Several years ago, I was in an extremely tough situation. My (now ex-) husband was very ill, and without his income, we had to move to a cheaper home. As his health deteriorated, I needed to take a family leave to care for him and figure out how to manage my own deep depression over our situation.
Because of my FMLA rules at work, our monthly income dropped from barely living paycheck to paycheck all the way down to $412/month, and we ended up on almost every form of public assistance available.
To say it was stressful is a gross understatement.
Despite this, we needed a break now and then, to get out of the house, to breathe, and to forget about all the bad stuff for a while. At first, it was hard to justify going anywhere because there was no money, and so much to do at home – neglected housework, lack of motivation, and a long list of excuses I created because it was hard to think about doing anything at all.
It really sucked.
One weekend, I noticed that a friend was out doing fun things every weekend, so I asked, “How do you manage to go somewhere every week? How can you afford it? What about all the stuff you have to do at home?”
His reply was such a revelation to me that I felt like the sky opened up and the sun came out. “I just go. If I only have $5, I pack a lunch and go find something free to do, and my whole $5 budget is for gas. Chores can wait. Your life can’t.”
Seriously, it was that simple.
Since that brief conversation, I made a point to get out as often as possible, so I could get some air, be in my personal sanctuary of trees or water (or both), and leave all of that week’s stress behind me. That $5 gas money was cheaper than the therapy sessions I was attending, and I feel my trips out of the house did more for me that the therapist was able to accomplish.
All I needed to do was pack some sandwiches and drinks, toss some towels and the dog in the back seat, and we were ready to hit the road.
One of our favorite places on the planet to visit during this time was Three Pools, a small county park up in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, that features several swimming holes connected by small waterfalls, huge rocks perfect for cliff diving, and water so crystal clear that you can see twenty feet down to the stones on bottom of the river.
We had been living in Oregon for about 10 years at this point, but it was the first time I actually ventured out of town on my own and saw more of the state than just the freeway that connects the cities in the valley where I live.
Now days, my life is vastly different. (Seriously. I have made some dramatic changes over the past 5 years. But that’s a subject for another post.) Every weekend, my friend’s advice replays in my brain to the point where it’s almost a mantra:
“Just go. Chores can wait; your life can’t.”
It’s so simple, isn’t it? Just go.
As I rebuilt my life, I found ways to justify the $5 and sometimes $10 in gas money, especially when gas prices rose over $4/gallon:
- $5-10 in gas buys me a mini vacation that is between 20-35 miles from home (my car at the time got about 30mpg), lasts all day long, and fills my heart with good memories of quality time spent with my daughter.
- $24 buys two tickets to the local childrens’ museum for my daughter and me, lasts about 4 hours, and creates great memories of quality time, but I also bring a book for those times she wants to run around on her own.
- $30 buys two movie tickets and a small thing of snacks to share, lasts two hours, and gives us an escape but doesn’t create warm memories.
- $40 buys us wristbands for carnival rides when there’s an event in town, lasts all day, but snacks are expensive and she usually wants a souvenir.
…can you see the pattern here?
We got so much more bang for our buck by just tossing some sandwiches and drinks in the car and heading in whatever random direction we chose.
Are you struggling to get out and see something new on your days off, like we were? It doesn’t have to cost as much as you think, and will do amazing things for your state of mind.
Dare I say you’ll feel more free?