You could spend your whole life chasing the dream of more money. But to what end? Figure out how much is enough – and be happier for it.

Have you ever thought about what it would feel like to acquire too much money? I haven’t had that problem, but do plan on discovering what this problem feels like in the future.

But, in all seriousness, how on earth do you decide how much money is enough for you? I have some ideas and thought I would share so that you can have an easier time figuring this out when you have this issue.

Consider your current life circumstances.

I thought I would approach this problem with some Michelle logic. First, it feels obvious the amount of money that you need will change given your current life circumstances. If you’re single and debt-free, the amount of money that you may need and want may be significantly different from a person who is in a relationship, has kids, and a few bills.

Likewise, your past and current life experiences may have a direct effect on how you arrive at the actual number that is your financial sweet spot.  For some of you, early childhood experiences of not having enough money may make it difficult for you to  imagine ever having enough. In fact, your childhood financial experiences may resonate through future decisions such as: the type of work you may choose to pursue, the way you would like to live your life, and even who you plan on marrying.

Figure out your financial sweet spot.

Here’s some general guidelines on figuring out how much money is enough for you.

Ask yourself, are you sick of your job and have lost interest in earning money in the way that you currently are? Yes, this seems a bit counterintuitive, but stick with me. Before I began working for myself, I worked at a university making decent money (especially when you factored in the benefits).

But, there came a point when I just wasn’t interested in earning more money. In fact, while I want to experience earning ridiculous amounts of money in the future, at that specific moment in time I just wanted to change my life. So, I focused on figuring out my lowest earning threshold. What was the bare minimum I need to make in order to live without eating ramen noodles?

I started crunching numbers and figured out what I could live on and still manage paying on my obligations. It was glorious….until, it wasn’t.

Don’t be afraid to shift your goals as your needs change.

My needs had changed. I now find myself looking at future financial goals and have realized that I want to make a lot more money than I currently am. And, I definitely don’t have a maximum earnings threshold. In fact, I felt like I wanted to earn as much money as I could possibly earn without burning myself out. I don’t want to place limits on my ability to earn.

I can honestly say that I look forward to pushing myself as much as possible to see how much money I can earn. In fact, for the next 12 months in my mind there is no “enough” it’s how much is possible? I spent time frantically crunching numbers, I looked at my goals and figured out daily earnings goals. Then I focused on how to achieve those goals.

Finally, spend some time focusing on what makes you happy? There are various studies that have linked happiness to money and studies that have found the exact opposite. There’s also a widely reported study that noted that people weren’t significantly happier when they earned beyond $75,000 a year.

Recently, I’ve gotten very clued into what makes me happy. And, knowing this has helped me zero in on how much money is enough. Some examples of what makes me happy include:

I’ve discovered that my needs aren’t that complicated or expensive.

I took a numbers and heart-based approach to deciding how much money is enough for me. Ultimately, I just want enough money that gives me stability and freedom. And, yes, more money is always better than less.

What are some considerations you use in determining how much money you need? Let us know in the #Adulting community on Facebook.

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You think you need the same bling as your neighbor. But what if instead of keeping up with the Joneses, you’re actually keeping up with the Joneses’ debt?

I used to spend a lot of mental energy comparing my life to other people’s lives.

My home was never good enough. My clothes never had enough labels. And no matter how hard I tried, I could never live up to the people that I was comparing myself to.

Are you jealous of the Joneses?

I discovered the hard way that always trying to keep up with other people set me up to lose.

I didn’t have as much money as the people I was comparing myself to. I wanted their stuff, though. So I tried.

I didn’t have enough resources. Each time I tried to keep up with these people, I lost financially.

Why?

Because I had to use debt (credit) in order to pay for the stuff that the Joneses had, but I didn’t.

That sucked.

The long-term pain of those financial decisions that I made just wasn’t worth it. It has taken years to pay off the debt that I got into trying to keep up with people who could care less about how I lived my life. The certainly didn’t care about my financial well-being.

I had to hit financial rock bottom in order to change my perception of what was important for me financially.

I was broke, my mom had lost her job, and I was working at Starbucks trying to keep it all together. I was getting constant calls from creditors wanting their money and I wasn’t able to live up to my obligations making $9 at Starbucks.

At that point, I really hated the Joneses and I hated all of the bad financial decisions that I made trying to live a financial lie. Every day those financial lies bit me in the ass. Painful.

