Last month, I went on a spur of the moment getaway to Paris with a girl I dated in college. Could I afford this vacation? Technically, yes, in the sense that my credit card would float the bill and I would come out of everything all said and done with my head above water. But being able to pay for something and affording something are two different things. In the more practical sense, I’m currently at the point in my life where I should really be saving my money instead of spending it. This is the age where I should be planning for the future, not living it.
I am a sensible person. Usually. When this girl called me up out of the blue and asked me to go with her, I thought she was off her rocker. Who buys a ticket to Europe three weeks in advance just because you saw an airplane fly overhead and had a sudden urge to just get away anywhere? As she laid out the plan, I went along with it and said things like “that could work” and “why not?”, even though I wasn’t seriously considering the idea in my own mind. But after we hung up and the shock of the conversation subsided, the most grounded argument I could seriously reason was, in fact, “Why not?”
How will I look back on this point of my life 20 years from now? It was that question that inevitably swayed my decision. What would I regret more, spending all my money taking a spontaneous trip to France over the holidays or having saved a couple thousand dollars before I started my professional career? I had a job lined up for the new year. I’d lived in Paris before; I could really squeeze a dime there if anywhere. And I knew that I would regret staying more than going, so I bought a plane ticket. I went.
For the first time in my life, I no longer feel all that young. Maybe it’s the ever-increasing amount of financial responsibility or simply the real world staring me right back in the face. At some point we will all experience this; you can’t avoid it forever. But life-changing experiences are rare to come by. Who knows the next time I’ll have a month to travel or the flexibility and freedom to leave everything behind? You have to take these opportunities when they come, no matter how unexpected their arrival may be.
No, it wasn’t entirely responsible to take a last-minute trip to Paris. But no, I do not regret it. I have friends and mentors who never would have done what I did. They would say I’m ‘too old’ to live so nonchalantly. But when we’re all looking back on our youth, will we revel in the fact that we played it safe in early adulthood, or will we wish that we took chances to explore? You only get once chance to be young, so squeeze as much out of it as you can while it lasts.