Skipping the country

Pictured: Not Mexico.
Pictured: Not a tropical locale.

For the better part of a decade, since I started my career, I’ve been using the same spreadsheet to keep some semblance of order over my budget.

My dad – a far more capable financial mind than I – helped me put it together, and it’s simple as hell to modify and adjust based on my income and expenditure.

Ever since I moved house last June, I’ve been meaning to get my shit together and re-evaluate my budget, given my rent went up and my pay stayed the same.

But I really need to do it now, because I finally have a savings goal again: my first overseas vacation in almost two years.

It’s been a year since I wrote for the first time about the adjustment from making a bigger salary back home to what I do here. I’ve also examined my own feelings about going from a job that afforded me upwards of six weeks’ vacation a year to one where I couldn’t have six vacation days off in my first 12 months.

As someone who spent a good deal of his 20s taking advantage of a strong exchange rate and ample accrued leave to see the world, it’s been kinda strange not having travel as an incentive to stuff the savings account.

Obviously at this point in my life I should be seriously working towards saving for a house deposit, or at least the beginnings of a retirement fund, or hell: a monetary cushion in the event that I slip and break my leg on an icy bit of sidewalk and end up with a hospital bill to pay.

Call it Peter Pan Syndrome, but right or wrong there’s still part of my brain that says those things are “for grown-ups.” The idea of saving for a vacation, however, is one hell of a motivator.

A couple months ago, when I first started working at The Maine House, Deanna and a couple of her friends were discussing a group trip to a resort in Cancun they had coming up in April. I read the flyer and it sounded like a hell of a time – the package was all-inclusive, with airfares, accommodation, food and booze all wrapped in. TEMPTING.

Of course, I assumed that I’d be charged with looking after the bar in Deanna’s absence, and I was jokingly told as much with some frequency over the following weeks. But as Deanna and I got closer, the possibility of me joining the group in Mexico became a more real possibility, until last week when I requested the time off work, put my money where my mouth is and threw down the deposit. I’ll have to figure out whether I enter Mexico on my green card or my Australian passport, but it looks like I’m going to Cancun in the spring!

The last time I was outside of the U.S., obviously, was late November 2013 when I left Brisbane for good. I’ve had more than one friend invite me to stay with them in London, or when I’ll be coming back to Australia to visit, and neither have really been viable options, as much as I’d have liked them to be.

The other thing that’s fascinated me for quite awhile has been how easily accessible these tropical locations – Mexico, the Caribbean islands, Costa Rica – are to the U.S., and how relatively cheap vacation packages seem to be. Obviously they’re a little out of reach for the average trip from Australia, but south-east Asia was the stone’s-throw destination for an exotic beach vacation in the southern hemisphere.

Now, though, Mexico is practically around the corner. It’s about an eight-hour flight, and we leave from Portland, so it’s not even a case of having to go all the way to Boston first. And by the time April rolls around, I’ll have survived (presumably) through two northern winters, which will make a tropical getaway even more enticing. It almost makes me laugh to remember “escaping to the beach” back home meant driving an hour down the highway to experience…weather that was exactly the same.

I think I’ve earned it for a bunch of reasons this time.

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