In retrospect, I wish that I’d just been honest about the fact that I was jealous of the Joneses.

No one cares about your finances as much as you do.

The Joneses don’t care about your finances.

Seriously, they really don’t. Especially if they’ve never met you.

Let’s be real. The Joneses (and everyone else) focus on their own personal finances. It is baffling to me how many people go into debt to purchase a lifestyle that they can’t afford to impress people that don’t know them.

So, I spend a lot of time being baffled by my own bad financial decisions trying to look cool for people who didn’t know me and weren’t invested in me having a strong and healthy financial life.

Think about every time you rushed to buy a new outfit for that trip that you’re going on two months from now. The people in that town have never met you, but you’ve made a decision to buy new clothes for people who have no clue what you were wearing before they met you. I used to do this. I would go on a trip (that I charged), then get new clothes (that I charged) and then go on a trip and meet great new people. Dumb.

The people in that town have never met you, but you’ve made a decision to buy new clothes for people who have no clue what you were wearing before they met you. I used to do this. I would go on a trip (that I charged), then get new clothes (that I charged), and meet great new people. Dumb.

These great new people don’t care that you bought a new outfit to impress them. They’d like you no matter what you wear.

It really pains me to think about this every time I send a payment to a creditor. What if I had saved that money and just paid cash for the same experiences, clothing, and trips? I feel like I made a deal with the Credit Devil. And the Credit Devil was laughing at me each time I made a bad financial decision based on envy.

What if I had used that money to pay off (or, at least make a dent) in my student loans? I realized that focusing on other people and what they had resulted in giving up my financial power to other people.

Are the Joneses really that rich?

Here is the final, and hopefully, most compelling reason you don’t need to keep up with the Joneses (or Kardashians): you have no idea what their financial reality really is.  

It is very easy to look wealthy without actually having cash money.

It’s also very easy to have money and lose it all.

Let’s work through a list of people who earned a ton of cash, people we all envied, but were actually broke or ended up broke.

  • MC Hammer: He tried to lift up an entire community by basically hiring an entire community. His heart was definitely in the right place. But he ended up going bankrupt even though he made millions of dollars.
  • Famous athletes: As reported by Sports Illustrated, almost 80% of professional athletes go broke once they retire. These are guys who typically earn millions during a short, sexy career running with or kicking ata ball. For those of us who cheer them on, it’s hard to wrap our heads around the idea that they could ever go broke. But, the numbers don’t lie. A majority of them do.
  • 50 Cent: This one falls under karma. He wrote a whole song called “Window Shopper” that basically shamed someone for window shopping.

Check out some of the lyrics:

“Man you’s a window shopper

Mad at me, I think I know why

Man you’s a window shopper

In the jewelry store lookin’ at shit you can’t buy

Man you’s a window shopper

In the dealership tryna get a test drive

Man you’s a window shopper Mad as fuck when you see me ride by.”

Nice.

Of course, he had his own financial troubles.

Here’s some real talk. No one will care about your money as much as you do.

No need to keep up with the Joneses when you know your financial stuff.

It is now easier than ever to get what you want for a lot less through comparison shopping, savings apps, and old-fashioned financial discipline.

Spend time learning how to manage your cash and grow your income.

And, always remember: unless you can get up close and personal with someone’s financials you never know what’s behind their financial curtain.

Don’t make financial decisions that will hurt you in the long run, trying to live someone else’s reality. Live your own reality-for less. Challenge yourself and see what you can make happen.

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Ready to just get out of town? If you have a long weekend, you can scratch your travel itch without spending a ton of money.

There is nothing better than getting away for the weekend.

Maybe you’ve decided to hoard your vacation time for an epic trip, but need to get away before taking your future bucket list trip. Fortunately, the United States offers a mind-blowing selection of great places to visit without breaking the bank.

These weekend getaways are fast, fun, and provide you with just the right scratch for your travel itch.

Denver

Ok, this writer may be a little biased because I’m from Colorado and have a website and podcast about…all things Colorado!

Denver is currently experiencing “a moment.” Years of hard work developing the city, a little notoriety (legal weed anyone), and a sick view of the Rocky Mountains creates one of the best weekend getaways. I guarantee you’ll come back for more.

