Before I decided to quit my job and move to Europe, I had three rules that I knew I was going to follow:
- I will not incur any debt because of this trip.
- I will not take any money from my Emergency Fund (unless it’s an actual emergency).
- I will not sacrifice my savings goals.
And while I know that living in Europe for 7 months is going to be (and has been so far) an amazing experience, I’m surprised at how many comments and e-mails I’ve gotten from people (and even friends in real life) who have suggested I take on debt, or dip into my savings in order to travel and experience more. It seems like some people think because I’m budgeting, and because I’m conscious of every dollar I spend, I’m somehow depriving myself of experiences and enjoyment. And that’s just not true.
In my early 20’s when all of my friends were going backpacking in Europe, I didn’t go because I had too much debt and couldn’t justify going into more debt. I don’t regret it, because I’m now getting the same opportunity they had. The only difference is, I’m debt-free, and I am much more financially stable than I once was. It was the right decision for my life then, and how I’ve decided to tackle this 7-month adventure in Europe is the right decision for me now.
As for taking language lessons, we’re still going to do something to try and learn German. But maybe lessons at a school isn’t the best option. $525-660 (€400-500) total for the both of us is a lot of money, especially just for 10 lessons. The only way to pay for the lessons would be to dip into my Emergency Fund or my savings account for taxes – and I’m just not willing to do that. Language lessons of some sort are definitely a good idea, but if we can’t afford them, then it’s clearly not responsible spending – no matter how important they are. The money has to come from somewhere. So maybe we’ll cut out a weekend trip in order to afford it, or try for a less expensive option.
Somebody commented: “what is the point of this experience if all you do is walk around and look at things?”
What’s wrong with walking around and looking at things? :) The great thing about travel – much like personal finance – is that we all do it differently. Some people will want to spend their money on food, or culture and the arts, extreme adventures, or shopping … there is no right or wrong. When we travel, neither of us has ever said “I wish we had the money to do X.” If we want to do something – like take a day trip to Chamonix, head to Amsterdam just for a concert, ride the ferris wheel in Paris, drink beer all night, or buy too many macarons and chocolates, we’re going to do it.
This might not be your ideal way to see Europe, but it’s how I’ve always envisioned traveling this continent. And I’m glad that Nic is the same kind of traveler as me. We both agree that our goal is to spend wisely in order to see to as many places as possible. Even though we aren’t spending a lot of money, I never feel deprived of anything.
Europe is not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and being here is not worth sacrificing my financial wellbeing. Especially when I’m also trying to make it as a freelancer. I’ll be back to Europe again – that’s something I know for sure. And while traveling is something that I love and am passionate about, it’s not (and has never been) my number one priority in life.