Back in August we were excited to be planning a trip to East Africa for next summer. We'd had houseguests, Ed and Jeri, who said it was the trip of a lifetime and referred us to a friend, Tom, with a direct connection to an outfitter in Nairobi. We were fascinated by the stories and started corresponding with George, the outfitter.
The price quotes came back disappointingly high. The amount of that one three-week trip would exceed our yearly travel budget. We'd need to dip into spare money. And what if we needed it later on? After a lot of thought and a couple of months we decided to forego the custom trip to Africa and take a group tour. I sent an email to Ed, Tom and George last week and thanked them for their help. Then we decided maybe we should wait a bit before signing up to go to Africa at all. I was disappointed, but felt comfortable taking my usual play-it-safe position.
Then I read a recent blog post by Bob Lowry at Satisfying Retirement. I've been following Bob for a couple of years now. I like his informative style and his attitude about retirement and his ideas about finances. He's sensible about money and he has the same kind of curiosity about things that I do. He was a careful saver and he and his wife are now benefitting from that.
Bob and his wife Betty recently rented an RV for a few weeks to see how they liked it. They loved it. They loved staying a few days and getting to know a place, and discovering new places. Now they are considering taking a risk. Should they buy an RV and travel for several months a year?
I read Bob's post with fascination. My Bag Lady read along with me. It was very clear to both of us that Bob's well planned retirement makes a lot of sense, and we could completely understand his hesitation about buying the RV.
But there was not a doubt in my mind that he and his wife should buy it and go. Not a single doubt. I commented, "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are built for."
Then I thought about our Africa trip. I wondered how it differed in the least bit from Bob's pending RV purchase. I couldn't come up with a single difference. Both are somewhat of a splurge in a carefully planned retirement. Both will undoubtedly yield pleasure and personal growth. And, most likely, neither will turn out to be the boondoggle that transforms us from retirees in a decent space to Bag People.
I said I'd told Ed and Tom and George we'd changed our minds about the personalized safari. Both Ed and Tom responded immediately. They talked about the difference between a customized safari and a "group grope" one. They talked about the quality of the trip that the outfitter would create for us. They said that, for this once-in-a-lifetime trip, we should do it exactly the way we want it rather than going along with the more generic group itinerary. They told me we could shorten the trip or economize in other ways. They both said, "Don't give up on this dream. Go to Africa."
I ran it by the Bag Lady. She reminded me that, after all, we don't live on a shoestring budget, and there are other ways to pay for the trip than by holding a cardboard sign at the freeway offramp. She actually was a little curious about all those animals.
So yesterday I sent another email to Ed and Tom and George. I said "yes". Tom made a few suggestions for changing the original itinerary: forego three days at an orphanage in Nairobi, consider dropping Tanzania. Ed added an idea: visit the British ex-pat working farm. I told the men we'd like some Kenya culture included, and I'll be calling Tom later today to talk about possibilities.
We're personalizing this trip. It will still be expensive. But I think the Bag Lady will enjoy going along. She likes animals - especially giraffes and elephants and the creatures who move outside a tented camp at night.
The risk may not be a trip to East Africa or an RV. It might, instead, be a flight across the country to visit grandkids, or dinner out and a movie, or a pair of comfortable shoes. It's good to be reminded that we're all in this together.