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Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Cost of Living

I've been thinking a lot about money lately.

No surprise really; with my last paycheck (for a while) in the bank and our Tanzania trip coming up I'm taking a detailed look at our expenses. It seems as if even the smallest requirement for overseas travel costs something. Here's a quick list of the things we've done in the last few weeks to prepare:
  • Passport Renewal: $110/each
  • Passport Photos: $15/each
  • International Driver's Permit (required to rent a car in Africa): $15/each
  • Photos for International Driver's Permit: $15/each
  • Photos for Tanzania Visa application: $15/each
This is only the beginning; we still need to get our vaccinations up to date (hepatitis, yellow fever, meningitis and rabies to name a few), actually obtain the Visas ($100/each) and make sure we've got the right clothing and gear for the trip. Once we get there we'll have lodging, meals, car rental, park entrance and permit fees, and tips to deal with. But somehow that seems like the fun part. At least we'll be on our adventure at the point (unless you count getting stuck by multiple syringes as adventurous.)

Then there are the unexpected expenses: we have our camera equipment already laid out and ready to go, but we had planned on bringing our little point and shoot camera for in-town excursions (less conspicuous.) Of course, as happens before big trips, our little Canon decided to quit working last month. After googling repair tricks and trying everything under the sun to get it working again, we had to admit it was dead and shell out the dough for a new one. I suppose it could have been worse: it could have died while we were there, perhaps without knowing it was dead until we got home.

I'm not complaining. Really. It's just a fact that traveling out of the country is not cheap. Traveling within the US is not always cheap either but relatively speaking, it's a bargain. Check this out: the distance from our hometown to Portland, Maine is 3200 road miles. That's a lot of exploring packed in between here and there. The United States is 3.18 million square miles (counting Hawaii and Alaska). Only two countries in the world are bigger--Russia and Canada--and large parts of those are inaccessible by car. How lucky are we to be able to roam freely in such a large space without the need for passports and visas? 

3200 miles to Maine (with no side trips)
Mark and I have not, by any means, seen everything there is to see in the United States; we could probably get in the truck and drive the rest of our lives and not exhaust all the possibilities. So why are we spending all this money on a trip to the other side of the globe? There's something about throwing yourself into a completely different cultural experience that's too exciting to pass up. I also think it will show us not only how lucky we are to be "privileged Americans" but how much we're missing by being surrounded by so much "stuff." If that means cutting back on the "stuff" to afford the trip, so be it.

I'm a little nervous about it. We're a bit poorer for it. But I'm even more thrilled by the prospect.

618 miles from the southern-most point to northern-most point we'll be traveling between in Tanzania.
(This of course does not count the multiple side trips we are planning)

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