Friday thought #49 Money vs lifestyle

I’ve written about this before, but it’s a subject I think about a lot. Whether through choice or necessity, the vast majority of people work either very hard, or an enormous amount, and I would never criticise anyone for the lifestyle choices they make. Everyone is different and everyone has their reasons for the decisions they make. Right from an early age I knew that a standard lifestyle was never going to be for me. The thought of working in an office terrified me and I always leant towards seasons abroad or travelling.

I spent the summer between finishing school and starting university in France, which set the standard for the next 3 years. I think once you’ve had the taste of an outdoor, slightly alternative lifestyle, it’s hard to ever imagine going back to a ‘normal 9-5 job’. I found out that what made me happiest was being outdoors and being barefoot. Whether that was in the mountains or on the beach didn’t matter, it was the fresh air and the outdoors that I loved. I discovered that I was a simple person who didn’t need much, as long as I had the outdoors, I didn’t feel trapped, I was happy.

And I’ve never really looked back, I found ways to make it work in France, and carved out a pretty good life for myself as a teacher in Switzerland. I’m happy to work hard, and when I put my mind to it I think I do a damn good job, but leaving home at 6am every morning, sitting in a traffic jam and driving for over an hour each way just to get to work, wore me in to the ground. Wrong or right, I knew that I wasn’t happy anymore, so after a few years of this I knew I had a choice, accept it or change it. Many people do this for their whole working lives, and I admire them for it, it shows a lot more commitment and dedication than I will ever have, but I knew it wasn’t for me and despite how much I enjoyed my job, I knew this lifestyle was never going to make me happy.

So I chose to change it. Me and my boyfriend made the rather life changing decision to hand in our notices and move to Austria. We knew we wanted to stay in the mountains, but we needed something more, something different. I’ve realised that there are 2 types of people, those who seek the path of least resistance, and those who constantly seek something more challenging. Neither is to be criticised nor celebrated, as both are perfectly acceptable life choices, indeed I often envy those who choose to keep things simple, life is complicated enough without adding in extra issues like language barriers and trying to get your head around an entirely new country’s social system. But I’ve discovered that it’s those extra barriers that keep me going. As much as it’s a very tempting prospect on paper, I’ve had to admit to myself that I don’t want to settle for the easy path. An cruisey job which pays well sounds like the dream, but I thrive on new challenges, on throwing myself in at the deep end and on feeling a bit terrified.

Quitting your job on a whim and moving to another country is never going to be the best decision financially, but you need to decide how much money you really need and what is going to make you happy. My commute has gone from waking up before dawn and a 2 hour round trip in a car, to a 10 minute cycle along a river and flexible working hours. I’m so much happier and I’m so glad we made the decision we did. You only get one shot at life and sometimes you have to stick your neck out and take a risk. If it works, brilliant, and if it doesn’t, well at least now you know!

Welcome to Innsbruck, Austria, where time and lifestyle take precedent over money…

Money or time? Which is more valuable?

I’m sure this is a dilemma which faces most people at some point in their lives, many on a daily basis. What is more important; money or your time? Is working a 60 hour week with no free evenings, no weekends and no time with your family and friends worth it if you make plenty of money? Or is it ok to make less money but have more free time to do the things we enjoy doing? I worry sometimes that today’s society is so work driven that many people have forgotten what it’s like to do the things they enjoy and define themselves by their job title rather than their personality or virtues. Indeed I am discovering more and more often that without work people have no idea what to do with their time. Whatever happened to hobbies and interests? Making the most of time off?

Of course, money is vital. Without it we couldn’t live and essentially it is what makes the modern world go round. I love meeting people who have chosen a career or a job because they genuinely enjoy it, because I think that this is happening less and less. Very few people you will come across nowadays have a real affection for their occupation and even fewer actually enjoy going to work.  I often wonder whether people are making their career choices purely driven by money, or because if they were honest with themselves, they don’t really know what else to do…?

I have decided to take a part time job-share for next year and I have been amazed at how many people have looked at me in surprise and asked ‘What will you do instead?’ Managing to fill my days with activities I enjoy has never been something I’ve struggled with, yet so many can not possibly comprehend what else I would do with my time if I’m not at work. Which brings me back to my question. Has money become more important than time? Has working and earning taken over people’s lives to such an extent that they no longer yearn for those things they enjoy, instead unquestioningly accepting the fact that they must work and earn as much money as is humanly possible?

I’ve said it before and I’m sure this isn’t the last time it’ll be referred to here. We are only here once and we need to make the most of it. When I’m an elderly lady and reflecting on my life and choices, I don’t want to look back and wish that I hadn’t spent the majority of my life on earth slogging away at work. I’d like to look back and realise that yes, I could have had more money and lived a more lavish lifestyle, but instead I chose to live a simpler life, doing the things I enjoy and living life to the full.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 18.56.15