All You Need is… Dreams?

All You Need is… Dreams?

The ever-popular topic of “How much does travel cost?” is back!

An acquaintance of mine was just asked about how she and her husband paid for their family’s 5-star, multi-month, international vacation. Fair question, I think, since they’ve been pretty public about how long and fancy the trip was. Her response was: “It’s not about money! It’s about our dreams! It’s about having faith!”

*Insert sound of me choking on coffee.*

Yes! Apparently Cathay Pacific is now accepting new forms of currency! (I’m kidding. Please don’t call them asking if your dreams can get you to Cebu.)

This lady proceeded to wax on for some time about how her family had a long-time dream of travel and they’d found the faith necessary to make it happen. Several times she used iterations of “It’s not about money for us!”

She did not actually answer the question about how much the megatrip cost or how it was paid for.

There’s a lot going on there that I feel merits a response, but let me preface this with a few important points:

First: To be fair to this lady, she is not the only one dispensing this sort of nonsense. Spend any time at all on the internet, and you’ll realize that statements along the lines of “It’s not about the money! Don’t worry about the money!” are rampant, particularly in the inspirational meme world.

Second: I get that some people are not comfortable sharing their spending. That’s fine. You can politely decline to answer a question and change the subject. A rambling non-answer is never a good substitute for honesty. Related tip: If you don’t want to be asked how much things cost, don’t brag about them.

Third: I am not at all opposed to faith or dreams. I think both are key to a fulfilling life.

However, if someone does ask you a question about how much something cost you, please please please don’t spout gibberish about faith and dreams and that inspirational meme you saw one time and how it’s not about money.

Half-day yacht rental: $700 cash money. No dreams or pixie dust accepted.

It is about money, and you absolutely should let a lack of money get in the way of doing expensive things.

No one wants to say that out loud, because it’s much more fun to say things like: “You can’t put a price on (thing I want to buy at the moment)!” or “Pursue your dreams and the money will follow!” (Several versions of this quote are very popular in the grad school world, and they all drive me nuts.)

This lack of willingness to talk honestly about what things cost is how we’ve ended up with everything from Instagram star hopefuls taking out “business loans” they can’t repay to burned-out doctors drowning in student debt to unemployed college grads wondering why they can’t get a job in their field to over half of the people in this very wealthy country having no appreciable savings. We need to talk more about money.

Money is not the be-all end-all of life – I get that. But money is also one of those things that cannot be ignored. It is a useful tool if you learn how to manage it properly, and it will rake you over the coals if you don’t.

Travel costs money. Degrees cost money. Owning your own business costs money. Raising a family costs money. Even the most well-intentioned charitable efforts – from local food drives to international medical missions – cost someone some money.

Perhaps even more importantly: suggesting to people that they can realize their dreams if they just have enough faith is mean. Faith doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t work that way.

Rarely do any worthwhile dreams come true without some serious personal discipline, sacrifice, a community of decent people to support you, and some level of financial resource. Even then the results are often a mixed bag.

Sometimes, if luck is on your side, your dream-come-true is exactly what you thought it would be. Other times it loses its shine pretty fast, and you’re left wondering if all that time and energy and expense was worth it.

And faith is necessary every step of the way; it’s not a currency you can use to buy a one-time happy ending. Or a 5-star vacation.

Expensive little people waiting on an expensive form of transportation.

In conclusion: when someone asks you how much that ticket to London cost, the correct answers are either Option One: “Thanks for asking, but I’m actually not comfortable sharing my spending. What do you have planned for the weekend?” or Option Two: “About 900 British Pounds. Too bad the exchange rate is so wretched.”

You may not tell anyone that dreams and faith will get them to Heathrow. (Let’s be honest: even with a paid ticket they may not get to Heathrow, because there’s fog at O’Hare.)

I’ll be over here, dreaming about first-class tickets to Tahiti.

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