Fly into Denver International Airport (DIA) via Denver-based Frontier, or travel favorite, Southwest. Hop on the train from DIA to downtown Denver’s Union Station, then catch a LYFT or UBER to your hotel or hostel. Dump your luggage and get ready to explore.

There’s really no bad time to visit Denver, but summer is a time when Denver truly throws down the welcome mat for citizens and visitors alike.

Enjoy free festivals such as the Denver Day of Rock held downtown and the amazing Chalk Art Festival that brings in talented artists from all over the world. Artists create insane 3D creative pieces using Colorado chalk and the street as their canvas.

Check out the ever-changing murals in the River North (RINO) district and catch a beer at one of the city’s numerous breweries. Denverites have more than a casual obsession with all things beer.

Love art? Check out the Museum of Contemporary Art designed by David Adjaye, recently voted the world’s best architect.

Denver has also become a foodie mecca with a ridiculous number of local restaurants pushing how Denverites experience their food. Check out: Bacon Social Club, Avanti, and Cholon to get started on exploring the culinary diversity of the city.

Chicago

The Windy City is literally tethered between land and Lake Michigan. The city takes one’s breath away as your plan circles around the lip of the lake and then heads towards O’Hare for landing.

While you might think Chicago is one of the more expensive weekend getaways, it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of inexpensive ways to have a great time in Chi-town.

Once you land, hop on Chicago’s L (the train) to downtown. You will feel like you’re on the train for a while, but the ride is worth it. If possible try to stay near the Magnificent Mile, a shopping and food destination.

Catch a water taxi and pay $9 for a day pass. The water taxi ended up being one of my favorite ways to explore Chicago.

Need to get a workout in? Check out Blazin Cycle to see where their next stationary bike workout will be held.

Make sure you head to Millennium Park. It’s where you will find the famed Chicago Bean. They say it’s called Cloud Gate, but everyone knows it’s the Bean. Plus, Crown Fountain, also located in Millennium Park, is a fountain that every tourist should experience when visiting the city.

No trip to Chicago would be complete without eating some of the best food in the world. From local favorites like deep dish pizza, pierogies, shakshuka, and Rick Bayless’s nod to authentic Mexican food at Frontera Grill.

Huntsville, Alabama

Yep, this one is random in terms of weekend getaways. But, trust me, it’s a great town.

Think of it as the Austin of Alabama.

Huntsville is a quick 30-minute flight from Atlanta and apparently has “the largest per capita concentration of engineers in the U.S.” according to the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to being a beautiful little town with a lovely downtown. Huntsville is the epicenter of the Alabama craft beer scene. If you enjoy riding a bike and having a beer, hang out with the Bikes and Brews Huntsville crew and explore the town while sampling beer around town.

As one would expect, there is great food to be had everywhere. But, my favorite foodie experiences were eating boiled peanuts and having fried pickles.

If you’re looking for a relaxing time, walk around the lovely Big Spring Park and feed the ridiculously hungry koi that live in the ponds. Bring quarters so that you can purchase fish food to feed them.  

No trip to Huntsville would be complete without visiting the U.S. Space and Rocket Center which figuratively blew me away. See up close and personal one of the Space Shuttles and a Saturn V rocket.

Getting around town is pretty easy, just use UBER or LYFT to get picked up and taken to whichever area you would like to explore.

Wrap up your visit to Huntsville at A.M. Booth’s Lumberyard for some great music, beer, and a great time to be had in a truly unique space.

There is nothing better than taking three or four days to check out a new destination. Strategize your vacation hours and plan your trip the next time you have a three-day weekend. Take a day off of work and then you’ll have a nice four-day holiday that is fun, affordable, and relaxing.

What are your favorite weekend getaways? Let us know in the #Adulting community on Facebook.

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You won’t get everything you want. Not everything will work out. And that’s ok.

At this point in my life, I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve been rejected.

It’s a pretty humbling experience being rejected for the things that you want in your life: love, jobs, opportunities and more.

At a moment in history when it feels like people are pushing back from the notion that they even could be rejected from what they want, I would like to argue that the experience of being rejected is even more important than ever.

Rejection makes you tough.

Rejection gives you balls.

Not the real ones. The metaphorical balls of a person who has to learn how to dig in deeper, consider doing something a different way, or re-imagine how to reach goals that they hope to achieve because they failed the first time.

