When I was growing up, my parents were the quintessential frugal types. They clipped coupons and scrimped on haircuts. We utilized hand-me-downs (no complaints) and we received what we needed for gifts rather than anything we wanted. They were on fixed incomes, but they never made it sound like they weren’t making enough to live on. From an early age, I understood the value of a dollar, and I knew that budgets were nonnegotiable.
Money certainly didn’t grow on trees; we were to respect and cherish it- without being greedy and taking it for granted.
As a result, I had a job by fifteen, and I haven’t stopped working since. I’ve been self-sufficient and independent for several years now- making money and saving money wherever I can.
I am an adult now. Frugality has taught me well; it’s been an important and humbling concept, one that has taught me about the values and principles of life. With frugality, I’ve learned how to master the art of separating the needs from the wants; I’ve learned the importance of delayed gratification and, subsequently, the science of saving for a rainy day.
Kanye West summed it perfectly in his infamous quote, money isn’t everything, but not having it is.
Even on their fixed incomes, my parents retired younger than all their peers. Despite being teachers (historically known for their low salaries), they ended up being able to both stop working in their fifties, and they could have stopped sooner. They did this amazing feat by following the basic principles of spending less than they earned and making safe and sound investment choices.
As for their retirement journey? They’ve spent the past few years on wild travels; a few weeks ago, they came home from prancing around Croatia and Prague. Three months ago, they came back from an epic trip to Antarctica and the Circuit Trek of Patagonia. Over the past two years, they’ve kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland and swam in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. They’ve swum in the beaches of Havana, Cuba, drank tea in England, and walked across the Great Wall of China. Next up? They have a Russia trip booked and an India exploration trip a few months down the line. Early 2019? They’ll be trekking their way through Southeast Asia, adventuring around Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.
They’ve sent me photos from every corner of the world- proudly stepping on all seven continents this Earth has to offer. I have souvenirs made from all kinds of artists- my house now displays the fruits of their travels.
You know those cheesy scratch-off maps where you can scratch each location you visit? My brother and I bought them one for the holidays last year. Their map is getting full of scratches.
They’re still frugal- in every way that retired folks can be frugal- but they live richly and deeply with experiences.
Travel has enriched their lives, and it has enriched mine as well. I prioritize globetrotting as much as I prioritize my health, wealth, career. That’s because, without travel, those things don’t nearly matter as much to me.
You know that phrase, getting bitten by the travel bug? I blame my parents- it was the one area where they spoiled us in. Never the fancy hotels or five-star restaurants- never the glamorous souvenirs or obscene excursions- we went the hostel and camping route. We went the pack-your-own-sandwiches-in-a-backpack route. I spent many dinners eating peanut butter sandwiches. We slept in airports and I’ve never been remotely close to anything resembling first-class.
Despite their penny-pinching ways, we left town several times each year. Some of my fondest memories consist of staring out the minivan window, nose pressed against the cool glass, staring at the mountaintops passing us by. I loved the outdoors then- I love it now.
I also attribute travel to the closeness my family and I share. There’s nothing like holing up together for a week in a dingy hotel room to create family bonding. We grew close over board games and late-night snacks. I remember my brother and I lighting up when we found out the hotel had cable television! After all, I didn’t grow up with cable- it was too expensive.
My husband and I are now carving out our own lives and our own priorities. We have a home, and we have our own 9-5 lives. It’s strange, growing up, and realizing that you now have to decide how to live the way you want to live. It’s strange to realize that nobody is actually going to do it for you- that nobody can care about your happiness as much as you can.
It’s probably no surprise that we travel as frequently as we can- together and sometimes with our families. We hope to instill the same magic in these trips as my parents did for me. We hope to keep the travel bug very much alive.
We’re in that stage where we’re now thinking about adding a little one to our happy household. Babies are scary, sure, but we feel “as ready as one can be” to become parents. If not now, when? What do all our well-intentioned friends like to say about this? Better get out all your traveling now...once the baby comes!
They don’t mean anything harmful but that kind of statement, but it’s so limiting. Once the baby comes, you won’t be able to jet off to (insert place here). Oh, you’ll be tied up at home for the next 18+ years.
I’m sorry, but that’s a pet peeve of mine. Traveling with children is not impossible, and people need to stop acting like my life will completely rupture once I become pregnant. Nah. We plan to strap the little ones on our backs and take them with us! Kids make great travel companions- I can just ask my parents.
To all the parents out there who are still very much seeing the world, kudos to you! Glad you have little ones to share your fun with!