As I write this post, the countdown timer reads less than 24 hours until I board the plane headed to my second out-of-country adventure. For an athlete, this would be a time of heavy prep: increased carb intake, eagle like focus on the upcoming game day, visualizations of winning the championship.
For a traveler, the day before takeoff consists of its own preparations: laundry, packing, phone calls to banks, continuous passport checks. This time also presents a great opportunity to look back on the long journey it took to get to that very moment because, for the traveler, the trip, the vacation, the adventure is our trophy. It represents months even years of going without, staying in, skipping this, forgoing that, apologies for missing in action once again, saying no to yourself over and over again… all for that heart stopping moment when we look out of the plane’s window and see what we had only seen previously in the pages of books. So, as I look back over this last year of preparation for my European excursion, here are three things that I’ve taken away from the experience.
Don’t forget about the exchange rate!
This is not my first rodeo. I’ve done this before, which is why I am still a little surprised that in my goal setting, I waited so long to look at the exchange rate from dollars to euros. Early on I set my budget. I actually have two budgets: The first budget includes the plane ticket and hotel, while the second is my spending money (aka fun money) budget. I did great with my first budget. I actually came in $200 under budget! However, when it came to my fun money budget, I am currently under where I had hoped to be.
In January, I mapped it out. If I saved $150 per month up until August, I would have $1000 in spending money, which would equal to a little over $100 of fun money per day during my trip. Awesome, right? Yes, this would be awesome if this story was about me going to Colorado, New York, Mexico or any other place where 1. the dollar is accepted or 2. there is a favorable exchange rate. Neither of these were true in my case. I am going to Europe, where currently the $1 is equal to .75€. And that’s being generous. I purchased my currency through my bank, which brought the exchange rate even higher. So, there will be no balling out of control on this trip. No making it rain on the steps of the Vatican. I definitely learned my lesson.
Have a little fun along the way.
If you’ve read about the caramel popcorn habit I picked up during my journey to reach my fund-saving goal, you know that I fell into a food funk. I was so focused on saving and getting to the finish line that I forgot about the other things that I find enjoyable, like food. For a good 6 months I found myself trapped in a bad food routine. Throughout the week, I was eating the EXACT same thing every day, only leaving Saturdays for slight indulgences. I was going crazy, but it took me some time (6 months) to understand that my food routine was in the driver’s seat of the crazy train. Thankfully, I jumped off the bandwagon and made some simple changes to my daily lunch and breakfast menus. I was able to (kind of) stay within my grocery budget while having some fun by changing up what I ate during the week.
We all have goals. Whether they are travel, financial, education, or otherwise, I learned that it is easy to shoot yourself in the foot and easily become sidetracked from those goals if we don’t take some time out to have some fun during the journey.
It’s okay to say yes.
I’m all saved up for my trip. Euros are in hand. All the money that will be spent for this trip has already left my bank account. Yet, I still have issues with saying yes to myself. And I’m not talking about big-ticket items. The other day I found myself going back and forth over a $5.99 purchase of a sandwich for lunch (I see you judging me). I am currently on the fence about paying a $26 library fine that is stopping me from getting the books I specifically picked out for plane reading. I’m already thinking about how I can bypass the expensive airport food tomorrow, when I really like eating at the airport. It seems so posh, so world “travelly.” This didn’t just start. During my entire fund-saving adventure I have been telling myself no. No to drinks with friends. No to that dress that would look fabulous on me. I think I’ve actually grown to like saying no to myself. It feels like I’m a martyr for the cause. But I’ve also lost touch with people. I’ve missed out on Friday night Latin dancing. I haven’t dressed to kill in months. So, I’ve given myself a new rule: for every 4 no’s, I must give 1 yes. It’s only right.
As the clock continues to tick away, I am proud of myself for sticking with the plan and meeting my goals. Now, I am off to claim my trophy. Rome, here I come!
What are some things you learned during the planning phase of your world travels?