The one thing you should go into debt for… and no, it’s not your child’s education

The Best Piece of Advice I’ve Ever Gotten

In a characteristically depressing conversation on bills, mortgages, car payments – aka, DEBT, a friend made a shocking remark. “Travel is the one thing worth going into debt for.”

I mean, taken for what it’s worth, travel is a great thing. But, basically, he was saying debt was OK?

If we’re going to be stuck paying for this, that, and the other thing – oh, and don’t forget your retirement, savings, IRA’s, rainy day fund, college – for the rest of our lives, one of THE most OK things to spend money on, aside from food, shelter, and (not extravagant) clothing, is travel. Put it on the credit card, make the payments, and enjoy the flight.

Reality check. The average American is swimming in a disgusting pool of debt. Why would I tell you it’s OK to strap on your bathing suit and dive into the deep end? And, what’s more, why would you listen to me?

Even more shocking, how can I go on to say that’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten? For one, I’ve never actually listened to it (until recently). And two, it’s outright ridiculous.

Here we are, making mortgage payments, putting our children through child care, saving for a truly unsaveable college fund – you do know you’re looking at about $500K per child now, in 18 years, right (for reference, I’m writing this in 2017)? Granted, that’s at a private school, but public isn’t really great either. And of course our incomes aren’t going to inflate at the same pace. That’s a savings of about $2000 per month, on top of whatever you are already spending and saving. With a nowadays-classified-as-mediocre salary of $100K (what?!), you literally can’t. That is greater than or barely less than your twice-monthly paycheck, assuming, for quick calculations sake, that about 50% goes towards taxes and benefits. And that is if you are having only ONE child! The facts and figures are all too large and dreadful that we simply fall back, budget like we have been (if we have been), and forget that extra little thing we need to save for, or at least muster up a couple hundred per month and hope for monetary gifts and donations from other people, who, ironically, are also going through the same thing.

But that’s a much better, much more dignified reason to go into debt than to travel, so selfish and lavish. The one thing parents slave over for their children is education. It paves the way for them to learn, grow, become something. It provides them the tools they need to be able to live a life they can afford. It allows them opportunity for jobs, careers, life journeys, so that they can cover their basics, and live without worry for their next plate of food or a roof over their heads.

You want me to trade all that for a trip to Italy?

Sell It To Me

travel polaroids

To travel is to experience. If you’ve got the means to spend $10,000 or at least the credit to do so, by all means…

But, if you can’t exactly afford a trip to Bora Bora, then I’d settle for a few less extravagant adventures.

It’s not that you’re saying your kids aren’t important or that you don’t care about your bills. You’re just saying that the experience earned from visiting another state, country, or continent means something to you.

There is a lot to be learned from traveling the world – even you’re only going cross-country or one state over. The world is much bigger than the four walls that bind us – they may pay us, we may have become educated and granted entry to the dreary gray work chambers that in turn allow us to send our kids down the same path, but they are not everything. In fact, they are almost inconsequential.

The greatest teacher is experience. I’m sure you’ve heard the famous Mark Twain quote, “Don’t let your… schooling interfere with [your] education.” Schooling (and thus saving for it) provides the basic knowledge we need to progress. These tools are of tremendous importance as they serve us to acquire jobs, earn money, live stable lives, and provide the same for future generations.  However, even more importantly, and arguably, the most important and intangible tool we are granted through schooling, is the ability to continue learning. And what better way to learn than to immerse ourselves in the unknown, foreign, unique, and beautiful cultures of the world. Experience, learn, grow. That is far greater than the relatively small sum of money saved from holding back on travel.

So, travel to your heart’s content. Or, don’t. But know that in traveling, you aren’t robbing your kids (or future kids) of an education; you aren’t neglecting responsibilities; you aren’t lavishly wasting money. You are simply “buying” the freedom to learn abstractly, to live openly, to finally de-stress, to relax in the world you work so hard to afford to see.

If you can “afford” to go into debt… do so for travel. In the grand scheme of things, the pain of the few hundred or thousand you spend will dissipate behind the beautiful things you behold.

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