Unsteady Uproot – “Trains, Planes, and Buses” (Saturday, January 4th)

When I was little one of the first things that my parents ever taught me about safety was to never ever ever get into the vehicle of a stranger. And yet here I am in 2020 looking at my Lyft app as my driver gets closer and closer and closer to my pickup location. I’m standing out on the sidewalk with a backpack on my back, suitcase by my side, and an icy cold kombucha in my hand. It’s 8:30am. Let’s do this thing.

A couple of months ago my brother texted me and asked if I wanted to join a crew going for a winter vacation in Colorado. I was hesitant at first because of time off and money (because for now I’m having to pay out-of-state tuition), but I try my hardest not to say no to opportunities for new experiences with friends and family. I have severe travel anxiety, yes, but I temper it best I can in order to enjoy new sites and opportunities to build relationships.

There is something particularly nice about being driven from place to place by someone else. Rarely am I ever in the passenger seat of any type of vehicle. So far today I have moved from the Lyft to a small shuttle en route to the airport, and I admit that it’s quite nice to have the time and the freedom to look at the landscape around me. It’s about an hour and a half to the airport so between my music collection and my snack collection I am pumped.

The story that I told myself during the few weeks following my decision to join on this trip is this:

That the trip is becoming wildly more expensive that I first thought it would be. And that I will have to cut activities out (like skiing) that I was wanting to do during the trip simply because I don’t have the means and the physical capacity. And that it can’t possibly be worth it to spend that much money and that much unpaid time off in order to see some fluffy white stuff and some tall rocks and sleep in a mansion made of tree logs.

But today I’m gonna tell you how I rewrote this story. I’m gonna tell you that you should go after whatever it is that makes you feel like you have lived your life well.

At the end of 2018 I took a 10-day long trip to Hawaii to visit my brother. During that same time some of my friends were also going to Hawaii and they offered to allow me to rent part of their condo. This same couple invited another couple (some very close friends of theirs) to join the trip and share the condo as well. The planning stages began and you know what happened? The second couple was all gung-ho about the trip until they discovered that they couldn’t see and do all that they wanted to see and do in Hawaii in the 10 days that they had free for travel. So you know what they did? They bowed out of the trip. They thought it was wasteful to fly all that way and spend all that money and not be able to fulfill all of their hopes and dreams. This logic seemed wildly flawed to me, but to each their own and ultimately I and the original couple attended the trip and had an incredible time.

Not six month later the wife of the couple that bowed out of the Hawaii trip was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and within a few months succumbed to the disease. Maybe I am taking this wildly too far, and maybe the wife ultimately cared not one thing about seeing the incredible island of Kauai, but ultimately they turned down a perfect opportunity for a wonderful experience with their friends in her (unknowingly) last days.

I don’t mean any disrespect when I say this, but don’t be this person. I’m a tightwad, perfectionist, type A, with travel anxiety and I look for every opportunity to not experience my life. I know that this is not the best use of my time, but still it happens. And I am willing to bet that this, too, is not the best use of your time. Don’t bow out of opportunities simply because they aren’t perfect. And I am in no way speaking only about travel – this could apply to anything. There is no perfect. And I can guarantee that there is an expiration date to your life… and it just might be sooner than you think.

Speaking of striving for some sense of perfect. I think some big brain needs to create a portkey for us lowly muggles that still have to travel the boring way. If you aren’t familiar with the story of Harry Potter then you aren’t aware that a portkey is a bewitched item that, when touched, acts as an instantaneous travel option. Touch the boot and BAM you’re in another place in the blink of an eye.

I’m on my way as I type to catch a plane to Denver Colorado (hence the Lyft and the shuttle bus). I initially agreed to this trip because (again) there is no perfect travel situation and if I can afford it and have the time then I try not to turn down any opportunity to see a new place or have an adventure with someone else. With school and work there will be lots of time when I am tethered to one spot so it’s important to me that I take opportunities when I can truly say YES.

People often ask me how I afford to make trips like this. The answer is very simple – you will be able to afford what you want to afford. And, no, I’m not talking about putting it on a credit card. I’m talking about actually have the cold, hard cash to do these things. I spend a large chunk of my money on two things: foods that I love and travel experiences.

I won’t sugar coat the situation, though, because travel can be expensive depending on the location and the time of year and your particular location and travel means. Take my trip to Colorado for instance. The two biggest chunks of money for travel (unless you have special circumstances and stay with a friend or relative) are lodgings and travel cost to and from the destination.

Here is a precise breakdown of lodging costs and travel:

  • My portion of the cabin: $255
  • Lyft ride (round trip): $20
  • 2-hour (each way) shuttle to airport: $70
  • Flight $300
  • Baggage fee: $60
  • Public transport pass in the city: $15

It could have also looked like this:

  • My portion of the cabin: $250
  • Gas for 2-hour (each way) drive to the airport: $25
  • Toll fees on drive: $10
  • Long-term parking for 7 days at airport: $60
  • Flight $300
  • Baggage fee: $60
  • Public transport pass in the city: $15

I ultimately chose option “A” because it seemed like less stress and less money. I wanted desperately for there to be a cheap, simple, hassle-free way to get to my cabin in the rocky mountains, but alas… it did not exist. And that’s ok. Remember that there is. no. perfect. You will have to weigh costs and options against your means and your expectations.

It took me a few weeks and a few hours of journaling through my frustrations to come to terms with the fact that traveling TO this cabin was taking up a substantial wad of cash and that it would be unwise to spend money on activities. I had to reconcile with myself that I could either attend the trip and obtain whatever joy I could muster from simply being there with friends and family or I could forgo the trip entirely.

I often struggle with this question that constantly pops into my head whenever I am doing anything: Am I happy enough? And by that I mean am I getting enough out of this whatever-it-is to justify whatever it was that I sacrificed to do this thing or be with these people or eat this food.

Was it worth it?

It’s always worth it. It’s always worth it to put your best foot forward, stop striving for perfection, and find joy and connection in all sorts of experiences. There is a whole lot of good to be gotten and to be given in this life and I think the important thing is to weigh the costs and then forget the costs and just live the life. Quit obsessing about wether today is the best day ever and find ways to make your days enough for you in this moment.

I’ve rambled on for long enough. Until tomorrow…

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