Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why I'm happy to be single and traveling the world...

I know exactly when it happened.  It was 2009 and I was sitting on a curb outside my hostel in Seville, Spain.  I had called my ex-boyfriend back home in Canada.  Hoping to maintain the relationship so we could pick up again when I got home two months later.  Tears filled my eyes as he politely asked me to not call again.  The international long distance fees were too expensive.  I knew it was combination of the truth and a tactic to get me to leave him alone.

I don't think he was over me, but he definitely wasn't interested in making any kind of international commitment.   Crying on that curb I made the decision, once and for all, that after 5 years of back-to-back relationships non-stop, it was finally time to really truly take some time for myself.

I spent another 2 months discovering myself in Europe.  Slightly heartbroken but confident that single life was the right choice for me in that time.

Once home, it took another year of pining after that ex while remaining single, for me to finally realize the benefits single life had brought me.  Six more months later, I finally embarked on a 2 month relationship that got way too serious, way too fast... I freaked out and ran... I don't even usually remember this stint but it taught me a very important lesson: I need space in a relationship but am not always strong enough to take it myself.  I think this is why I tend to be attracted to guys who demand space.

A few months after that, I met a boy that sparked my interest.  But we were going in different directions.  For the next 2 years, through five countries (between the two of us), we dated on and off (mostly off).  Writing letters, Facebook messages and Skype.  While we were in the same country we took (and missed) busses, drove a lot and made it work the best we could.  But we weren't meant to be. Our lives were constantly spiralling in completely opposite directions.  It was sad and relieving when we both finally realized and admitted it.  Even though, strong emotions were involved and it was over a long time, I've never really considered this to be a real break to my single phase.

That brings me six months into my journey in Taiwan.  I spent the next year single again.  I went on exactly two dates with a guy I met at HIS OWN goodbye party.  He left the country 6 days after I met him.   Then last November, I met "This Guy"  who I've talked about a bit before.  He made me realize that I'm finally ready to be in a relationship again.

Since my split with This Guy, we've stayed friends.  Hanging out every weekend and other times during the week.   But I've become responsible for my own social life again.  In the month since the break, I've stayed in a few Friday and Saturday nights (which I LOVE doing).  I've had dinner with acquaintances and hung out in my apartment with friends.  I've even left the bar early to go to bed.  I've gone for runs and long walks.  I've gone on adventures with new people.  I have saved money. I've made choices for myself.

I have made choices for myself.  That was worth repeating.    I think I thought that once in a relationship I needed to follow the guy's lead and forget my own needs.   Being single again has allowed me to realize AGAIN how strong I am.  How I can make choices for myself.  How relationships don't fall apart when you do what is best for yourself instead of follow the crowd.  Five years of being single, I had forgotten these benefits.   But I had also forgotten that I don't lose them when coupled up.

As ready for a relationship as I feel like I am, being single and traveling has always been the best way for me to learn about myself.  To grow and develop as a person, a soul, a spirit.  And following the relationship with This Guy, I feel the need to spend a few month as a single traveller, sucking in what I've newly learned.

One day, I'll meet my match.  The man who will push me to grow and develop with him by my side.  The man who will hold me when I'm weak and remind me of the strength within me without leaving me on my own.  The man who I'll be able to leave at the bar when I'm tired,  knowing he'll come home to me later without worry.  The man that will make me laugh and cry and yell and smile and every other emotion.

But I cannot wait.  The world will not wait for me to meet him.  I want every moment of my life to be a happy one.  Single.  Coupled.  Home. Abroad.  These are all just factors to work with... The only constant is ME.  I am single.  I am travelling.  I am happy.  So that's that!  Life choice made.  I will be happy!


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back Handed Insults

I went out with a friend for dinner tonight.

[Editor's Note... this was originally posted in a huge fit of anger.  I have gone back and deleted some parts that express the anger in an overly disrespectful way.]

My friend has never had a credit card.  Then last week, his mom got him an extension of hers.

I told him to be careful with his new credit card.

Many of us know that debt can creep up without any realization until it slaps you in the face.   I figured a simple "Be Careful" was a polite gesture....

Instead he came back with "Which one of us has never had any debt? (obvious answer = him)"  and in a snotty voice "How long have you been in debt? (my answer = 8 years)"  and last [my personal favourite] "So who is better able to handle their finances? (his answer = him.... my answer = me)

I've paid off 10k in debt this year.  I have never once missed a loan/credit card payment, so I have a great credit history.  I have over $5,000 in retirement savings and almost $2,000 in an emergency fund, plus about $1,000 in my regular savings account.   I was solely financially responsible for my university degrees (both of them) and basically all other financial responsibilities for myself since I was 16.  I also partially helped support my younger siblings financially while still in high school and paying rent to my mother...

I am really proud of myself financially. I have made mistakes..  I have grown and learned a lot.  So, his questions hurt.  Just because I have debt does not mean I'm not financially responsible.   In fact, if you look at the whole picture of my finances, my hope is the opposite would be plainly evident.

