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!

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Welcome to Innsbruck, Austria, where time and lifestyle take precedent over money…
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The irony of curing exhaustion by doing more!

In my job some of the most frequently heard lines from fellow teachers are, “Thank goodness it’s the weekend”, or “I’m just so exhausted, I feel like I have no energy”, which I’m sure is the case in any number of work places. People live for the weekend, and tend to battle through the working week simply striving for those precious two days when they can put their feet up and have a well deserved 48 hours of, in general, doing not much. I’m often tired by the end of a Friday, as is the majority of the full time working community, but in my experience I have found that this group is divided in to two categories. There are those who sit around doing very little, and will happily justify this inactivity by reasoning that “I’m so tired, I couldn’t possibly do anything”. Then there are those who view it quite differently, thinking, “I’ve been at work all week, I can’t wait to get out and make the most of the weekend”.

Whether ‘making the most’ comprises of a sporting activity, a book club, visiting friends, a dance class, or simply taking your dog for a long walk, this means you have got out of the house and done something that provides you with new subjects to think about, gives you some fresh air, and most importantly, ISN’T WORK. Those from the latter group will feel like they’ve had a great weekend, and despite a few Monday morning grumbles, will generally arrive back for the next working week refreshed and positive and full of tales, whereas the former will feel just as exhausted because, due to lack of activity, their weekend has been unfulfilling, and uninspiring, leading to negative feelings, and sheer misery about having to go back to work and do it all again.

Time and time again I come across people who are “too tired” to go to their evening class, or to attend that social evening they were invited to, and I am no saint, we’ve all done it. But every single time I regretted not going, because staying in for that ‘well deserved rest after my tough week at work’ ends up doing quite the opposite, making me feel grumpy, lazy, unsociable and no less tired than I did before.

I think you can make your working week a great deal more tolerable if you have stories to tell from your weekend, and if you feel like you made a worthwhile use of your time. What’s the use of having free time if you don’t use it to make yourself happy? Whether you love your job or hate it, or are residing somewhere in between, is it better to spend your free time grumbling that you wish you had more of it? Or making the most of every second, spending it doing something you love, and being grateful for what you do have?

I was exhausted after a busy week this week, so spent my Saturday doing the thing I love the most – enjoying the first ski day of the season! Certainly not a restful activity, but once the adrenalin is flowing and the endorphins are flying, you’ve forgotten all about any  tiredness…!

The clouds clear on a beautiful day!
The clouds clear on a beautiful day!