One of my Turkish students observed that I sure do travel a lot. "You must be a very rich man," she said. Not really. It's a matter of priorities. My house in America is rented. We gave our car in the states to relatives, so we don't have the cost of maintaining one. We traded a beautiful home in a great neighborhood for a tiny apartment in Kayseri, Turkey, without the amenities many Americans take for granted, such as yard, garden, pets, neighbors who speak our language and share our nationality. The university pays for the apartment. We can live decently in Turkey on one salary. The second salary funds travel. The jobs offer generous vacation time. My son Matthew works for a cruise ship company and his immediate family can travel with him for almost free. My son Alex and I were lucky enough to take an 18-day cruise of the Mediterranean, stopping in ports in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, France, Spain, and at the Rock of Gibraltar. We've used our breaks from teaching to visit family and friends in the United States, as well as to explore Greece and much of Turkey. We hope to visit Israel and several more places in Turkey before the end of 2010.
At some point, I will probably become "traveled out," feeling that a life of true substance lies in planting roots in one place and staying put. Because I've been privileged to have such deep roots in the states, living in just a few places -- I can still return on occasion to the house I grew up in -- it's easier to pull up stakes for a few years and live the life of a vagabond.
And yet, with our anchor for a couple of years in Kayseri, Turkey, we have the opportunity to experience a foreign culture in depth, as well as to use our break times to develop a broad overview of the region.
I still worry about socking enough money away for retirement. But because my wife and I are willing to eschew material possessions and live so modestly, we find that we are actually happier without so much stuff, and we are able to fulfill a mutual aspiration to see more of the world.
Even when I return to my home in the states, I want to "travel light" -- collecting not so many material possessions, reading books and passing them on. I think/hope I have reduced if not ended my addiction to clutter.
The New York Times had what I thought was a groundbreaking article on the subject of material possessions and happiness recently:
New studies of consumption and happiness show, for instance, that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects, when they relish what they plan to buy long before they buy it, and when they stop trying to outdo the Joneses.