He did say something that made me feel a bit better...

"If I do get into any kind of sticky mess, it is my mom's account so she'll bail me out and keep my credit score good."

To which I simply (though sarcastically) replied, "That shows financial maturity"

I was trying to offer some genuine wisdom from personal experience.  Clearly he wanted none of it.  I wish him the best.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

If not now, then when?

I love traveling.  It has opened my eyes and world to so many things.  It has also made me realize SO many things that I have no idea whether or not I ever would have figured out had I stayed in my comfort zone.

Almost every day, I ask myself the title question.  If not now, then when?

Seriously.  If I not going to do XYZ then when will I?!  I have started saying YES so much more frequently in the last few months.

So yesterday I faced a financial pickle.  I spend $1,375 on plane ticket last month.  I put it on a credit card that didn't have a balance before.  So of course, I had the 30 days grace.  Or maybe it was only 22 days.  I don't know....

I knew that in August I was getting $2,600 back in taxes back. So I didn't mind buying that ticket.  But when I got the tax refund, I didn't want to pay off the full balance.  I tried bargaining with myself to only pay off $1,000.  In the end... If not now, then when? won the question.  If I'm not going to pay it off now, when will I?

A good friend of mine has, very very very vocally, always been against traveling on credit.  And PERFECTLY timed, was a message from him, asking me how I am.  Between his message and stumbling on that question, I did the right thing and paid off the whole balance of that plane ticket.  It hurt a little bit.  But I know, I'll regret this choice less than had I let the balance sit on my card.

So now, I ask you... If not now, then when????  Socially, emotionally, physically, financially, scholastically, etc.  If not now, then when????  GET ON IT!

Love, Jenny~Z

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to snowball my debt...

Hmm... In the last 6 months I've effectively eradicated two different credit cards.


Since paying them off, one of my banks sent a letter informing me that my account was no longer active and would had been closed on my behalf.  That made a little mad because I didn't get a warning.  However, after thinking about it, I really don't need (or want) the card, so all is well.

I'm now left with three debtors
     1. Bank LOC - $17, 000 @ 4%
     2. Government Loan - $11,300 @ 5%
     3. Bank Visa - $14,000 @ 11.99%

I cannot decide which to pay off first...

Mathematically Beneficial Option: To save as much on interest as possible, I should pay off the debt with the greatest interest.

Psychologically Beneficial Option: To keep my motivation high and my likelihood of becoming debt-free more likely, I should pay off my lowest balance first.

From what I can tell, the research shows that you're more likely to succeed at paying off debt if you pay off the debts in order of amount NOT interest rate.  This is because it is more psychologically rewarding to finish paying of a debt than to save money in the long run.  People are more motivated by frequent small and observable wins (eliminating individual debts) than they are by long term seemingly invisible wins (saving interest long term).

My brain is mathematically driven, so I keep flipping between options.  For now, I've decided that I'm going to stick with paying them in order of interest rate.  At least until the minimum payment for my Visa is under $250/month.  Then I plan on revisiting my plan and seeing how it is working.

I am also tracking my balance closely because once it is down it $12,000 I will be eligible to lower my credit limit to $15,000.  Then once my balance is down to $10,000 I will be able to lower my limit to $12,500.  I am looking forward to lowering my limit as my balance decreases until my limit is $5,000.

My hope is that having mini-goals for minimum payments and lowering my credit limit will create those frequent, small and observable wins that help me stay focused and motivated.

What would you do?


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Financial Update

In the last year many amazing things have happened...

  • My total debt is less than $45,000 (from 56K a year ago)
  • I paid off two credit cards and closed one of them
  • I doubled my monthly saving
  • I paid cash and bought a flight home (just for a week, issue from previous post is still unresolved)
  • I saved $1000 in Taiwan (in addition to my Canadian savings.)
  • I started planning and saving for a long adventure (going to backpack my way around Asia before coming home next fall.  To do the trip and pay my bills I think I'll need about 10K saved, so we'll see what happens).
  • I stopped ignoring my visa.  I switched the two reoccuring bills from that account to an account that I can pay off every month. I am putting more than double my required payments towards this debt.  I'm looking at lowering my limit every 2-4 months to encourage my progress as I keep at it.  I'm not ignoring this card any more :)

Yay for making a ton  of progress :D

Looking back

I forgot that my last blog post was all of staying in Taiwan and wanting a relationship.  The strange thing is that both actually happened.  Then simultaneously ended last week.

Actually, only one officially ended.  The other I'm still struggling with.

To clarify, I'm stuck in Taiwan for another year, but want to go home now... The short but sweet relationship with "this guy" is now over...

Here are some things dating this guy taught me (this list starts fun and suddenly gets serious FAST)....

