This Time Last Year - Some Thoughts on Travel & Saving

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

If you stumbled upon this li’l blog of mine last spring, you could have probably thought that I was leading this out-of-the-suitcase life. In a way I did, it lasted for about two months and I never slept in the same bed for more than five days. I covered six countries and twice as many cities, packing on Thursdays, unpacking on Mondays, and repeating it all over again. It was exciting, but also hectic, and hell, tiring. In the end I had troubles separating memories from different places, because it all seemed like a continuum with blurry lines in between. That coffee with a view, was it in Zurich or in Paris? That open square where we spent a sunny afternoon, was it in Brussels or Berlin? ...And when I say ’we’, who exactly was there with me?!

When I finished my last trip that time, I felt so relieved. Finally I don’t need to pack and finally I don’t need to rush to the airport every few days! But pretty soon after I settled and enjoyed some routine, travel itch hit me again. I never went to that many places like I did that spring, but I did travel here and there, and ended the season in style: traveling through Italy for almost a month. Oh, it was a very, very good year.

That’s also probably why I get this question so often. It is, as you might figure, So where do you go to next? And leaving people without a straight answer always surprises them. I know, I know. It surprises me too. Oh, it’s not that I don’t know where I would head to next. In fact, it would be very difficult to choose. Stockholm or Copenhagen? London or Ljubljana? Munich or Vienna? But for a while, I won’t be moving anywhere. (If we count out that I have to get back to Berlin at some point in May.) No big plans here. No plans, actually.

Thinking about this is especially hard when I remember that I do have resources. I mean, if I was broke, it would be easier to not think about traveling, right? But yeah, apparently I’m in a very strange place right now, one I certainly haven’t thought I would be any time soon. I’m saving money and prioritizing – but not prioritizing travel.

What am I saving exactly for, then? It’s even weirder to not have a straight answer to this.

But the thing is, my master thesis should be done and polished and submitted by the end of August. After that, I’m all done. I haven’t applied for any PhDs because I’m not really sure that’s the path I should follow, and I feel doing it just because everyone else does it could be a very wrong thing to do. Career switch is also an option, the one I think about quite often. Maybe it’s funny to talk about career switch as I haven’t really had a ‘career’, but I’ve invested some 8 years in one field and, well, you can imagine how it feels to discover maybe the field is not really your best match. Maybe it’s like a divorce after 8 years of marriage. But nowadays I feel like divorce is always an option… I mean, nobody probably gets married thinking about the expiration date of the marriage, but they are just aware it exists, it’s possible. When I was 18, I certainly didn’t think I could divorce my field. Like many youngsters crazy in love, I thought I was entering the world where it would be me and linguistics, bff’s and lovers, sharing days and nights, never getting sick of one another.

Well. The honeymoon phase is officially over.

(When I started writing this post, this was certainly not the direction I thought it would take. Just like I didn’t intend to tell it to my thesis supervisor during our first meeting, but that’s another story.)

So, let me get back to the dreading date of September 1st. Its older brother, September 1st of 2013, was also scary, but at least I knew I was getting on a plane, moving to Germany and starting a new, grad-school life. This dude? It’s terrifying and dark. I know I will wake up that day. That’s also pretty much everything I know.

Will I be in Berlin? Will I be heading home? Will I be on my way to somewhere exotic, with a contract in my hand? Or at least a plan on how to get one? Will it be my first day at work? Or just a day meant to be spent in bed after having handed in the thesis?

I have no idea. Which makes September 1st super scary, but also exciting. Because at the end of the day, I’m the one who will make that day. I’m the only one held responsible. That’s something  worth working on, right?

My main advice to anyone trying to save money is having a goal. When you have a clear goal in your mind, say, saving for a big trip, or a car or even a house, it’s easier to restrain yourself from shopping because you can imagine getting closer to your goal. I’ve never thought the opposite would work for me, but it does. Not having a clear goal has transformed into a goal itself. I’m saving for September 1st. I’m saving for life, and wherever it may take me. And I’m being pretty damn good at it!

And no, I don’t know where I will travel to next. I’ve prioritized being an adult – whatever it means. I would love to hop on a plain and visit my friend in springy London more than anything – but I don’t want to regret that decision months later, when I could lack money for something I need, before I find a job that will satisfy my needs. Do I miss last spring? I definitely do. It was probably the best spring of my life. But I know that acting in the same way again this year is a bad thing to do in a long run.  Is this being an adult? I don’t know. I might be getting there.

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of this. How do you balance travel and other expenses? Is there a moment  in the future you’re scared of, or was there in the past? How did you deal with it? Have you ever switched careers? How did that feel?
Also, if you'd like an advice-oriented post on saving money, please do comment! :)

Have a great rest of the day, and I hope I haven’t bored you with this inner monologue.

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