Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Break from Conspicuous Consumption

One of the things we discussed amongst our trip mates was how this trip was a break from our lives of consumption, of constant spending on stuff we don't really need. In fact, it's the break from spending that allows me the budget to travel for months at a time. There are several parts to this.

Back home we live in a materialistic society and we end up buying a lot stuff we don't need. Add a new RV to the mix and there's even more spending. I've bought a household of stuff to outfit my trailer, enough to where nothing is needed, other than decorations. 

A lot of us have been captured by Amazon, allowing our latest whim to be delivered at a moments notice. For a little while I was trying to figure out how to get my missing American products shipped to Mexican RV parks with I could get my fancy Swiffer fluid or I could just buy some Fabuloso floor cleaner for 152 times less money. Going cold turkey on not just Amazon, but all unnecessary spending was a kind of embarrassment of savings, the cousin to embarrassment of riches. It wasn't hard.

Time is a huge factor in how we spend. There is simply not enough time on this trip for the brain to get bored enough to desire yet another thing. When we do go shopping, which is quite often, it's usually a wonderful experience of just buying a bag of eggs, or experiencing a new fruit in the market. We have staples that we need that drive us to the store as well, like fresh tortillas, straight from the tortilla lady. 

We each have our quest items though: I want a Panama hat that strikes my fancy and a couple hand made blankets (they're out of season), along with hand crafted decorations for the new RV. My friends have threatened to toss my grungy hat in the lake if I don't make a decision soon.

Another buddy collects rugs and has a large collection from Istanbul. Our visiting friend who flew in is looking for a black Oaxacan vase for an altar and some boots (which he won't find). He might pick up a guitar in one of the towns that crafts them. We don't need these things, but if we happen upon them, that's fine. Quest items give you a reason to explore a town you otherwise might not. It's best to just wander and see what you come across, rather than directly seek them out.

This is not to say we're not spending a lot of money. Fuel has been the big one, getting us down to our desired destination. I've got 4,500 miles on my truck for this trip, gas is around $5 gallon in Mexico and I'm getting around 10 miles to the gallon. That's about $2,250 in fuel over six weeks, not to mention about $800 in tolls. We'll call it three thousand dollars in movement expenses. 

I've probably spent another $1,500 for lodging, and food is an offset where we actually gain ground. All of this comes out to about $3K a month. Do I spend $3K a month on nonsense? Well no, but with a little savings added, it's an easy offset. We will be moving around less in future months, which will reduce our expenses. I learned from our 10 week trip to Mexico five years ago that movement is money. The reason why full time travelers take years to complete a trip is frenetic movement is incredibly expensive. Stay put and let your finances catch up with your spending.

As a store owner who sells hedonic goods and a capitalist who believes the system is a potential force for good, I am aware of my role. I am complicit in conspicuous consumption. I am a dealer and a user. I try to bring happiness, find happiness through hobby gaming, even if it's temporary. There can certainly be a dark side when we get too caught up in consumption, with chase cards and completist tendencies that distract us from a painful world, but also a more fulfilling life. I believe I help reduce suffering to some extent, but just for a while. 

We'll be back in ten weeks and we'll see if any of our habits have actually changed, or if we fall back into our addictive consumer habits. The reality is without a good habit replacement, consumption recidivism is likely. Unfortunately, the desire to travel often takes the form of buying stuff towards that next travel goal, rather than just going. Sometimes it's amazing we take the trip at all.

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