What Makes You Richer

I went on a date a little over a month ago with a gentleman I met online. We’d had coffee initially, and then he took me out for Valentine’s Day. When we had coffee, it seemed we were on the same page. I’d just bought my ticket to Switzerland, and had told him when we initially met. He seemed receptive to it.

When we went out later that week, he got around to casually judging,

“Airfare and travel is so expensive! That’s why I haven’t done it much.”

I nodded, because I get it. I am by no means privileged enough to travel as much as I’d like to. He explained further,

“I mean, I’ve always had the money to do it, but I just can’t always justify the cost to myself.”

He was chewing with his mouth full at this point.

“What did you spend on your ticket?” he asked, critically. I could see the mental scales being erected in his brain, with a specific number on one side, waiting anxiously to see if what I’d spent was worth it.

I was shocked he’d asked at all. Money is a touchy topic and like politics and religion, should be approached delicately. But here he was, stomping around the topic. I went ahead and told him anyway. If he thought it was fair, I figured he was maybe a little more decent than I’d previously thought. If he thought it was unfair, I’d kindly thank him for dinner and then leave…as soon as I was finished with my steak.

“Just for airfare?” he asked.

Yes.

“That’s ridiculous.”

I sipped my wine and reasoned that I did have the cash for it, and it was my money to do with what I wanted.

He went on, elaborating on his bafflement over what people spend on travel, when they can just relax at home.

I wanted to say, That’s just the thing though. People don’t spend money on travel just to relax. Travel is the only thing you spend money on that makes you richer.

Instead I only said,

“Well, I am staying with my cousin, so that cuts down on the cost.”

Suffice it to say, we didn’t go out again. I found him terribly boring, and I think he must have found me far too independent or opinionated or … who cares what?

 

Before I left, I was talking with my dear friend and confidant, Dana, who is a nurse practitioner. She’s brilliant and insightful and a lover of life, and over the course of the past two years, has been a fine encourager to me as I’ve grown and broken out of my shell of heartache and adult independence. More than that, though, she has been someone who inspires me. As a fellow caretaker, our professions have much in common, just from different angles. But she is further along in her career, and has been a sort of personal career mentor for me. She listened to me talk about going to Switzerland and all the jobs I’d been applying for overseas, and she said, simply,

“I support it. You’ll get a job somewhere, and it’ll be great and you’ll go, because you’re a badass.”

Now, I consider myself to be many things, but a badass is not one of them. But somehow, because she is so badass herself, I found myself to be immensely honored by her statement. Yes. Honored.

I got lost my first day walking around Luzern solo. I’d spent Saturday and Sunday with my cousins, and they walked with me everywhere, but I was very jetlagged and still riding the international travel adrenaline rush, and forgot which way to turn to get to the bank. European streets are very unpredictable, and I am easily distracted. It took me an hour to find the bank and by the time I found it, I was starving and freezing. I found coffee and then a pizzeria. The waiter was less than enthused to find me dining alone, and didn’t seem to take too kindly to my lack of German skills. Whatever. I had pizza and it was warm in the restaurant, so I didn’t care. When I left, I found a clothing boutique and hid in the dressing room trying on clothes and texted two girl friends about my woes and disappointment with myself. It’s discouraging, getting lost in a foreign country. So I packed up my sad ass and walked back home to take a nap.

When I got home, I took a minute to check my email, and spent the next hour or so emailing about different job options in Korea. I also received a rejection email from the school in China, and reminded myself I’d prayed for God to open or close doors for me. I walk in trust on this. I have more to say on this, but for now, you should know I shamelessly crashed on the couch for approximately two hours. Rejection requires rest, even if you’re at peace about it.

 

The next day, I walked to the train station (and didn’t get lost!) bought a coffee and croissant, and boarded a train for Lugano, a city in the Italian speaking portion of Switzerland. There is an idyllic lake there, and pizza, and gelato, and gorgeous Italian speaking men. When I arrived in Lugano, I never felt more like a badass. I had managed to successfully get myself to the station in a foreign country, navigated the train system, and arrived safely in my desired destination with no unplanned detours. It is no easy feat!

The beauty of Lugano made me question all my life’s decisions. The weather was warmer in Lugano, and sunnier. I walked along the water’s edge all day, curious about the shops, restaurants, docks, and general life there. I spent the day just curious about life there, and quietly observed. I read and ate pizza. I had two glasses of wine with my lunch. I got an affogato with chocolate gelato so dark and perfect I perhaps could have held off on the espresso. I went back for my gelato, and got two scoops: one of the dark chocolate and one of the stracciatella. Bellissimo.

I was heading back to the stazione, eating the last of my gelato when a crew of hunky construction workers catcalled me in Italian.

“Ciao, bella!” they sang out, along with a slew of other Italian words that probably objectified me and would have ordinarily led to returning a terse word toward them, but it was all in Italian, and so musical. I didn’t mind so much that I was tempted to turn around, twirl my hair, smile prettily and ask them to tell me again how beautiful they think I am.

I’m not even remotely kidding. This is the pull of the Italian language. It’s very sensual.

When I got off the train in Luzern, I felt even more like a badass. More than that, I thought to myself, I love every part of this life, a life abroad; a life of adventure.

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