Have you ever really looked forward to something and then afterward found that there were unexpected surprises? My wife and I recently returned from a 3 week trip to Hawaii where we spent some quality time visiting with my dad, stepmom, and sister who live there. The time away provided an opportunity to relax, recharge, and reflect (and I’m not talking about the Hawaiian sun reflecting off of my pale skin). So, read on to learn about some of the financial and life lessons learned while away.
Not only were we fortunate to go to Hawaii, we were fortunate to be able to do this without our two daughters (ages 6 months and 4 years). You heard me right – without kids!!! Okay, I know what you’re thinking – we won’t be winning any parent of the year contests this year. But, let me assure you that we dearly love our girls. It’s just that a married couple needs time away occasionally. And for my wife and me, we haven’t taken a vacation with just the two of us since before our oldest child was born. We were embracing this opportunity of being able to spend quality time together, uninterrupted by the cries and demands of two little ones. To paraphrase Bette Midler from the recent movie Parental Guidance, “At some point your kids will move out and you’ll be left with your spouse, so don’t neglect each other.”
A big shout out is in order for my mom and stepdad (affectionately known as MaMaw and PaPaw to our girls) who agreed to watch our children during the 3 week period. Did I mention that we live in Missouri but them in Mississippi? It would have been nice to fly directly out of St. Louis since the airport is just 4 miles from our home. However, that would have required my parents to drive up to St. Louis from Mississippi to pick up the grandkids and then drive all the way back. We didn’t want them to go through that 14+ hour round trip drive since they were going to be busy babysitting for the next 3 weeks. Let’s face it, they’re old and they needed to muster every ounce of energy they had (sorry MaMaw and PaPaw – I thought it was funny). So instead, we started out our vacation with a 7 hour drive to Mississippi (which between potty breaks, diaper changes, leg stretching, lunch, etc…turned into an 8 hour drive). Although we had to put a little legwork in prior to arriving in Hawaii, this vacation proved to be a win-win for both us and the grandparents. We got some needed time away (alone) and they got to spend some extended time with their grandkids, which they rarely get due to the distance. By the way, have you ever noticed that when you are in a rush to get to your destination, it seems like it takes an eternity to get there and the trip is not all that enjoyable? But, when you stop a few times, smell the roses, grab a diet Coke from the gas station (this comment is for my dad and stepmom who love diet Coke so much that they will stop at a gas station or McDonald’s on their way home even though they are only 2 minutes from home where an endless supply of diet Coke exists) and simply just take your time, it seems like time flies making the trip enjoyable. Note to self: enjoy the journey!!! Also, to all you parents out there, you are not a bad parent if you take some time away from your kids. It’s healthy!!!
Upon arriving in Hawaii, my family was waiting at the airport to pick us up. They live just around the corner from the airport so the trip to their house was just a few minutes. Upon arriving at their house, we came to the realization that they live in a parking lot. So of course I said (with my dry sense of humor), “What? You live in a parking lot? What kind of crap is this? This is Hawaii?” The truth is, my family oversees a few churches in Hawaii and they are living in the parsonage on the church grounds. We are extremely grateful to them for opening their home up to us and making this trip a possibility. We also came to the realization on this trip that my family would make for a really interesting reality show. Look out Duck Dynasty.
One of our best experiences was in Maui when we drove to the top of Haleakala Mountain. It wasn’t the peak that was the best experience but instead was an isolated incident that happened along the way. During the drive to the 10,000 foot peak, you eventually enter into Haleakala State Park, but not without first stopping at an entry gate to pay a $10 fee. I was driving, my dad was in the front passenger seat, and my wife and stepmom were in the backseat. I reached into my front pocket to get out my wallet but was struggling to get it out. My dad said, “You got it there Brad”. In an attempt to explain my lack of wallet-pulling-out ability, I turned to the gate attendant and said, “I can’t get it out. I’ve got a lot of money in here. I mean a lot of money.” The attendant didn’t even crack a smile. I guess he really wanted that $10. I finally handed him a $20 bill and while he was getting change (or so I thought), I looked at my dad and said, “Well…… I thought it was funny.” All the while the gate attendant was standing there and heard what I said. That’s when we all lost it. We were laughing so hard that our stomachs’ ached. Do you know the kind of laugh I’m talking about? It usually occurs at an inappropriate time such as in the classroom at school, in church when the pastor or priest is speaking, or right in front of a gate attendant. During these times it’s as if the subject matter gets more and more funny. And you can’t control it. As we were laughing hysterically, the attendant gave me the $10 in change and politely said, as if nothing even happened, “Thank you and have a great time.” It was certainly much funnier in person than in writing, but this is a moment I will cherish for a long time. When is the last time you laughed that hard?
During one of our hikes through the rain forest, on our way to a waterfall, I got a call from nature (no pun intended – okay, I meant it). It was unexpected, yet adventurous at the same time. I felt like a cross between James Bond and a boy scout. Needless to say, we were not prepared for this, but thank goodness the leaves are big in the jungle. Spontaneity is what breeds lasting memories. And don’t forget that it’s okay to laugh at and occasionally make fun of yourself.
In summary, take some time off, cherish your spouse, spend time away from your kids (you and others will benefit from this), laugh until it hurts, and be spontaneous occasionally. One would think that they had “arrived”, “reached the mother lode”, or “experienced nirvana” once aboard the island. However, during this time away, I was reminded that vacation (and life) are more about the journey than the destination. Enjoy and embrace the journey. It’s far more important than the destination.
And lastly, to impart some financial wisdom, retirement is not about the destination. It should not be a point that you “arrive” at. You must not forget that there is a journey to take before and after. Don’t neglect it. This means don’t save every dime you have and equally, don’t spend every dime you have. Strike the right balance and you will find that the journey is pretty enjoyable.
Brad E.S. Tinnon
CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™
P.S. We would love to hear any comments you have or hear about any similar experiences you may have encountered on a trip. Also, if you’re just finding our blog for the first time, feel free to sign up for our eContent so that you can receive future posts.
Photo courtesy of BK