One of my favorite podcasts is from the team at WNYC and NPR, called Death, Sex, and Money. Anna Sale hosts conversations about, as she says, "Things we think about a lot and need to talk about more." They do a lot of talking about... well... death, sex, and money. The things we really want to talk about are, often, the things we're definitely not supposed to talk about.
Let's talk about something we're not supposed to talk about. One of my best friends, a person who has known me for half our lives, a friend I can call at any time for any reason at all, asked me how in the hell I'm able to afford this little journey halfway around the world. My dearest friend had no idea how I came up with the money, and if she didn't then you sure as hell don't. Instagram glamorizes all this, and we don't know - and don't always need to know - the way a person affords to live. But I am committed to making sure this project is honest. I will not let this be a place where people compare their reality to what they think my reality is- and find themselves lacking. There's plenty of that online. I'm here to tell the truth, and I won't ask others to be transparent if I'm not willing to do the same. So, let's settle in, grab a glass of wine, and get a little uncomfortable.
When I was 22 and making "real money" after college for the first time, I started a long term savings account. (22 year old me also bought a house. She was far more financially stable than 30 year old me, I assure you.) I cannot thank 22 year old me enough for making the decision to stash some money away. When 26 year old me sold that house, a little over $5000 went into long term savings. And by long term savings, I mean retirement. It was a retirement account. I wasn't going to tell you that, because it makes the next part of the story seem reckless. Did I mention 22 year old me was the financially stable one?
Anyways, 30 year old me has a car payment and a camper payment, and some credit card debt because of a couple really lean years when some things just had to go on the card. She also doesn't have a reliable source of income because she's a yoga teacher and, despite the appearances of glamour and spandex dreams, we HUSTLE, y'all. Your yoga teacher usually makes between $30-$50 teaching those group classes you love so much. If that's his or her only job, you do the math. I remember one of my friends, a well known and dearly loved yoga teacher in Nashville, once told me, "I would love to break the $30k/ year barrier." This person was 32. She had been teaching for years. If you practice yoga at a studio, there is a very good chance you make more than your instructor makes.
I'm not mad about it, I chose to do work that filled my heart but not my bank account. All of this is simply to make it clear that, no, I am not independently wealthy. I am not even debt free. I haven't had a salary in years and I haven't had health insurance since 2016. I am not a person who travels because she is rich.
I am a person who travels because I spend any spare money I do happen to have on travel. I don't shop. My closet looks very much the same as it did 2, 3, 4 years ago. I try not to be too attached to things. If I need to sell stuff to buy a flight, I sell stuff. I collect miles on my Southwest card. I have a couple of savings accounts and put $25-$50 away each week, depending on how much wiggle room I have in my budget. I took a side job at a bakery. I have spent years learning how to work the flight booking system. And, in order to go on this once in a lifetime adventure, I damn near cashed out that retirement account.
That's right. I did the one thing you're never, ever supposed to do. I took out almost (almost) all of the money from that retirement account to have some money to live on while I work on this project. I believe in it. I don't know if it will generate any income, but I can't not do this. This dream chose me. It has to actualize or it will leave me and find someone else to make it. I can't very well have that.
I have had to hold my beliefs about money with an open hand. Sometimes, I'll have plenty of it. Sometimes, I won't have much at all. I can't let the amount of money I do or do not have at a given moment determine how fully I live. Trust me, my fear has insisted many times, most often at about 4am, that I have lost my mind and I'm headed for financial ruin and WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?! I have battled serious shame about credit card debt. I have gone toe to toe with the expectations 22 year old me had of 30 year old me- and I almost always walk away from that conversation at least a little bruised. 22 year old me was smart and careful, but she was also pretty scared. She wanted to do all the right things in the right order, and do them as quickly as possible so everyone would know how grown up she was. 30 year old me is brave. She's a little reckless, but it's because she has seen fear get her absolutely nowhere. She's tired of nowhere. She's done caring what people think, and she's fully committed to following her guts and her feet.
Maybe 40 year old me will be smart and careful and brave all at the same time. We'll have to wait and see. For now, for those of you who have seen these posts and the Instagram shots and wondered what I did to afford 10 days in NYC and a trip around the world... Well, kids. I did what your parents will tell you not to ever, ever do. I'm quite literally going for broke in order to chase this dream and birth this thing I feel growing in my heart.
Also, and this matters, I'm staying at a kind and generous friend's apartment while he travels, himself. All I had to pay for was a flight and food. I have purchased many groceries, fam. I am not eating out every night in the fabulous and fabulously expensive NYC. I'm headed to a city in Thailand where you can live for $500-$600/ month- including lodging. This is a budget trip, ya'll. Nobody is staying at the Four Seasons, right now.
So that's how I'm able to afford it. Why spill these beans? Why talk about money? Because it is so important to me you know this is space where the truth matters. I know what it feels like to feel inadequate, like the dreams you want to chase are out of reach because of logistics or money or fear. The only difference between me a few years ago and me now is I'm simply refusing to stay afraid. Being afraid didn't get me anywhere. Hoarding my money didn't make me rich. I'm shifting my priorities. Right now I'm at a time when I don't have a whole lot of money. But I am so, so happy. I am alive and excited, my time is my own, I have a vision and project, and I am so happy.
I also don't have any children or adults depending on the money I bring in. So, if I fuck this up, the stakes aren't terribly high.
But if I nail it.. y'all... if I nail it?! It will all have been worth it.
Here's to taking chances and telling the scary, ugly, beautiful truth.