us.”
This means I have the power to not rent an apartment or buy a home at the top of my price range. I can choose less space and fewer features and fewer updates, and then I can allocate that monthly savings elsewhere.
I can buy only the clothes I actually need (it would be a post unto itself to tell you about all the unhealthy ways I have thrown around the word “need” when it comes to clothing) instead of the clothes I want. I can shop thrift stores. I can wear something outdated. I can borrow a dress for a friend’s wedding instead of buying a new one.
I can get books from the library instead of buying them on Amazon (then I save money and space).
I can go out for dinner with a group of girlfriends, eat something at home before I go, and still enjoy a glass of wine and the community.
My hand is rarely forced when it comes to disposable income spending decisions.
By cutting down on expenses that I previously believed to be inevitable and even necessary, I free up dollars that I can use to prioritize what I want to do, not what I feel like I have to do.
I understand that we all have different priorities about how to spend disposable income. Maybe for you, that priority is going out to dinner more often or remodeling a room in your house. There isn’t one single right way for us to spend our disposable income. What I hope we can all take hold of is the fact that we can control our spending decisions to reflect what we care about and value. Our culture doesn’t have to make those decisions for us.
And I will admit that sometimes I choose a new pair of boots. Because, come on, I live in Chicago, so they get a solid 8 months of wear each year. It’s a sad fact.
But more often, I choose far-off travels and local adventures.
The bottom line is this: We can make spending choices consistent with what we believe to be beautiful and valuable. That is a lifelong adventure.