Do you remember when you experienced your first epic rejection?

For many people, it could be the experience of getting a rejection letter from the college that you had to get into. For me, it was Northwestern in Chicago. I actually was accepted by the other six colleges that I applied to. However, I got a big fat “no” from Northwestern, and it hurt.

Did that rejection end my world? No. I worked with the cards that I was dealt and ended up going to a university in the same conference and receiving an excellent education. I don’t wonder about “what if?” Because that ship has sailed.

Don’t focus on the “what if?”

Many people who experience rejection focus on the “what if?”

They ask themselves “what if I had married that guy/girl?” Well, you didn’t. You experienced something else instead.

Asking yourself “what if I had gone to Colombia instead of Australia?” is pointless. You didn’t.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

In fact, I would love to share some of the moments of rejection that I’ve experienced. Time to get real.

  • I auditioned for the Denver Broncos Cheerleading squad two or three times. One of those times I made it to the second or third round (it has been awhile) I didn’t get it.
  • I auditioned for the Denver Nuggets dance squad. I was rocking it out when the girl next to me fell, so I helped her get up. She got up and kept dancing. She moved forward to the next round. I didn’t.
  • I remember wanting to date this one guy who just didn’t seem to be that into me. We hooked up. Ahem. He still didn’t want to date me.
  • I’ve pitched a session or panel to a conference that I attend yearly. I still haven’t had a session picked. Plus, I’ve never won an award from that community and I still continue to attend and smile.

These experiences have taught me to manage these situations with short and long-term solutions. In the short-term, it’s perfectly fine to be devastated about an outcome that hasn’t worked out the way that you expected.

But it doesn’t help to sit around asking yourself “what if?” all the time. You’ll be much better off in the long run if you acknowledge the experiences you have had and dwell less on the rejection.

Grit and resilience through rejection.

Rejection is basically the other side of the reality that not everything will go your way. That’s a really good thing.

Suck it up buttercup, life doesn’t always work the way you want it to.

But that doesn’t mean you give up. It’s important to embrace strategies that will help you cope during those moments when you get kicked in the pants by life.

Keep things in perspective. Most people in the U.S. experience First World Problem rejections. We get rejected for the types of things that are beyond the dreams of most people. At the end of the day, you still have running water, electricity, and clothes on your back.

Understand that this is just one moment in time. Other opportunities to be accepted or rejected will continue to present themselves to you each and every day.

Embrace the experience, even if it’s painful. There is an old saying, “It’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved before.” Rejection basically is an experience that people have when they put themselves out there and open themselves to the reality of a well-lived life.

Rejection opens new paths

I don’t regret falling in love with past loves that didn’t work out.

I am now able to look back at different relationships that didn’t work out and acknowledge my part in the breakdown of each relationship.

I’m also able to reflect on most of those relationships and remember the good and the bad without feeling upset about how those relationships ended. With time I’ve learned that every relationship has a season and that the ones that didn’t work weren’t meant to be.

I think of the jobs that I didn’t get and am amazed by how happy I am now that they didn’t work out.

Rejection has made me a much more empathetic, relatable, and thoughtful person. I’m sure if everything had always worked the way that I wanted it to when rejection finally knocked at my door I would have been devastated and ill-equipped to deal with it.

Finally, if you’re having a hard time dealing with rejection, check out the following celebrity stories: Halle Berry, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, and Jim Lee.

Remember, rejection offers a person two different opportunities: to become dejected or create fuel for the “next” thing.

What will you decide to do the next time you’re rejected?

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Liking your BFF’s post on Facebook isn’t the same thing as sitting down and talking to them. Get out there and connect with the people in your life.

Sometimes it feels like there is not enough time in the day to manage your own life. Let alone dealing with maintaining healthy friendships.

Scroll through your Facebook and look at your real life friends. You know the ones who held your hair back after you drank too much after the last break up. Just Facebooking those friends on occasion with a Like or a comment is not enough to keep those ties strong.

In super-connnected, cyber life that we lead, it has become easier and easier to slip into habits that change a deep and long-standing friendship into something that’s a bit superficial and hashtagable.
For those of us who take adulting seriously, we understand the importance of maintaining and nurturing the people in our life even though life often feels like it’s conspiring to keep friends apart. It’s important to remain close to friends as you move through life.

