As a personal finance coach, I warn clients that debt steals your dreams.
I’ve long known the power of them to guide financial choices, but now as I reflect on living one of my dreams, traveling for a year, I can see that the real impact of living out a dream is transformation, not the activities or purchases.
Here is what I learned from 13 months of living and working in San Francisco, Boston, Honolulu and Philadelphia. My wife, Cheri; our son, Malcolm; and I drove across the country – twice, taking numerous side trips and doing the Lonely Planet Guide’s top 10 things most everywhere we went.
1. Your commitment will be tested. Obstacles arose before, during and after. I was tempted to quit before starting. Along the way, I wanted to return to my comfort zone. Once I learned that, I realized returning can be difficult too.
2. Get out of your comfort zone. Fear and social constraints can hold me back if I choose to let them.
3. Explore your world. We lived like locals but explored like visitors. As a result, we saw and did things most locals never did.
4. 10,000 steps a day – good for health and soul. Because we had only one vehicle, I did a lot of walking. To be exact, I took 3,481,540 steps, covering 1,420 miles. The opportunity to slow down, connect with my surroundings and see new and different things each time I walk has enlivened my soul.
5. Security comes through relationships. Our vulnerability was met with generosity and connection. Friends and acquaintances opened their homes and community to us. Without this support, it would have been nearly impossible to take the leap of faith required to start and continue this year of travel.
6. Find hidden gems. Every place has a story to tell if I’m willing to see it with new eyes. I learned this through Big City Hunt, a self-led scavenger hunt designed to help you get to know your city and places you visit.
7. Want more serenity, consider less stuff. We never touched much of what we brought with us. When I opened our storage unit last week here in Durango, I didn’t want most of what was in it. We learned to live with less. And we’re happier.
8. 13 weeks, time for transformation and play. Cheri was working as a traveling speech therapist. Each contract was for 13 weeks, one-quarter of a year – one season. I learned that this was enough time to make a significant transformation. And 13 weeks has 26 weekend days. Nearly a month of vacation-like play.
9. Choose adventure. Life can be difficult, stressful and filled with risks. Sometimes my worry makes me want to hide and play it safe. When I breathe, I know that a life of adventure comes with risks, but playing it safe comes with the certainty of a smaller, less vibrant world. Don’t let debt steal your dreams!
Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance. www.personalfinancecoaching.com