This is without a doubt a first world problem of mine. Could it be slightly tone-deaf? Yes. But also no because I don’t even know who reads this. In any case this is a disclaimer that I know how privileged I am and I’m just writing about how I feel, unfiltered.
Now that the borders have opened up, I am very fortunate to be able to make travel plans for a holiday. But travelling has never been easy for me. It’s always been difficult. Why? Because it costs money.
Growing up, we didn’t travel anywhere. We didn’t go on road-trips. I only went to school-camp at the end of highschool. My first time leaving New Zealand was when I was 24. We never travelled because everything cost money and my parents didn’t think the opportunity cost of a holiday vs money for our education or money for a rainy day was worth it.
As a result, we just stayed home. We went to yum cha. We ate the fruit that we wanted. It was good. Did we get bored? Yes. But we didn’t really know any better. We would go to the airport to say goodbye to our cousins or family friends who went on holidays. But that’s as close as we got. I thought the idea of going overseas was cool, but I also didn’t like the idea that it cost a lot of money.
And looking back, I don’t think I missed out on much. Some people might say I was sheltered, but really we were just poor. My parents were just doing what they had to do to survive and to ensure that they had enough money saved up so that we could go to university. And we did. We didn’t have to worry about money. It must have been difficult for my parents to see everyone go on holidays while they worked tirelessly and saved just so that we could get a higher education. They could have easily gone on holidays but they sacrificed that for us. Luckily for them their sacrifice paid off and my sister and I both have secure jobs.
But now as an adult, having that scarcity mindset so deeply ingrained makes it difficult for me to go on holiday or to spend money. For the most part it has been good because I am financially responsible. I don’t care for expensive things. In fact, I probably detest them and don’t really care for material things in general. When I graduated and returned home to work (and my parents didn’t make me pay rent) I was able to save up enough money for a deposit to buy a house on my own. I am really privileged. But on the other hand this incessant need to save has been bad because I have almost become obsessed with saving money and not spending it. Everywhere I go and everywhere I turn, it’s as if everything has dollar signs floating above it and I have to make a choice about where I go and what I do based on those.
My choices are dictated by money. And when I go on holiday I am not relaxing at all, I am just constantly making financial decisions and it makes me stressed because I can’t be in the moment and enjoy it. The worst example of this was when I went to America in 2019. We were in New York and I couldn’t be bothered going up the Empire State Building because it cost a lot and there was a wait time to get in. My decision to not go there was based mainly around the cost of it, and later I inevitably regretted it… because for goodness sake we were in New York and we weren’t going to be back there anytime soon!
So one thing that I’ve really had to work on as an adult is my relationship with money. I have to remind myself that yes it is important that I save money, but also that certain experiences are priceless because they make memories that last forever. I can be as frugal as I want when it comes to material things but when it comes to experiences I have to relax. I have to unlearn the idea that saving money constantly is linked to my survival. That may have been the case for my parents, but it is not for me. I am able to reap the benefits of their sacrifice and thrive in my life. And making memories, having priceless experiences is exactly the kind of life that they worked hard for me to have. And I’m incredibly grateful for that.