The expat dilemma: saving for or spending on travel
As soon as I move somewhere, I start wrestling with the inevitable financial balancing act. A step beyond the work to live or live to work dilemma, it’s the struggle of living like a traveler or saving to travel.
Should I be spending my weekends exploring the city, wandering the streets and watching the sunsets and going to galleries and trying out new restaurants? Should I be doing nothing other than sunning myself on park benches and thumbing old pages in used bookstores, or keeping busy on the endless tourist attractions New York City has to offer? Should I spend my evenings testing out new cocktails with old friends?
Or should I be counting my dimes, eating homemade sandwiches and going for runs across the bridge instead of paying exorbitant fees for yoga classes? Should I pick up a second job as a barista or waitress so that I can squirrel away some money for the inevitable next trip, forsaking my evenings and weekends while looking forward to a true vacation?
It should come as no surprise that I’m of two minds in all this, the dual forces of my Gemini personality coming forth once more. On one hand, I have a penchant for saving my money, paying my credit cards off each month, picking up pennies on the ground. I have an aversion to wasting money, a frugality that spurs my parents to sigh and ask what’s the point of having the savings if I never spend it. On the other hand, I have no qualms about booking a beach escape on a whim or splurging on a fancy dinner with friends. In short, when it comes to money, I’m a tight-ass who goes to pains to avoid looking like one.
I’m honestly not sure what the answer is. So many travel bloggers detail the way that they save incredible sums of money in a short time, picking up second jobs and moving home and curtailing all social activity. Despite watching my savings account dwindle, I’ve never been able to adapt that all-or-nothing mentality, that ability to shut off living in order to follow a life dream. Instead of moving in with my parents, I’ve moved to a new city. Instead of picking up a second job, I’ve picked up a weekly volunteer shift and near-daily yoga habit. Instead of curtailing all drinks dates, I’ve merely cut out the alcohol in the drinks.
To be clear: I am not making incredible sums of money in New York City, nor am I working my way into a pile of debt. I’m breaking even. It’s enough to pay my rent, cover my bills and still have enough left over to splurge on an afternoon in a cafe, a day in a museum, the occasional night at a show.
I’ve been debating looking for a part-time gig in hospitality, to balance out my long days at a computer and to fatten my bank account. But I stop short when I think of what I’d be giving up: those evening yoga classes, the prospect of weekends exploring New York City, the thrill of booking a last-minute flight away for the weekend. Did I move to the New York City to experience the greatest city in the world, or am I simply treating it as a stopover for my next destination?
Namely: am I living here, completely in the now, or am I forsaking the thrills of today for an unpromised tomorrow?
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