The Difficult Choice: Save for the Future or Travel and Live Life?

The Difficult Choice: Save for the Future or Travel and Live Life?

We can’t have everything in life.

In my mid-twenties, I often find myself at a confusing crossroads — should I work hard and save everything I can for the future? Or should I make the most out of my youth and explore the world? 

These conflicting urges are constantly present within me and most days, I find myself attempting to referee an inner battle between two forces playing an exhausting game of tug-of-war. Sometimes I just want to give up and get away from it all, forgetting about all my responsibilities and disregarding any possible consequences. All I want to do is relax and enjoy my life while I’m single and untethered to any family commitments.

I wonder, “Do other people my age feel the same way?” Do we all feel this fervent longing to see the world while we’re young? I know I do. Yet every time I consider booking a flight — even if I find a fantastic deal — the anxious driver within me hits the brakes on my impulsiveness.

Also read: 7 Life Investments You Should Secure Before Travelling the World

Irrational guilt and the things I tell myself

save for the future

No matter how hard I try to justify my thirst for travel, I can’t help feeling weighed down by irrational guilt — emotional heaviness brought about by the idea that I’m “wasting away” the money I worked hard for just to spend a few days gallivanting around town. 

Also read: #TravelGoals? These Adulting Goals Might Be More Important

“I could have paid for two months of electricity bills with the cost of my airline tickets alone.”

“That money could have gone to my future wedding budget.” 

“If I go on another trip, I might have to cut this week’s grocery budget in half. Guess it’s back to instant noodles every meal.”

These are just a few financial concerns that cloud my mind when I mentally review my trip’s expenses. I’ve even gotten into the habit of equating every expense to how long or how many deliverables it would take me to meet the cost. 

“To pay for the flight alone, I’d have to submit 15 articles!”

“It would take a week’s worth of teaching to cover my Airbnb expenses…”

Here’s a tip: If you’re desperately trying to save, this discouraging mentality is a sure-fire way to dispel any urge to splurge.

Growing up and shifting gears

There was a time in my life that I didn’t care as much about how much I spent, valuing experience over practicality. I suppose everyone goes through different phases in life. When I got a sweet taste of earning my own money, all I wanted to do was spend lavishly. I went crazy purchasing things I always wanted to buy, but never had enough money to spend on. Most of these spur-of-the-moment purchases were airline tickets and hotel bookings.

save for the future

A photo of me taken a long time ago in Taipei, just one of the many destinations I hit on my year-long travel spree. How happy and free I felt, much like the lantern I released into the sky!

But time passes and seasons change. As I approach the latter part of my twenties, I’ve been getting increasingly nervous about what the future has in store for me. Or rather, if I have enough in store for what’s to come next. I’d like to jumpstart my life very soon, maybe even migrate to a different country to try out a new life there. But here’s the hard truth: Money is, and perhaps will always be, a hindrance.

There was a time when I became obsessed with earning and saving every last cent. As a preschool teacher, I don’t earn much. So, I frantically searched for as many freelance opportunities as I could, applying left and right for hours on end until I could no longer resist the call to sleep. To this day, I find myself losing all my time to work, and although it exhausts me, the desire to earn is too strong to deny.

But the burnout is real. I wish I could say I’ve found perfect work-life balance, but I’d be speaking from an untruthful place. I still find it difficult to relax. Although the anxiety can be irrational at times, I can’t shake off this feeling that everything I do — the work I accomplish and the money I save — is never enough. 

Striking a balance and being kind to oneself

save for the future

Image credit: Sharon McCutcheon

One afternoon I was cooped up in my room typing away another draft on my laptop. I was reaching for an article about the best things to do in Sydney. Suddenly, I felt such a strong compulsion to forego my anxieties and book the trip. And so I did. Granted, the flight was very reasonably priced and I have a friend there who’s willing to take me in, so my expenses won’t break my bank. But it was a huge step for me — recognising my need for spontaneity, for a break in life’s monotony, for fun.

Also read: Why Travel is a Good Investment

Of course, saving is essential. I’d be a reckless fool to advise anyone otherwise. But what else is vital? Relaxation. Enjoyment. A zest for living. And if you’re the type of person who gets all of that through travel (I know I do!), then set a budget for it and stick to it. Whatever’s doable for you, whether it’s three local trips in a year or one annual international trip. Give yourself something to look forward to and don’t feel guilty about it. 

Also read: Travel Guilt Exists — Here Are Reasons That Prove It

I say, be practical. Save enough. But also give yourself the freedom to feel the rewards of your labour. In the end, you might want to ask yourself: Why else do we work but to give ourselves a life worth living?

About Author

Raya Esteban
Raya Esteban

Raya Esteban is a lifetime education advocate who currently works as a Montessori primary school teacher. With every chance she gets, Raya loves stringing words together to create compelling travel pieces for everyone to enjoy. A nature-lover and a curious wanderer, she enjoys hiking, diving, and exploring the phenomenal world around her. If she isn’t in the classroom, you’ll probably spot her at a beach or on top of a mountain soaking up the sun.


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