  1. I don't think humans are ready to inhabit Mars.  Or any other planet.  We are effectively DESTROYING Earth with pollution and mistreating it and using all the resources.  Is it really our place to go to ANOTHER planet and destroy its beauty too?  Personally, I think no... This guy and I got into MANY a discussion about this though, and I know he (and many others) disagree with me.
  2. Adventures are funner with people you love or straight up don't know. I already knew I loved adventures.  But I've always been a kinda lone wolf.  It was awesome to be with a really sociable guy who always seeked out adventured with different people that we knew, or didn't.
  3. Hungover friends are worse than being hungover yourself.  I'm not a big drinker so more than once I woke up early, feeling great only to realize this guy (and our friends) was still sleeping.  Then when he woke up he was struck by the hangover monster.  Wasting a morning because of someone else's irresponsibility sucks.  All the pain of being drunk with none of the fun... (In regards to drinking, I also learned that (1) it's best to hang out with people with similar drinking ideals or else you'll often over drink, (2) you should be able to leave a party without being afraid your significant other will leave later with someone else, (3) fighting while drunk is frustrating to resolve and makes you impossibly miserable while under a substance where you have little control, and last (4) next time there's nothing wrong with getting out bed and living my life if they are miserable and I'm not.)
  4. I am great at giving reasonable space but I need to understand it.  This guy liked his space.  Between dates, out for dinner with friends, at parties, always except one on one time... Some of these requests made sense to me, like space between dates (I barely like hanging out with me every day).  Others didn't make sense, like wanting space at a party.  I know we hung out often, but I never again want to be with someone who, regularly, would prefer to hang out with others over me.   This may have been part of a larger problem (see #6).
  5. Being graceful in the end helps everyone.  I sat there in the park Friday night, listening as he listed everything that'd happened for the past 3 months that had made him feel shitty. Every time we'd fought.  Every time I'd made him feel guilty for something he did. Each way my personality sucked.  I sat there silent...shocked.  He asked why I wasn't saying anything.  I replied that he'd just given me a list of personality flaws and I needed to digest it.  Then he yelled that I was doing it again, trying to make him feel guilty.  I just shook my head and quietly said no, he was absolutely right about everything and I needed time to process it or I'd never be able to resolve it within myself.  Thankfully that satisfied him.  Once our conversation was over have had time to process it, alone.  Some issues I felt had already been dealt with, others were personality differences that I can't do anything about.  So from the long list, I was left with one serious issue I need continue to reflect on and resolve (coming up next).  Within myself I was able to deal with everything later.  Had I defended myself in the park like my heart was telling me to it would have been a) embarrassing and b) made his points solidify further.  I'm glad I maintained my cool.
  6. Friends are a golden secret to a solid relationship.  Being in a foreign country comes with many challenges.  One of which is the come and go of people that results in a constant ebb and flow of friendships.  I'm terrible at maintaining friendships, especially ones that are, by definition, temporary and unstable. The one serious issue I need to continue reflecting upon and working at is making and maintaining friends outside of any romantic relationships.  I, very quickly, became dependent on this guy for the majority of my social life.  Unfair to him...unhealthy for me.  I also, logically, know that the more you pull at someone who is asking for space, the more that push you away (back to #4).  Having friends to fall back on socially may have helped relieve some of the pressure put on him and given him the space he wanted.

Overall, I don't think this relationship was ever meant to last.  I'm happy it happened.  I really enjoyed my time with him.  I did some things I didn't think I ever would do.  I learned some things about myself and about people and about relationships.  I had a good, GREAT time.  And, I think, despite the severity of our park conversation, we ending things at a point where the friendship should still be salvageable in the near future.   I have definitely been in relationships that drag on way to long or end early.  So this perfectly timed ending makes me feel at peace about everything.  Now to figure out if I'm going to stay in Taiwan for another year, or if I'm going to quietly slip out....

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The pit in your stomach

I can't remember when or where I first got this feeling of emptiness.  But it comes around occassionally.  Usually it's associated with the end of a trip when I've felt a lot of growth, personal growth.  This time, I was mulling over the decision to stay in Taiwan another year or to go home.  Mentally I created a pro/con list.  It comes down to this...

Cons to staying in Taiwan -  finding a boyfriend and settling down is a challenge.  It's kinda selfish to be so far from my family (even though they are very supportive and encourage my adventures)

Pros to staying in Taiwan - I love the people, history, culture and language.  Everyday is a challenge.  I love my job.  I really enjoy learning Chinese. Traveling Asia is insanely easy and cheap.  I can easily save money and pay down my debt.  I'm really happy and cannot imagine myself back home yet.

So my choice to go home is based on wanting a relationship.  I seriously feel like going home for that would be one of the  worst decisions I could ever make.   I don't even know why I want a relationship so badly.   I've been relatively single for the last, well umm, 5 years now.  Maybe that's why...

Anyway, back on topic..   The biggest growth that's come from this trip is the realization that I'll be living in Taiwan for at least another 18 months.  And honestly, I'm pretty excited about it.

I still have the pit in my stomach.   Like, I can't waste these last few days.  I don't know what I'm gonna do in Java when my plane lands tonight but hopefully it will be soul awakening :). Looks like I'm gonna be getting lost in Jakarta hahah