Musings, Short and Sweet and Scattershot, Tidbits About Us

Oh, for Time to Spend Like Money

June 25, 2014

The internet brings me many tidbits, connections, and inspirations. It’s a time-waste and a treasure-trove.

I found this recent read thanks to Sarah Peck. (Side note: Sarah, too, trained and worked in landscape architecture. A definite kindred spirit.)

David Cain’s article, Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed, resonates soundly with the season I’m in right now: the musings over New Zealand’s flat whites and the ease of dropping dollars on coffees here at home, the loss of space for life-giving things that cost more time than money, and the real price of our current system of economics.

I started to share the article as a Facebook post but then thought better of it, deciding it was worth more than a fleeting status update. (An update that would only get seen by .02% of the page’s “likers” anyway… Hence, another reason I rarely post anything on that page to begin with.)

This article from a once-traveler, now 9-5-er points out the systemic, underlying trouble with our lifestyle:

“Under these [40-hour work week] working conditions people have to build a life in the evenings and on weekends. This arrangement makes us naturally more inclined to spend heavily on entertainment and conveniences because our free time is so scarce.

“I’ve only been back at work for a few days, but already I’m noticing that the more wholesome activities are quickly dropping out of my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and extra writing.

“The one conspicuous similarity between these activities is that they cost little or no money, but they take time.”

I so enjoyed the taste outside the system when Ted and I were long term travelers.

That time for writing, taking photos, exploring, sleeping, taking slow routes instead of fast ones…

Now that we’re back in the midst of the rat-race (and parenthood layered on top of that), I feel even more acutely the pinches on time and the allure of purchased band-aids to mask the pain of fatigue.

In present life, the work days and grocery lists are long.

Somehow, the saving fueled by trip-planning was so much easier to pull off than the saving fueled by down-payment goals. Maybe because I could see the liberty of being footloose on the horizon? Now, I see the future mortgage payments grinding like gears.

I read the article as a warning sign. A reminder to keep perspective.

“We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.”


“Healthy, happy people don’t feel like they need much they don’t already have, and that means they don’t buy a lot of junk, don’t need to be entertained as much, and they don’t end up watching a lot of commercials.”

Of course, the reason I could earn, save, and un-tether myself from society to gallivant around the globe was because there an economy existed that would support earning and saving and would act as a landing pad.

“Can you imagine what would happen if all of America stopped buying so much unnecessary fluff that doesn’t add a lot of lasting value to our lives? The economy would collapse and never recover.”

And then what?

I’m still mulling it all over. Sifting through thoughts as I juggle housework and Facebook (and a blog that I can’t afford to love as much as I do).

There’s a part of me that would love to go back to tracking every little purchase on the road in my tiny Moleskine notebook.

Short on dollars: long, long, long on time.

If you’ve got time (speaking of that precious commodity), pop over and read David Cain’s full piece: Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason for the 40 Hour Work Week.

What do you think?

Time to spend like money, or money to spend like time?

Ecclesiastes 1:17: But when I set my mind to understand wisdom, and also to understand madness and folly, I realized that this too was just wind chasing.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Carmel June 26, 2014 at 7:50 am

    I was just thinking about this exact topic as I sat on our couch in Granada and read my Anne Lamott book. At 11:30am on a Thursday. We spent the morning having breakfast, finishing up a post, and reading. Then we went to get Shawn’s hair cut (I was translating), get some wine for the evening, buy a couple gifts, and now we’re back. I’m about to exercise, then we have an evening with charcuterie and David Lynch planned. The best part of traveling, to us, has been the time to allow ourselves to think and do as much or as little as we want. I spend a lot more time thinking about possibilities rather than road blocks. It’s incredible. I know what you mean about saving for a house vs. saving for a trip. The latter feels like you’re buying yourself freedom, the former, a cage. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. I am hoping to approach our return home as an opportunity to apply my new way of thinking to a more “normal” life. It’ll take a lot of conscious effort at first (and probably always), but I hope to not just throw all I’ve learned away. It’s hard, though.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians June 29, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      Wow, Carmel, it brings me such a flood of memories to read the description of your day. It makes me think of reading Traveling Mercies while sitting on the balcony in Beirut, and of finding a more than a few funny holes in the wall for Ted’s haircuts (gosh: the baby-faced barbers in Cambodia…the grisled John Wayne fan in New Zealand…the snobby – and kind of terribly skilled – stylist we accidentally found in Argentina). I know exactly what you mean!

      On the road, there were ups and downs, for sure (I don’t want to idealize it too much), but the time to feel the full range of emotions and the luxury of space and distance made for a stark contrast to some of the days I buzz through now. I wonder if it isn’t even more of a challenge, coming back, since I more easily recognize the “normal” frenzy for what it is.

      I tell myself that having a baby on top of it all makes for a harder transition; I wonder how I might have incorporated my on-the-road lifestyle back into my new at-home rhythm if I hadn’t introduced a little beautiful, chaotic being into the mix. I’ll never really know… I so appreciate the chance to share my ponderings here, though, and bounce things off of you and other friends who get the conflict and ideals. It’ll be fun to have you state-side again; maybe we can share a meal and have a post-RTW debrief. :)

  • Reply Archana | My SoCal'd Life June 27, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    This resonates so strongly with me. Sometimes I can’t even remember what it was like to travel long-term, luxuriate over coffee, take the long bus ride versus the quick plane ride, and just SIT and WATCH. Now we’re back in this world of rushing and racing and growing up I suppose. Oh how I wish I had my Moleskin, too! All those notes on money spent and places visited. Thanks for sharing this! It’s a great reminder to incorporate more of what I learned on the road into my “regular” life.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians June 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      Yes, Archana! I know, I know. Like I was saying above to Carmel, her recounting of a day on the road transported me back to my own memories. If I stop and really think about it all, the emotions come flooding back, and the perspective taps on my psyche and says, “Hey, remember…?” I’m so glad you know what I mean.

      It’s wonderful to have the treasure trove of memories, but I find myself feeling so upset when I’m too tied up with daily life to really enjoy them. For example, I have so, so many stories I’m still wishing to share here; so many photos and tales, and so many updates from current life, too. But the pace of life that allowed me to sit and think and write (and sort and edit and upload photos) just doesn’t equate with the season I’m in.

      It is a sort of growing up, as you said. Or at least a growing into a new aspect of identity? It feels a little topsy-turvy right now, and I wonder just how the balance will come. TBD…?

  • Reply Heather June 27, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Feeling wiped out after only 4 days back at work full time and I actually though, “well, maybe now I’ll just be a boring person and veg out in front of the TV after dinner for hours every night because I have no energy left for anything else…ever.” I do find myself holding onto money less because budgeting takes time, thoughtfulness, and planning, which we have less time for when we are working 40 hrs a week. My situation is hopefully temporary, but it confirms that I am happy to live a more simple life in order to have more time for the really important and meaningful things life offers.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians June 29, 2014 at 3:32 pm

      I feel you, Heather. I used to have so much mental energy for budgeting and tracking spending and keeping money working hard for the goals we set. Now I’m doing my best to keep on top of the basics of family life and work life. I certainly haven’t hit my new groove…but I’m still aiming for something a little different than what life is right now. I’ve been reading Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7, and I’m right there with you on desiring to simplify in order to have time for what matters. (Namely: tea and pie with you!)

    What say you?