If you’re trying to figure out how to get your friendships back on track here are some simple and effective strategies that re-ignite a waning friendship:

Prioritize your friendships.

This feels so obvious, but prioritizing your friendships will create a willingness to put in the work needed to maintain the most important relationships in your life.

I wish that I could tell you that good friendships are easy to nurture, but they’re not. Friends get married, kids arrive, people get dogs, go into debt. Basically, life freaking happens and throws a metaphorical wrench into every relationship that you’re in.

As an adult not only do you have to prioritize the relationships that you’re in, you also have to figure out what “season” your friendship is in.

Sometimes you’re at the end of a wonderful friendship and it’s time to let go of that person and move on. There are other moments in a friendship when you may end up taking a break for a while but are able to reconnect later on with very little effort. Recognizing the stage that your friendship is currently in will help you to prioritize which friendships you should really be focusing on.

It can help you remain close to friends that match where you’re at right now.

Plan friend dates.

This may sound weird, but plan friend dates.

Sometimes friends get into habits that doom their friendship. If you’re always doing the same things, switch it up.

Instead of happy hour, participate in a Graffiti Run, compete against one another on opposing trivia teams, go to a corn maze, or check out your town in a way that is different from what you usually do when you hang out together. Remember, variety is the spice of life (and friendships too).

You might be surprised at how these dates can help you remain close to friends that matter most. It’s all about making time for the important people in your life.

Travel with friends.

Travel together or visit another if your friends live far from you.

My best friend, who basically is my sister from another mister, is English. She lives in London, is married and has kids. This friendship is a priority to both of us, but the reality is that our realities have changed and we live far away from one another.

Because of this, we prioritize visiting one another either in the States or in Europe. We’ve traveled together numerous times throughout the years and many of out trips resemble The Hangover movies. Even though she has kids.

When you travel with friends, the roles that exist in your “real” lives cease to exist. How can they when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and freaked out about the locals who have decided to help you out?

Create new memories with your friends that are special and specific to experiences that only you’ve experienced together (like a trip).

What happens when you have kids?

I love kids, but many people aren’t excited about them. Figuring out how to remain close to friends after they start having mini-humans is one of the big challenges of life.

When your friends begin having kids that may signal a huge change in how you interact.

After living in Europe, I have a very different view on interacting with friends with kids. Kids are always welcome. I make it clear to my friends that I’m flexible (because one day I will have kids too) and what I’ve found is that by being flexible I’m able to see my friends more.

I’ve also noticed that many of these friends suggest kids free events because they aren’t just parents. They’re people, too, and sometimes they need a break.

Be up front with your friends.

Finally, be clear about what you want from your friends.

Communicate what you expect from people in your life. They’re not mind-readers.  If you’re not clear about what you want from your friends, you’re setting yourself (and them) up for failure. If you’re fine seeing someone every once in awhile because you have work, kids, a spouse and extended family, go ahead and own it.

If you’re the type of person who needs a lot more one on one time with friends create opportunities to connect that are easy wins for everyone. Have realistic expectations of how the friendship should flow and remember to be kind with one another.

In an increasingly cyber world, it’s becoming obvious that it’s important to deepen our “in real life” friendships.

There’s no substitute for the real thing.

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The things you do each day are draining your finances. Here are the things you need to stop doing. Now.

There is a mind-numbing range of mindless and expensive habits that get in the way of creating long-term and sustainable financial success. 

Let’s be honest. Most of us have financial habits that we have fallen into blindly because we’re not honest about the habits that may be getting in the way of our financial future.

The following three habits are so expensive that it may be time to kick them to the curb:

Fake hair.

The first one is tied to self-esteem. I totally get it, but your expensive fake hair habit is making you broke.

My hair broke off really badly and I needed a way to feel good about myself so I started wearing fake hair. Fortunately, this isn’t that big a deal, but my hair loss was a demoralizing experience.

I accepted that to get a great fake hair look that I would have to pay through the nose and so I paid big bucks (for me) to achieve the right look.

Like me, there are a lot of women who are dealing with hair loss or just would like to achieve a different look and spend way too much on their fake hair. I didn’t realize I had this habit and felt like I managed the expense really well.

I would stretch the times between getting an expensive weave and would try to consistently care for my fake hair with constant TLC.

But, what I didn’t realize was that I was paying too much for weaves and fun lace-front wigs and I discovered that I could get the same look for 75% less than what I was spending.

