I keep thinking about those budget worksheets in The Grown-Up's Guide to Running Away from Home: Making a New Life Abroad (see my earlier post, Preparing.)
Learning to live with less. Economizing. Simplifying. These are solid, respectable themes, and they show up a lot in the expat vernacular.
But they worry me.
Exactly how much less are we supposed to live on?
In her book No Touch Monkey!: And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late, Ayun Halliday relives her days of traveling on pennies. She wrote the memoir from her home in Brooklyn, whiling away the time waiting for her toddler to get past the diaper stage.
Though my living-on-pennies days have been numerous, my travelling-on-pennies days have not, and I’ve always listened to vagabonding stories with a mixture of regret and awe.
I did have that funny evening in the Fes barbershop with eight Moroccans, my roommate, and a sheep’s head, but I never slept in a train station. I never cadged beers at Oktoberfest in Munich. And I definitely never went to Tanzania on my own. So, as Halliday tells her tales (and I haven’t even gotten to the monkey story yet), I feel myself getting itchy to hit the road, wanting to make up for having missed the college summer backpacking through Europe or hostel-hopping in Brazil.
But I don’t want to sleep in a hostel. Or split a beer with my husband at Oktoberfest. (I'd never get my fair share.) And I'm way past shampooing in a public sink.
So all this talk about economizing has got me a little nervous. When we get there (by now you know that “there” is still a little hazy, yes?), I don’t need a bed at the Ritz. But I do want a bed. With a good pillow that cradles my sun-bleached head. And I want to be able to tip the waiter without feeling like it’s a choice between his livelihood and my latte.
Is that asking too much?