Balance, Blogging, Money & Saving the World

Have I always been an insomniac?

“Don’t you know what time it is?!” I mumble-yell to no one in particular. The sky was beginning to look like that big metaphorical painter in the sky blended together some blue & yellow, but somehow managed to never make green.

I hate it.

I groaned and rolled over, desperately trying to tuck my insomnia away from the daylight.  From beneath my blanket cave, I could hear the neighbors getting ready for work.

Sigh. I certainly wasn’t the one embodying the spirit of 6:30am. I should be doing yoga or showering or something. Instead, I was just hoping, dare I say praying, that I would be able to get a few hours of sleep– just a few– I’m not even asking for the full eight. Sheesh.

By the time 9:30 rolls around, I feel like I been in bed for days. I need to get moving. Not working has really messed with my schedule, or perhaps it was working an 8 to 5 that was “messing with my schedule” all along. I can’t tell. I’m starting to think that I don’t operate in 24-hour days like most people or even the planet does. I’m guessing that my planet has 36 hour days–a slower rotation. That sounds about right.

And when did I become a “blogger”? Gross dude. 

Though the frequency at which I update my blog may not suggest it; I’ve been writing a lot lately. Sometimes, going on 30+ hour binges of “creativity” that end in exhaustion & self-doubt. You see, I’m not actually cut out to be a “blogger.” I’m generally a pretty private person, and writing about myself and my escapades requires a certain wherewithal that I most certainly lack.

I make up for it with whiskey though. It seems to help me push that “publish” button.

Don’t worry, mom. I’m not drunk every time I write. Not by a long shot.  If I were,we’d have far more blog posts to sift through by now. To be honest, I’m probably a more intoxicat(ed)ing than your average blogger, but not nearly as drunk as you average writer. Somewhere deep in my cultural consciousness resides a stereotype that writers are drunks, but I can’t be a drunk. I’m trying to save money. Of course. What round the world travel bloggers journey would be complete without talking about money?

first sunny weekday I've been able to enjoy in years

You mean, I still need money?

I have already done the part that most people write about. (i.e. How to Save Money to Travel the World) I already did that. I didn’t know so many people were writing about it while I was doing it either. So I did it without them and so can you. (Something else I learned from reading hella blogs: they like to tell/convince you that you can do it–whatever it may be. I most likely agree with them.)

I had a very good job before I started this whole project. I made enough. I never felt like I needed more money. Granted, I don’t have children or a mortgage or a shopping habit or anything, but I never felt like I needed to save up for anything. If I wanted something, I could  have it, but it didn’t always work out that way. For example, several times over the years, I convinced myself that I was going to buy a car.

Every October–give or take a good rainfall– I would give myself a speech that went something like this, “Amy, you’re an adult now. You have a 401k and health insurance. You pay taxes and go to galas. Its time for you to get a car. You could go to the beach whenever you wanted! Buy large items without a second thought! You could arrive to work well-dressed & dry. People your age are having children and buying houses, you can get a goddamn used car.” I’d look at cars, ask car people, price out new car-friendly budgets, but I never ended up getting a car. Each year, I would continue to ride the same bike in the same rain pants to the same job and never actually level up and join the carbon emitters.

A cyclist I shall remain.

“My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income.” – Errol Flynn

Since I no longer have to challenge myself to save exorbitant amount of money  to make my dreams a reality, I have instead been trying to limit my spending to lengthen this experience. Therefore, my most recent monetary obsession has been to live within the wages of an average minimum wage worker in the United States. According too my calculations this amounts too approximately $1160 per month. Yikes!

I’m not sure how people do this month after month after month.  I’m sure its possible, but it must be extremely boring.  I was never really an extravagant individual, but these financial constraints are just plain suffocating.

I have failed at my attempts for January & February, but each month I’ve been getting better. Here are some things that I am used to that I have already had to give up:

  • Coffee. I used to be able to have coffee when I rolled into work. I’d sip it luxuriously while I conversed with my fellow food bankers. I loved it. I love coffee–nice coffee. Buying your own coffee, however, adds up. They call it the “latte effect.” Who knew? If I wake up and brew a cup every morning I would need to buy a $10.00  bag of coffee at least once a week. Plus cream. If I went to a coffee shop every morning, I would need to spend approx. $2.25 per day on this habit. Done with that.
  • Sushi. My favorite! My little Iowan roots knew nothing of sushi before I arrived on the left coast. I don’t think my parents have ever even had sushi. But I must confess, that I have probably eaten sushi an average of once a week for the last four or five years. Yikes! That’s about $20 a pop. I cringe thinking how much I would have saved if I had never discovered those damn lil’ fishies.
  • Microbrews. Portland Oregon is the land of strippers & microbrews (and coffee & bikes & hipsters & cliches & whatnot). It is customary in local culture to bring a six-pack of microbrews to every potluck, BBQ, movie night, etc. Whenever you go meet your friends at a bar, another popular local custom, there is a diverse selection of microbrews on tap or in bottles from which to choose. They’re usually smooth and brewed within the city limits. Irresistible. Generally, they cost $4-$5 per pint. In my “past life” I would not think twice about spending 10-15 dollars a couple nights per week on these delicious drinks. Now, not so much. I’m avoiding these scenarios as much as possible, and if I need to show my face for a birthday/going away/my bands playin’ type occasion then its cheap lagers for me.
  • Health Insurance. Going without health insurance makes me nervous, but the sad thing is: most people I know don’t have it anyway. Harsh reality. I would like to get some before I go do anything too stupid, but we’ll have to see where all the chips fall. Keeping my insurance from my job (COBRA) would cost me $426.23 per month. That is more than I pay for anything. That is more than I have spent on anything ever, besides a ticket to the Philippines and my current freedom.
  • Anything New. Almost nothing I wear is “in style.” All of my pants have holes in them. I don’t own any sandals. I can’t find my loofah, so I’m washing my face with my hair. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. I don’t need anything new. There isn’t anything that I don’t have that I think I should go out and buy. Its taken a long time to get my mind to this place. I don’t necessarily recommend it.

Each time I spend any money, I record it in an excel spreadsheet and classify the expenditure so that I can make pivot tables & pretty charts that accurately describe that nature of my spending. If you haven’t already figured it out. I am a giant nerd. I even wrote an entry that included my shiny monthly charts, but I’m not sure if I want to share them. Seems kinda personal doesn’t it? But lots of travel bloggers do it, and they admit that they get the most e-mails from people curious about budgets & saving money. hmm.

Wait, I thought you said something about “saving the world”?

Oh yeah, I did do that, didn’t I? Well, who do you think I am? A super hero? Sheesh. I’m a volunteer. I’m just going to try to save the world.

PS. If anyone has suggestions how to best go about saving the world, I’m all ears.