Todays Lesson: Spending money on big life lessons is worth it
Last year my wife and I decided to spend a good chunk of change to go to Peru. This was just a few weeks before she was going to take 12 months’ unpaid leave from work and return to school.
Actually, the decision was quite easy to make… but not for the reasons that you are probably thinking.
We didn’t go away because we needed a vacation or because we were stressed out. We didn’t go away thinking that this would be a time to relax and unwind, nor did we ever think that this trip was a sight-seeing adventure. Money was tight, and we had just decided to go down to one income.
You’re probably wondering what kind of trip did we go on and WHY would we spend $4,000 to go somewhere where we couldn’t relax or sightsee!?
Well, we got the chance to go on a short-term, international missions trip to Peru with our church. And let me tell you… it was the best money we have ever spent! We experienced so many eye-opening and life-changing experiences during this trip (you can always email me if you want to learn more) and we walked away changed.
Some of you may be thinking “I don’t go to church, I’m not Christian, this post is not for me.”
YES, IT IS!
The life lessons we learned in Peru are for everyone. And it’s important, even while trying to save money, to be choiceful to invest in life experiences that will push you to places you’ve never imagined.
That’s why this belongs on a personal finance blog.
Someone who often talks about money is saying it’s OK to spend (within reason, and at the right time) when it truly grows you as a person in new ways.
During our ten-day trip in Peru, we went up to a mountainside where a health clinic was being set up. The people on the mountain rarely, if ever, get medical check-ups and so we were part of a team that brought the supplies to them. There were no phones or televisions where we were and so our group walked around and knocked on different doors inviting people to the medical clinic.
At one house, a young lady opened the door. I’m guessing she was no more than 22 years old, carrying her baby. She had mismatched shoes that were too small for her feet and a washbasin that was used for cleaning and cooking. She invited the team into her house, and this just tore me apart.
After looking around I noticed she was living in a room, about 12 ft by 12 ft. This was her bedroom, kitchen, washroom and living room all in that small space. She invited us in and offered to make us some tea!
Here she was, living in a home, with barely the essentials and very little money and she invited our team of 14 people inside! When was the last time you asked 14 strangers into your house?
This was just one example, but over the course of nearly two weeks, we had opportunities to learn from a lot of great people. While we could offer them material items (clothes, shoes, etc.), they offered us a new perspective on life, money, and happiness that no amount of money could buy us.
Here are a couple of life lessons that my wife and I took home with us…
Being poor can look different
Yes, many of the places we visited were poor in the traditional way that we think of poverty. But poverty doesn’t always have to show itself in physical form. Sometimes people are poor in other ways.
We all have needs in our lives. Sometimes it’s a physical need, and sometimes it’s not. Our friends that we met in Peru lacked shoes and medical attention, but they were overflowing in other areas of their lives. They had great relationships. They invested tons of time with one another. And even with no physical possessions, they wanted to give of their time and serve wherever they could.
Have you thought beyond your physical possessions? Have you taken time to reflect on your marriage? How about your friendships? Your spirituality? Your self-esteem? Maybe your attitude? We can all improve in some way or another.
Where are you “poor” or lacking?
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Be happy with what you have
Many of the places we visited did not have running water or doors or amenities that we’re used to. Yet they made the most of every moment.
They valued time with each other and were so hospitable. They made us feel welcome and never grumbled. We never heard them complain! Imagine living like that! Living in a way where time is spent on being thankful for what you have, instead of dwelling on what you’re missing.
They waited patiently in the line up to the clinic (for hours), let the elderly go ahead and there were no massive sighs or eye rolls or anything that you might see back home.
What is making you unhappy? Does it really matter when you think of the big picture?
Will getting that promotion, new relationship, or bigger house REALLY make you happy? And once you get those things, will you stop going after more?
I doubt it.
We are always looking for more. Reflect on what ACTUALLY makes you happy.
You are capable of more than you think
When you look at your life, have you taken enough risks?
Seriously. You grow the most when you step out of your comfort zone. That’s why we went internationally to get this experience. We know that there are a lot of opportunities to serve in the community around us, but sometimes you have to go away to push yourself and grow.
There are times when you think you can’t do something and after you do it, it’s exhilarating!
In Peru, I learned many things about how to get out of my comfort zone. This blog, for example, is a new thing, and despite a slow start, I am excited to see where it goes! Challenge yourself to be stretched, and you will be amazed at how you grow!
It’s not all about you
Going on this trip was not all about me. It was not all about my wife. Sure, we did it to develop ourselves, and we grew tremendously, but that was not our goal. Our time to really focus on serving others was more valuable than any amount of money.
Life is built on relationships. God created Eve for Adam so that he wasn’t alone and had a helper. Don’t look for a helper… BE a helper to someone. Find ways to lift up, encourage, support, OTHER people. This is what people remember. Don’t be so consumed with yourself that your journey to the top is a solo one.
Spending $4,000 on this trip was the best thing for us. We have no regrets with how we spent that money, and we learned valuable life lessons. Sure, there were probably opportunities to learn those lessons closer to home, but for us, this made sense.
You can create your own journey. Choose what cause you are passionate about and get out there. Whether it’s a 10-minute drive away or a ten-hour plane ride, decide what works for you and experience life with a new lens!
Think it through
- When was the last time you did something that challenged your growth?
- How can you give back to others in your community? Internationally?
- Have you ever thought about stepping out for international missions? What’s holding you back?
- How not to overspend and save more money
- Money saving tips to have a no-spend night (or week, or month)
- Why a high income doesn’t guarantee financial freedom
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