It’s 8:05pm. I’m sitting in 26F, a window seat. Josh is in 27B, middle seat one row behind me. The clutter of people trying to change seats with other travelers on Wingo, the Ryan Air of Latin America, led us to decide it would be easier to sit apart for the short 1.5 hour flight from Panama City to Bogota. Looking out the window, I can see the Bridge of the Americas brightly lit against a dark sky and black canal waters.
As I watch Panama City glide below me, I hope to feel something monumental. A surge of emotion. Pride, maybe. Satisfaction. We have made it so far. This place is symbolic in our journey. Shouldn’t it feel more so? Shouldn’t I cry like Josh did as we crossed the canal on our motorcycle two days ago? Aren’t I the more sentimental of us two after all? No rush of emotions overcomes me. Instead, I feel a pang of worry. We are running out. Out of money. Out of time. Out of something.
This month has been particularly expensive, with the cost of shipping the bike to Colombia, booking flights from Ecuador to Bali, Bali to Seattle, Seattle to Montreal, then finally back to Ecuador in August. Our Summer is quickly filling up with weddings, family reunions, and gigs. To get ahead of all the changing cities we chose to pre-book flights and solidify our plans. In doing so, our bank account has taken a beating, and we are more aware than ever that at some point, we will be out.
Money. Savings. Earnings. Ah. The forbidden and taboo topic. The one thing you don’t bring up with friends or family, besides of course politics and religion. It’s a no-no at the dinner table. A potentially relationship-ruining investment. Something not to be mixed with the personal. Strictly business. Professional. Private.
Well, shoot. If only I were a more private person.
Josh and I saved up for a year to take this trip. Well, mostly Josh. His job paid the majority of our income, and I made some contribution through photography gigs and working at a yoga studio. My grandfather had put money away for his grandchildren’s college tuition, and what remained from my college funds would be a part of what would take us through this year on the bike.
Saying this aloud, I am already cringing. What will people think? How spoiled. How ungrateful. He left her college money and this is how she is spending it? Josh left a career-path job to blow it all on going to the beach? Think about your future. Where is your sense of sensibility?
Over the course of my adult life I have cultivated my own values around spending. Around what I think is worth paying for. Whether that means the type of thing I purchase or the value I associate with the actual object and how much I consider its value to be. I recognize that people don’t share the same values as me, or eachother. Josh and I in particular have wildly different values associated with spending. This does not make one better than the other, or “right.” It’s just different.
I value spending money on experiences. And on material items. But the types of experiences and material items are ones that I believe will improve my quality of life. Experiences that will improve my relationships. Material items that I can use in ritual or daily routine. Things and to-dos that give my soul life and fill my heart.
Boiled down this might look like buying a plane ticket to see a friend. Spending money on skincare or bath products so I can practice self-care and self-love. Taking a vacation. Buying a dress I love and wearing it out and feeing absolutely fan-fucking-tastic. Going out to a romantic dinner with my husband and enjoying the ambience and good conversation. Because of my values around spending, my outflow typically goes to the same places over and over again, and rarely in other directions. And when it does, something doesn’t feel right. My gut knows the purchase didn’t line up with my values. I feel icky. Regret. Guilt.
Because Josh and I have different values around spending, we have had to come to a lot of negotiations as a couple. How much he can spend on gadgets. How much I can spend on a trip to the salon. How much our dinner dates will be. The difference in our own values around spending are so apparent, that we are acutely aware of how different the values of others—people who we don’t ever talk to about money—are likely to be. And how quickly we are afraid others might judge us for how we have chosen to spend our money this year.
Throughout this trip I have tried to be incredibly candid with my stories. I try to be transparent in all of my writing. I don’t see any other way to write about my life than to be honest and open. If you’re reading about what I’m doing, I imagine you want to read the truth. So I try to deliver. Now, we are in a position where the truth is that we have spent more than half of what we had saved up for the year. We hoped to end the trip with some money left over. Neither of us liked the idea of going home with nothing. So here we are. On what appears to be the tail end, the draining, the ringing out.
Can this really be where we are? Or is there another way? Didn’t all of this start with a single statement—We are going to ride our motorcycle to South America? And from that utterance, desire was born. Desire paved the way for passion. Work. Dedication. Until the time had come and enough money was in our pockets. Our belongings sold or stored. So what if this isn’t the ringing out? But instead, the moment where we once again utter the words, We are going to ride our motorcycle to South America? Whatever it takes.
I know what we are going to do. I just haven’t figured out how. We are going to finish this trip. On May 24th, we fly to Bali where we have been hired to film and photograph a wedding. On June 10th, we fly to Seattle, where we will visit loved ones and attend a friend’s wedding at the end of June. On August 1st, we fly to Montreal for the biggest family reunion my family has ever had. And on August 4th, we fly back to Ecuador, where we will ride our motorcycle to the bottom of South America. Just like we had always planned. Whatever it takes.
As the plane drifts into the dark night, all I can see are stars. I think about the men who slaved away to dig a canal from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. About the doctor who killed every last mosquito in Panama to fend off the Yellow Fever that took the lives of hundreds of workers. About the audacity of Teddy Roosevelt, who fueled a revolution in Panama so he could carry out his vision of uniting the seas. Preposterous. And yet, the stars in the sky did not blink an eye. Build. They twinkled. See if we try to stop you. Those same stars, glimmering beyond the plane’s wing. Daring me. Build. See if we try to stop you.
I am not sure how we are going to make more money. Or how we will get to the end of our journey with something in our pocket. But nothing is stopping us from trying. From doing. From building. The how is not important now. The what even less so. We have a why. We have a reason. This is our life. Our values. Our choices. We want this life to mean something. For it to be memorable. To turn our dollars into experiences that fuel our values and purpose. To look back on it all and say, “yes, that is how I wanted to do it.” Whatever it takes.