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Last week I went scuba diving for the first time.
It was…incredible. A surreal world of silence, bubbles, and fish. You swim, weightlessly, metres below the surface of the water gently gliding above beautiful, bright beds of coral, schools of fish and endless lengths of seabed. Land never felt so far away.
I’ve always loved snorkelling. The simple pleasure of bobbing along with the waves, a voyeur of the alien world of sea life. Scuba diving, though? It was a whole other level. I wasn’t a spectator anymore – I was in that alien world.
Guided by an instructor, we passed blue, green, orange and yellow corals, swimming between huge rock formations to which coral, seaweed and creatures clung. We caught sight of families of clownfish peeking out from their anemone homes (yes, just like the film!). I glimpsed the black tip of a reef shark, elegantly gliding between coral and rocks above us, so distinctly a predator amongst the dozy fish. Finally, we floated just above a sandy sea bed, and watched with awe as a lone sea turtle snacked on the grass amongst the sand.
My first time breathing underwater, and most certainly not the last.
Folks, I’m feeling inspired.
It’s experiences like these that forever make me question the age-old advice to save, save, save, and keep your money for retirement. To put our lives on hold to pay off debts. To live on a pittance to be able to afford a mortgage, which then ties us to an even smaller pittance for decades.
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Scuba diving is just one exception. I live to rock climb. For surfing. To visit animal sanctuaries and rain forest reserves, to learn to sail, to attend classes to learn another language, to gorge on the delicacies of other cultures. To feel the throb of music flow through me in the way only a live concert can. I want to feel everything. From jumping out of planes, to enjoying the simple pleasure of sipping a perfect cup of black coffee on a sunny street corner, watching the hustle of life go by.
I do not live to save, and I don’t think you should either.
Choosing experiences over money may not give me a big house, a fancy car, or let me retire in a few short years.
But it gives me a story to tell. It enriches life in a way that can’t even be summarised.
I urge anyone – everyone – sitting at home thinking about all the things they’d love to do to actually do them. No, you may not be in a position to travel and work at the same time. You may have other responsibilities (families, debts, mortgages) that come first. Scale your expectations to your lifestyle, and if you want to change your lifestyle? Put in the work. Think about the life you’d like to live, and then think about how you can make that happen. Choosing experiences over money isn’t an either or commitment – sometimes, it’s just a reminder that living in the present is more important than the figures in your bank.
Frugal living isn’t about spending on nothing – it’s about choosing what to spend your money on. Spending wiser, so you have the choice to do what makes you happy. When you’re white-haired, wrinkled and tired, do you want to smile about how well you saved up for a brand new car, or about that time you committed an entire summer to learning to play the piano – and succeeded? (hmm, there’s an idea!)
Yes, having savings is important. Yes, having a safety cushion in your bank account should the worst happen is good, sound advice for everyone. But don’t waste away your life just to feel secure. Find the balance. Control your money for your lifestyle, but don’t let it become the reason you live.
Get out of your comfort zone. Breathe. Laugh. Scream. Run. Shout. Cry. With happiness. Remember that money is just a means to an end. That personal finance is only important as long as you’re living the lifestyle you want, not what you think you should be.
It’s experiences that make us all richer than any number in a bank account.
I hope you’re all feeling impassioned now! What experiences have you always wanted to had? How can you make them happen, today? I’d love to know what you’ve got planned for life – let me know in the comments!