Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I can't afford to eat out. Nor go to movies. Yet, I travel?

My neighbors enjoyed the Pink Martini concert and were relating their experiences when they asked me whether I had been to a live performance by that group.

I told them I have not.

"You know their music, right?"

Yes, I know about the group and the music they make. I love it. A few years ago, when a cousin got married and relocated to New England, my gift to her included a Pink Martini CD.

"Oh, I love their music" I told them.  "My favorites are when they do their covers of older songs.  And I love their Hang on little tomato."

Seeing my neighbors' expressions, I clarified: "I just cannot afford the tickets for a live performance."

"Yes, you can" replied my neighbor.

Honestly, I cannot afford.

It is the same reason I cannot afford to eat out either.  I feel terribly guilty if ever I spend money eating out.  And, as much as I love good movies, it has been a long, long time since I watched a newly released one--heck, even the two-dollar movies are not affordable anymore.

Yet, it is the same me who spends his fortunes on travel.  Like the recent budget-busting Costa Rica trip, for instance. Or the visit to India that is only a hundred days away.

It is all about priorities.

Travel to, and in, a strange place is worth immensely more than the money I spend on it.  The visit to spend a few days with parents has returns that far exceed the cost of the air ticket.

We differ in our interests and priorities.

"I save the pennies and when they add up to get myself somewhere far away, I take off" I told another neighbor who is still sitting on a travel prize she and her husband won more than a year ago.  That couple don't have any burning desire to explore another part of the world.  "Can I buy that prize from you for something like 50 cents on the dollar?" I joked with them.

George Orwell wrote about priorities and expenses in the context of cigarettes and books.
A couple of years ago a friend of mine, a newspaper editor, was firewatching with some factory workers. They fell to talking about his newspaper, which most of them read and approved of, but when he asked them what they thought of the literary section, the answer he got was: “You don't suppose we read that stuff, do you? Why, half the time you're talking about books that cost twelve and sixpence! Chaps like us couldn't spend twelve and sixpence on a book.” These, he said, were men who thought nothing of spending several pounds on a day trip to Blackpool.
With that introduction, Orwell goes on to compare his personal costs of reading against the spending on cigarettes.

Orwell concludes that wonderful essay with:
if my estimate is anywhere near right, it is not a proud record for a country which is nearly 100 per cent literate and where the ordinary man spends more on cigarettes than an Indian peasant has for his whole livelihood. And if our book consumption remains as low as it has been, at least let us admit that it is because reading is a less exciting pastime than going to the dogs, the pictures or the pub, and not because books, whether bought or borrowed, are too expensive.
It is all about priorities, and not necessarily because something is too expensive.

It is the same thought I have when I see see students, who complain about the cost of college, holding in their hands five-dollar Starbucks concoctions that I simply cannot afford.

It is priorities that I think about when society prefers to spend gazillions on entertainment while criticizing education as prohibitively expensive.

It is my own set of priorities when I admit that I cannot afford to watch Pink Martini at a concert--despite the fact that I love their music :(


Anonymous said...

the right performance is EXACTLY like going some place new, if only for an hour or so. TOTALLY affordable.

Shachi said...

very much in agreement with you here.

I don't like to spend much on dinners or lunches outside, starbucks, frozen yogurt, or shows (have seen a few when I was younger but none in a while).

But travel, I jump at every opportunity :). These days, its mostly day trips locally but with kids, its always a new perspective, slowing down, and pausing to find joy in the little things.

Loved this post!

Sriram Khé said...

Anon: travel, even to a place only a couple of hours away, is the real McCoy ;)

Enjoy your home-made foods and travels, Shachi ... glad you liked this

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