If you’ve seen me in the last month or two, and you’ve asked me how plans are shaping up for my trip, first of all: thank you. Second of all: I’m sorry. Because I’ve recently realized that almost every time someone’s expressed interest in this exciting adventure of mine, I’ve responded with, “Yes, but I’m so worried about the money. It’s so expensive.” And that is a super annoying response.
It’s annoying for a few reasons, right.
1) The basic middle-class-white-woman-in-the-US problem, wherein just by those demographics alone, I am in an impossibly higher income and standard-of-living bracket than so many of the people I’ll be meeting on this trip. Privilege is a complex thing, so it’s never as easy as “other people have it worse than you, so quit whining”; it’s more “other people have it worse than you, so what are you going to do about it?” For me, the answer involves voting across all levels of government, making public stands with others at rallies and marches, calling my representatives on big issues (don’t just email!), and coming up, volunteering with various organizations. That’s all well and good, but the basic distastefulness of fretting over funds for a year-long pleasure trip in a world so fundamentally unequal remains.
2) This isn’t exactly an attainable thing for a lot of people I know, either. Most RTW blogs like to talk about how anybody can do this! live your dream! cast off fear! And that’s a nice sentiment, but it blithely ignores crushing student loan debt and wretched wages in this economy, not to mention health problems and family obligations. RTW trips aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but even for those who’d like to take one, there are very real and sizable obstacles. I’m unattached, not in a career job, debt free, and in good health–a relatively rare confluence of conditions.
3) I have saved quite a bit of money! I never did the hardcore saving, giving up daily luxuries and forgoing drinks at the bar; instead, I enjoyed the heck out of my life in Chicago and still managed to put away a few hundred dollars every month for this trip. I’ve done dozens of calculations, and I’m pretty sure that barring any disaster (knock on wood), I can at least make it through eight months of travel, enough to get me to England for my grandmother’s 80th birthday celebration. Of course, I intend to keep traveling after that, but if that has to be the grand finale, well, that’s not too bad.
4) It is just plain obnoxious to complain about how broke you are. Unless you were born into cyclical poverty or are having a really rough time making ends meet and genuinely wonder how you’ll make rent this month, please don’t complain about your finances. (Not to say there aren’t good sites for talking about the very real money problems we all face, especially young people trying to figure out how it all works.) Setting aside whether anyone else would want to go on the trip I’m about to go on, no one wants to hear me moan about my money woes. We all have them.
Okay, but I’m still concerned about money for this trip. You can skip this if you’re already burned out on the subject (I don’t blame you), but in case you too are planning a RTW trip and wonder why no one ever seems to talk about this on their RTW blogs:
1) It’s all about stability, right? It’s scary to leave the best apartment I’ve ever rented, and a decent job, in a city I love, not to mention all the people I’ll miss. It feels selfish and foolish to leave an office job in this economy. I hate job hunting–it’s all the worst parts of dating without any of the fun parts–so I haven’t looked for anything in the last five years. But I have many friends who have moved jobs, and it’s been rough. Some of them looked for over a year to find something in their field, and these are really qualified people. It’s a scary thought, coming back to an economy that I can’t imagine will be much improved (and if a certain someone is elected in November, might well be worse). Sure, there’s the whole spin of “I’m a great candidate because of the new experiences my travels afforded me,” but let’s be real, that’s no clincher.
2) As I’ve shamefacedly admitted before, I’ve been so focused on this trip for so long that I haven’t made any plans for my return. At this point, I think I have $800 saved in a separate account labeled “Back to Life, Back to Reality.” That is… one month’s rent in Chicago. Not even one month’s rent plus security deposit. I’m really into planning things (shocking, I know), and it freaks me out to be setting myself up for a day-to-day life with no clear picture of what comes after, or how I’ll pay for it.
3) I’ve always prided myself on my independence, but there’s living on your own in the country you grew up in, and there’s being totally alone in countries that use a different alphabet from yours. I’ve gotten good at laughing with a carefree air whenever someone expresses surprise at the idea of traveling solo for such a long period of time, but inside, I’m thinking, “Yes! It is super scary!” I know it will be far more wonderful than frightening, but it’s still scary. Money is the cushion that eases any new/scary situation, so I think I transfer some anxiety about traveling solo onto the more tangible issue of traveling with enough money.
4) With limited funds (and limited time), it is impossible for me to visit every place I’m interested in visiting. This has been a hard one to accept, as you can see by the many times my proposed itinerary has changed. I have serious FOMO about travel (I hear the kids are using that term). I’ve read so many accounts of amazing experiences in just about every country in the world, and I’ve been anticipating this trip for so long, that I’ve convinced myself it won’t be worth it if I don’t do everything all in this one go. Yeesh! What pressure.
I don’t generally consider myself someone who gets worked up over money issues, because I’ve been fortunate enough to always make enough to be comfortable (those two years in the publishing industry excepted). So these overwhelming fears about having “enough” have taken me by surprise. I see where they’re coming from, but they’re no good. I gotta move past them.
Partly, that involves adjusting my approach to travel in general, and that is something I’m looking forward to doing. I won’t be engaging in the kind of slow travel that some do, but I will be slowing down my usual pace considerably. Rather than zipping from sight to sight to make sure I get everything checked off my list, and rather than worrying about how much it’s going to cost to do all that checking off, I’m going to go at it a bit more leisurely. A week in one location here, a couple weeks in another location there, and I hope to come away with a better understanding of the places I visit and the people I meet. Incidentally, this approach also cuts down on the cost of plane tickets.
I think it’s a sign.
It’s probably terribly gauche to post a PayPal link after a post like that, but here it is. I am genuinely easing up on my anxiety about money, but if you’d like to shut me up about it once and for all, and also fund a swim with dolphins or a volunteer project with elephants, please check out the post here. No worries if you don’t! I’d hate to drive away readers with pleas for money, so I’m trying to keep these few and far between.