Saturday, December 20, 2014

Thinking About What's Important: Travel

This past summer, I went on a rather indulgent two and a half week European vacation with some dear college friends of mine. It was incredible and I deeply enjoyed the trip, but I was wracked by guilt about how much it cost. I went to the south of France, Capri, Rome, Santorini, Mykonos, and Dubrovnik. Neither my friends nor I thought too much about what a more efficient route would be and because summer is naturally high season in most of these destinations, it was more expensive than any other trip I had ever taken or any trip that I can expect to take anytime soon.

I could afford it, technically. I had worked at a fairly lucrative paid internship this summer and earned enough both to cover the somewhat extravagant trip, a new work wardrobe (bought almost entirely at additional 40% off sale at Loft and Ann Taylor, so not the biggest expense, but an expense nonetheless), replacing my computer earlier than I thought I would need to (on the even of a final exam that had to be taken on a computer, no less), and the financial shortfall at the end of the previous school year because I had taken an unpaid internship the summer before. Even so, I felt guilty about not saving more or about trying to reduce my student loans for the next year. That I technically could afford it did not make it a good idea given that I am still a student who will have taken on six figures in student loans when I graduate this coming spring. All this is to say, this was not a financial decision that I would recommend anyone else in my position make, ever. If I could go back and do it again, I wouldn't, even knowing how much I truly did enjoy it, how once in a lifetime it all was.

The whole experience, both the trip itself and the guilt I felt leading up to it and afterwards, makes me think about what is important to me what is worth it to me. I am privileged enough to be in a position to make choices to splurge on some things even if I have to pick and choose a bit. I am grateful for that, appreciative. I also often find myself motivated by wanting to buy more expensive clothes and accessories (not everything, but just a few things) so there was at least a question of whether I could have not taken the trip and bought a nice handbag or some other fashion thing for myself instead. I would ultimately have saved money that way (though neither approach would have been particularly wise). 

As much as I really, really like and am really, really tempted by shiny things, mostly handbags but sometimes clothes and jewelry, the trip was worth more to me than those things. Capri, Santorini, and Mykonos especially were all lovely places, very unlike anywhere I had ever been before. I had more than my fill of swimming in clear, calm ocean water (one of the top things on the list of things I seek out when traveling) and beautiful scenery. I ate well, including pasta that was one of the best things I have ever had in my life (and I really, really do not like pasta normally) even while we were definitely not trying to splurge overly much on dining during this trip. I even got a bit of shopping in and bought some items that filled holes I had consciously identified in my wardrobe, but never filled until then. 

I cannot say for sure if I will have that many more opportunities to take such a long trip in the forseeable future. I will have one opportunity after graduating and before I start work, but after that it will be hard to take even two weeks of vacation at a time. I have always considered travel-related expenses more "worth it" than many people my age (cabs rather than public transportation, etc.). While my decisions on that count are not always wise, the value they bring to my life is worth the cost to me. 

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