Maybe you have been fortunate. You never got serious Covid and you were never separated from loved ones during lockdowns. You did not mind closed borders for lack of interest in travel, and you kept your job and maybe even made extra money by playing the stock market. Moreover, as an introvert you enjoyed all the quiet time at home and in front of Zoom. Life has been pretty good. But for all others, whose freedom of travel and moving got curtailed unexpectedly, I venture a guess: Covid might have changed how you think about the value of time.
When Time Is Stolen from You
The last year and a half might have been an excruciatingly long time for you. Separated from your partner or parents, every minute was too long of a wait for the reunion. The 10th anniversary trip to France, planned for years? Cancelled. The foreign exchange semester in Singapore, gone forever. Thailand, while open now, so cumbersome to enter that it would drain all your energy. The cruise to Antarctica–who knows when it will be possible again. Walking the St. James Way in Spain? Too bad your legs have started troubling you lately, and you wish you had done this trip from your bucket list years ago.
Depending on your situation, needs, and wants, the time since Covid started has been a lost time for at least some of your plans. This lost time will never come back. If you are lucky, you will be able to do some of what you had planned to do later. For other things, it will be too late.
There were three things I always deemed necessary to travel: time, money, and health. Then I realized there was one more that nobody ever considered important because it was assumed: open borders.
Doing My Bucket List in My Early Forties
I purposely took over a year in my early forties to complete my bucket list, visiting an array of ancient culture sites situated around the world in lovely nature. I found the money/time tradeoff heavily weighted in the favor of time. This meant that I considered, and still consider, time a finite resource of unknown quantity, a commodity that cannot be regained. You can make and lose and make money again, but you cannot buy time. More precisely, I did not want to wait until retirement age and take the risks that certain trips would not be possible anymore.
Interestingly enough, here is my thinking as I had it formulated in my award-winning book, “The Gift of Job Loss” (p. 58):
“Many things don’t come back in life. You might like to visit the Pyramids in Egypt, go for it…you might like to hike Kilimanjaro in Africa – better do it now…your risk of not doing your dream travel now is that you might never be able to do it due to factors outside your control.”
Remembering Happily and Feeling Vindicated
For sure, I did not envision a pandemic, but more ordinary things like civil war, destruction of a destination by excessive tourism, out of control costs, declining health, or lack of time due to pursuing my career.
Then, when Covid hit, I felt quite vindicated. Having done my bucket list over a decade ago lessened my feelings of missing out on the international travel front. Let Chile be closed to travel or Cambodia too cumbersome to get to or Portugal inaccessible for US residents–luckily, I don’t care that much. If I look at my pictures from Anchor Wat, Machu Picchu, Tikal, Petra, the Chinese Wall, Easter Island, and many more destinations, I feel content, grateful, happy, and relaxed. Even more so since many people found my decision to complete my bucket list in my early forties instead of focusing only on my career strange. Some friends found it foolish (leaving the small fact aside that the Great Financial Crisis was still not over and there was not much else for me to do anyhow).
You might want to take Covid and what governments have done to free travel as a warning sign. It’s like a yellow card in soccer. Of course, not everybody can just take time off and do her bucket list. Your situation and dreams are not mine. But there should be a happy medium between money and time during your long life. Remember that your life is finite. In the future when you have a trade-off between doing something you really want to do and something that just makes you money or is expected of you by family or society, use your time strategically and wisely. Your time spent will not come back, no matter how rich, successful, or healthy you are.
© 2021 Michael Froehls – All Rights Reserved
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