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Money Doesn’t Make You Rich: Life Does

Troy tells us the way to spend money abroad.

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Money will come back. This opportunity won’t.

I saved up money for the past two years because I knew I wanted to have an expensive experience in the near-future. Whether it was for studying abroad or something else, I didn’t know. I just knew I wanted to spend my hard-earned money on something just for me, something that would make me happy.

And during those two years, I avoided spending money at all costs. I waited until my gas tank was nearly empty before re-filling it. I rarely did things I like to do—eat out, go to the movies, gamble on sports, etc. —just to bypass the pain of handing your money over to a cashier. You all know the kind of pain I’m talking about. Heck, I’ve only gone on one date in two years because that would mean spending my own money on another person.

But since I’ve been in Glasgow, I’ve had a change in outlook when it comes to shelling out the dough. I’ve learned a valuable lesson. And here it is:

Spend your money on something you will never forget. Spend your money on experiences. If it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, then just fork it over. You’ll be able to get the money back in a short amount of time, but you may never get the chance to do something memorable again. A quote from one of my favorite childhood shows, Boy Meets World, is “Money doesn’t make you rich. Life makes you rich.” In other words, use your money to live.

I’ve had to remind myself of this so many times since I arrived here in September as I’ve seen the dollars in my account dwindle away. I’ve bought countless bus/train/plane tickets to take me on different journeys that I’d never forget. If I were back home, would I spend $30 on a Sunday night pub crawl? Nope. But I did it in Ireland and it was one of the best nights of my college life. Would I have spent $15 to see the art exhibit of an artist I’ve never heard of? Nope. But I did it in Amsterdam and it opened me up to a completely new genre of art (street art as a matter of fact, and the artist was Banksy and I highly recommend you check out his work). And next week, I’m going to Italy and it will cost me a fortune. But when am I ever going to be this close to the country I’ve read so much about in my history books? When will I have the opportunity to see all of the ancient ruins and eat the most gorgeous plates of pasta and pizza you’ve ever seen?

Life is short, folks. Spend your money on things you will remember for the rest of your life.

With that being said, this week I spent money in Scotland on a completely new experience, one I’ll never forget.

When I made the decision to study abroad I knew it would come at a cost (other than money). I would miss the fall in upstate New York. I would miss my second-to-last semester at the University at Albany and all the extra-curricular work I do at the school. And I’d miss seeing my friends and family at Thanksgiving.

Rather than sit around and scroll through Instagram looking at photos of my friends enjoying the holiday, I decided a few days before that I wanted to celebrate an American-style Thanksgiving in Glasgow. So what did I do? I made a Facebook event and invited my new friends to join me in a feast.

In the event, which I invited about 12 people to (mostly Americans, a few Europeans and an Asian), I asked everyone to contribute a dish of their own. In the spirit of the holiday, I told people not to worry about the money it costs to make the food. I just wanted to be together and enjoy the holiday with my new friends.

As the days led up to Thanksgiving, no one was as excited as I was about it. And as I’ve learned in my short adult life, it’s hard to count on other people to pull through when you need them.

But on the day of? Well, I was pleasantly surprised. Everyone pitched in. We enjoyed a full American-style feast with ethnic twists. Even the Asian, Norwegian, German, and Swede I’m friends with put in a great effort for something they had never experienced before. We all worked together in a hectic kitchen last Thursday night, and it honestly could not have gone any smoother.

Our Thanksgiving feast consisted of a ham and rotisserie chicken, prepared by yours truly. And I must say they were delicious. As for everything else, we had Swedish meatballs, quesadillas, an array of vegetables, honey chicken wings, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and even freshly baked bread. Yes, we even figured out how to do that from scratch.

And so we all sat down in fancy attire and enjoyed our feast together. The food was amazing; I ate so much.  But that’s not the point. Being together with people you care for is truly what it’s all about. As a child, that’s not what Thanksgiving and Christmas are. But as you get older and because you have lived away from home for college, internships, or a study abroad period, you really begin to appreciate where you come from.

While immobilized by food, my friends and I sat around the table and individually said what we were thankful for. We all agreed we were thankful to have the chance to study abroad and travel and study alongside some truly special people. We even sang some Christmas tunes to officially ring in the holiday season.

It meant a lot to me that everyone contributed, including the non-Americans. They helped make the day special. Am I a wee bit uneasy about the amount of money I spent on the ham and the chicken? Yes. It probably costed more than anything else my friends prepared.

But do I regret it? Not for a second.

It was an experience I’ll never forget.

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