Weighing the costs: is anything worth giving up travel for?

Near East Glacier Park, MontanaThis week my husband and I have been mulling over a life-changing question. We’re contemplating scraping together enough cash for a down payment on a piece of property next to my hometown in Montana. Why? Because for years I have yearned to move back, and he’s willing to contemplate the idea … someday. (Actually, for years the conversation was, “I’ll live anywhere in the world with you, just not the Northeast of the US. If we live in America, it has to be somewhere nice, like Montana.” So we’ve been in the Northeastern US nearly 8 years now and the Hudson Valley is starting to grow on me — all these great farms and lots of hiking … but the weather sucks, and there’s ticks with Lyme disease all over.) This doesn’t mean we’re up and moving to Big Sky country, that’s not the life-changing question.

The question pertains to how we would pay for such a purchase. Assuming we could scrape together a down payment and get a loan for the rest — not looking too likely on either front at this point — we worked out a budget whereby we could actually just make the monthly payments (assuming no change in income — if we lose jobs, we’re screwed anyway, though).

There’s only one way we could do it: give up travel for a minimum of two years.

We’re both travel addicts; that’s probably why we got married in the first place, the shared lure of “somewhere else.” Travel takes a big chunk out of our budget every year, even with using frequent flyer miles and hotel points and finding lots of deals. It still costs money. Our landscaping is in shambles (literally, if you count the path cave-ins from woodchuck activity) because we would really rather spend the money hiking for a week in the Outback, or visiting small Russian villages, or hiding out on remote Scottish islands.

But we’re considering it. Because we’re having kids, life is short, Montana’s just about the most amazing place on earth, and we’d like to believe we could move back someday. And don’t underestimate the need for handy relatives to help out with childcare, a lack that has made life where we live very difficult at times.

We’ve contemplated temporary travel bans before, mostly for financial reasons, but never really stuck with them. It’s akin to dieting, I told my husband when he scoffed at the idea that we’d be able to stick with it this time. It’s not about denying yourself the cookie — it’s about persuading yourself that you would actually prefer feeling slimmer at the end of the day more than you want to eat that cookie right now. If you eat the cookie, then enjoying it is more important than losing weight. (Okay, messy analogy, and now I want a cookie, but I don’t diet so I don’t mind eating one.) We’ve never stuck with a travel ban because the reason for doing it — saving money — was way less interesting than going somewhere new.

In this case, though, the scales are wobbling fairly evenly. A two-year travel ban is actually something we might do … no visits to family in Russia or my desired trip to the village where my father was born in the Ural Mountains, no trek through Tibet that I’ve wanted to do most of my life, no visiting one of my best friends in Chile, no popping over to California to visit my sisters or Britain to visit my in-laws. That’s a lot of ‘not’s.’

So I’m curious: what would you give up travel for, even temporarily? Anything? Nothing? What is possibly more important than the lure of discovery in a foreign place?

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