Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Feeling 'Different' -- But It's Okay

Simple Dollar, one of the best frugal blogs out there, has an interesting post, based on his recent Thanksgiving visit to family:

Here's his reasoning --
He realized that his family's interests and hobbies could be quite different from those of his hometown family and friends. He also realized that he could be heavily influenced in his own purchases by the interests and hobbies of those he loved -- whether or not he personally found those purchases absorbing in the long run. (A brother's love of hunting is mentioned; SD enjoys listening to Brother's stories and looking at his trophies. But SD's own hunting experiences were less than stellar.)

Simple Dollar calls his own interests/hobbies "internal signals," and those of the people he cares about "external signals." He says,

"Once I realized the distinct difference between external signals and internal signals when it came to my spending dollar, it became much easier to make good choices with my money. Purchases that were heavily reliant on external signals included gadgets, automobiles, golf equipment (I like to golf, but I don’t need the latest driver), and most of my collections. Once I realized that I was mostly buying these because others liked them (and all I was really getting was a bit of camaraderie from the purchase), it became much easier to simply say no to such purchases.

This not only frees up money for saving and planning ahead, but it also leaves more money for the things that actually do fulfill me."

Wow! Simple, elemental. Profound.

Our family -- all four of us -- is headed to Michigan the day after Christmas, to spend the New Years week with Mom and Dad, as well as Little Brother, Sister and whatever cousins, uncles and aunts wander by.

I love these people dearly. I also have come to realize, over the years, that we don't always share the same interests. Take travel, for example. Dave and I enjoy trying out different countries' foods, languages, places. Bro and Sister like the visiting part, but wouldn't think of staying more than a week or so, and aren't that big on unusual foods or trying to speak in the native tongue. (We often mangle it, but we still try...)

Dave and I love to travel -- but as cheaply as possible. We drive the back roads, take the local transportation. We winkle out the cheapest plane ticket, take the train...wait until we stumble on the best bargain.

Bro and Sister, on the other hand, go in style. They travel when they feel like it, to where they feel like going. (The Hollander blood does kick at to some degree. They do get the best price they can for the date they want -- but they wouldn't think of holding off until the right bargain appears.) Bro and Sister's favorite way is cruising...including every day trip possible.

I have to vent here. Skip down to the next bold line, if you prefer.

While we've enjoyed the (2) cruises we've been on, it was clear we were only getting a brief, sanitized taste of each country -- or island -- or city. One day can't get you too far off the beaten path. The second cruise, we paid Bro and Sister's price -- at least 1/3 to 1/2 more than we normally would have spent.

We didn't have much of a choice. Mom's great desire was to have her kids and their families go to Alaska together. We did it, but it was anything but 'togetherness.' The grandchildren went in different directions. We stuck with Mom and Dad much of the time -- but they had trouble walking. Bro and Sister went off on a ton of day trips we couldn't afford, or had little to do with the real world we were visiting. (Helicopter tours to glaciers??) They thought going to talks about history or customs were silly. They went to bed early -- we went out and walked the 'circuit' in the cool night air, listened to concerts, or spent hours at the big windows, looking for breaching whales.

During the entire cruise, we got to listen to general flak about the food (too 'weird' -- it was gourmet), places (too 'buggy' or 'dirty' or 'strange'), stops (general assumptions about the area/city/state based on quickie one-day experiences) and Stuff in General. (I didn't even want to know).

Sadly, with every comment, I kept thinking, 'Is it that Dave and I have traveled more? (Both of us not only have traveled throughout the States, Mexico, Canada and South America, but lived and/or traveled in Europe, as well. We both speak some French, Spanish, German...and a few words of Portuguese!)

Have we experienced more? Eaten more? Spoken more, or been friends more with people who weren't from white-collar, white-people Michigan?' Is the difference part of our having lived in the West for more than two decades now? I don't think of us as the L-word...but our brand of conservative is WAY different than that of our Michigan relatives.

Back to the travel issue --

Dad thinks we're all nuts. Why go anywhere when you've got a snug chair in a living room, and three squares a day...all delivered in English? (This, from a guy whose grandparents on both sides only spoke a little English, if at all!)

There's a compromise possible here. Dad hates traveling out of the U.S. -- but he enjoys travelogues and programs about other countries. We take a different tack than Bro and Sister in our travel decision -- but we all enjoy talking about various countries, what to see, and ways to get there.

Sure, we'll have to listen to some Pronouncements...but we're big people. We can handle it.

If I can keep my big mouth shut, that is.

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