F@*k Your Debt And Travel The World

by Kristina Intinarelli

Vacations aren’t impossible, you’re just brainwashed.

The day before President Trump was inaugurated, I was sitting in an empty terminal at Charles DeGualle Airport, counting the pages left until my passport needed new pages  and envisioning future conversations with other ex-patriots about why America failed, again, to elect a level-headed leader. While my home country tried to make sense of one of the most hotly contested moments in recent history, I considered whether the exchange rates would be favorable enough to see Germany atChristmas.  Okay, you caught me. I’m totally bragging. But here’s the thing. I am not even close to rich-  I live paycheck to paycheck like the rest of you do. Nor am I debt free- I have a mountain of it growing in the federal  reserve, just like most University degree holders. So how did I, as a Millenial with a liberal arts degree, get to travel one of the most expensive portions of the world guilt free? I simply changed my mind- and I’m here to advise that you do the same.

This is not a message about how ifyou have the tenacity,  you can sell all of your possessionsand live hakuna-matata, teaching English in a muggy backpacker country while experimenting with peyote and culturally insensitive hairstyles. Rather, this is for the Millennials who have been brain-washed into believing that such exploits are only or the 1% or Boomers with pensions, or the Millenials who feel comfortablejudging  a friend’s Instagram snap of a Mai-Tai in Bermuda as a sign of entitlement, or a rich daddy, or whatever, rather than potentially admitting that hey, maybe that girl just has priorities that allow her to spend her weekends enjoying her life, rather than counting down the days until you can afford a down payment on a big box you’ll never actually own.  

There are a few narratives that really hold weight in the ever-growing mythosphere surrounding Millenials today. Some believe that first-world life achievements like buying a house and having a savings account are options that are no longer available to us, given the economic climate of the last 10 years. A large portion believe that  luxury activities like vacationing in Europe or backpacking through Yosemite for a summer are dreams that died long ago, when there was less social pressure on graduates to immediately pay down hefty government loans after graduation.  Millenials, while it is certainly true that economic mobility for our generation has been limited (and maybe homeownership is something we aren’t interested in anyway- but that’s another story) it is not true in the slightest that you cannot  or should not  spend your limited vacation and  unpaid holidays between your six jobs soaking up sun in other zip codes. In fact, it is one of the most radical things you can do in an era where to “treat yo-self” is seen as the ultimate act of rebellion.  We live in a time when budget-friendly travel options are more available than ever- if you’re willing to make a few concessions. So what’s your excuse?

Here’s the rub, Millenials: we’ve inherited a certain cultural programming from the generations who came before us. This is true regardless of what era you grew up in. The economic crash in 07-08, one of the most devastating bubbles in our generation’s history, has allowed us survivors to philosophically peel back the layers of the value system that the Boomers left for us to swallow. Instead of blindly accepting that the ultimate goal-posts of a life-well-lived are material possessions like giant homes, the stagnation of our generation’s purchasing power has allowed us to begin to question why we ever followed a given set of premises without peering at them too closely. Did we ever want those Mc-mansions in the first place? Is that really what happiness is all about?  

This programming is a direct result of the time you live in: Born in the sixties? It’s likely that your family believed in becoming gainfully employed in your early twenties, starting a family, and owning a home by the time the grey hair sets in. Born in the 80s? If you’re American, you probably have some college education, are at least a little bit in debt by the time you graduate high school, and are more likely to marry later in life than your Gen Y counterparts. For average Americans, a standard life used to means things like Tang, weekend softball games, and pushing out little Junior before your 30th  birthday. When it comes to work life balance, this programming is even more apparent:  historically, the American understanding of work-ethics  included a Puritanical devotion to the workplace, one that forces you to show up when you’re sick or nor to argue about a promotional-freeze for 5+ years while the company gets its assets “back on track” (ie, moves then to India to secure huge tax breaks). But now more than ever, Millenials are breaking away from this trend, and so should you.

 According to a new study conducted by Bentley University, 77% of Millenials cite flexibility in scheduling as a top priority for the work-place (http://www.bentley.edu/newsroom/latest-headlines/mind-of-millennial). Apparently, the collapse of the economy didn’t just shatter the dream of living a modest suburban life- it has cut away some of the cultural brainwashing that allowed our society to become such a work-hungry, vacation-less void in the first place.  While  previous generations were perfectly happy to spend day after day in a cubicle, earing interest on a meager pool of cash so they could have fun later in life, Millenials are freeing themselves  from the mental shackles of unhealthy workplace loyalty and are no longer afraid to say “gimme that three day weekend”. It seems that our generation has peeked through a cultural glass ceiling surrounding work- one that allows us to make simple demands that increase quality of life and overall happiness.  After all, if juicy pensions and quality health insurance are beyond our reach, we might as well have our TIME back, right?

So here’s what I suggest, Millenials: take back your time. If you aren’t awarded a 40 hour work week with benefits at a reasonable living salary, at least make the most of what free moments you do have. Use that all-star weapon in your back pocket, the one that’s allowing you to read this article right now, and do a bit of research.

 A growing number of travel-related Apps like Travelocity, Priceline, Expedia, and SkyScanner make it easier than every to compare prices on airfare, hotels, and car rentals all over the world. Uber and Lyft have saved us from the devastating price-gouging of taxi companies world-wide. Hell, in a time when minimalism and sustainability are in style, you can rent a bike all day in nearly any semi-developed country in the world. Further, companies like HostelWorld, Airbnb, and Couchsurfers give you access to a range of private or sharedlodging all over the world, ranging in price from “ free.99 “ to market cost. Basically, there are no excuses.  Change your mind. Take your vacation time, and what little you have left after paying for avocado toast, wash some cars for your elderly neighbor and find a ticket on sale.  Get on a bus. Put your shampoo in a tiny plastic bottle in a tinier plastic bag, turn off your e-cigarettes, let the TSA feel you up, and get on that plane before sharing a small hostel with several unwashed Australian footballers loses its appeal.  Because at the end of the day, all we have is our time- our time to live, our time to experience, and our time to take back the little pleasures in a society where there are no guarantees, and few viable safety nets. I may not ever retire,  but one day I will show my grandchildren photos of me gallivanting, high as a kite, on a beach in Thailand- and that will be worth its own weight in useless gold.