Instead of paying between $175-$200 for a weave or lace-front wig (including shipping), I discovered that there are inexpensive options that create the same look for less!

I discovered the amazing world of YouTube low-cost wig reviews. There were wigs that looked the same as what I was buying before, but for $30. It was a life-changing information.

I jumped on that savings, I still feel good about myself, and my wallet loves me for it.

Recreational pot habit.

One of the most expensive habits of all is a pot habit. You should break the weekly pot habit ASAP. 

Hey, I’m not judging you. I’m from Colorado. But that legal bud is not cheap.

If you’re smoking a bowl a couple of times a week, getting the newest in pot-related gear, and snacking like it’s going out of style, it may be time to do an audit of how much you’re spending on your legal weed.

According to the Colorado Pot Guide, the cost of an ounce of pot ranges between $100-$300 dollars depending on where you purchase it.

If you purchase just one ounce a month you’re spending $1200-$3600 in pot each year. That’s almost like shoving $20 bills into your bong and smoking it up. And, we haven’t even factored in the snacking costs.

For many people who embrace the 420 life, the expense may not always be top of mind. And, I’m not saying what you should or shouldn’t do. But your pot habit can be painful to your bottom line.

Instead of always having a reserve at home perhaps you could just indulge at your favorite concert like everyone else does?

When factoring in the cost of pot also consider the potential for losing your job if your employer does drug checks. In Colorado, employers have the right to terminate employment for off-the-job cannabis consumption, even if it’s medicinal.

Lack of research before purchases.

The first two expensive habits were pretty specific. This one, though, applies to most people.

Many of us make big (and small) purchases without doing research. I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference doing basic research on my purchases has made to my finances. I’ve discovered that there is always a deal to be found on any item I want to buy.

For example, if you hope to purchase a car, spend some time researching the following: gas mileage, if the car has had any recalls, cost for maintaining it, and if there is a place where you could buy it for less than the listed price.

There is no reason to purchase clothing at the listed price. It always goes on sale. By researching ways to get rebates on spending, savings apps, and places where you could purchase the same items at a discounted price.

Research doesn’t have to be an annoying and onerous process. And it’s at the heart of how I have been able to save substantial amounts of money on trips, shopping, and even my home purchase.

Once you kick your expensive habits to the curb, you will be more likely to have more money to spend on things that really matter to you.

What are your expensive habits? How do you plan to break them? Let us know at the #Adulting community on Facebook.

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Broad perspectives enhance understanding of life. Live abroad at least once in your life and fine-tune your empathy.

When I was in high school I had a fascination with all things French.

I joined the French club. I learned to speak the language. I loved the show Les Misérables. There was something so romantic, so different about France, that I had to go there.

Sadly, I didn’t have any money.

Travel to another country.

It wouldn’t happen until several years later after college that I would travel overseas and live abroad.

It’s true that when I was a young girl I lived in Japan for two years. However, a small child doesn’t comprehend the experience of otherness that being in another country makes you feel. A small child doesn’t have the same response as an adult.

Being a young adult in a foreign country, a young American in a foreign country, was very exciting and humbling.

Living abroad is an experience that every young American should have because it helps develop an awareness of our place in the world.

Live abroad and see how the world sees us.

At the time that I write this post, we have just experienced a highly contentious Presidential election and a tough year. The U.S. has a new President and, as is the case with each new president, their vision of the world and the United State’s place in it will guide and shape their policy.

These new policies affect people. Young Americans, for the most part, live very wealthy lives compared to many people around the world. Our homes are bigger, we have electricity, and with the exception of Flint, Michigan, most of us have clean water.

We’ve experienced very little civil disruption, we have plenty of food, and most people have access to the internet.

It’s not like that everywhere.

We grow up with stories of how just and fair the U.S. is and when we step outside of our bubble we are presented with an alternative view of the history that we’ve been told our whole lives.

Leaving the U.S. to live abroad forces one to answer questions that we might not typically be asked.

We discover that some countries and citizens absolutely love the U.S. and other countries… not so much.

Travel puts us face-to-face with people who are affected by the decisions that our country makes (good or bad). When you’re faced with people who are affected by policies that we feel are in our best interest, we are compelled to defend or refute a policy with a depth of reflection that we may not normally tap into during our day to day lives in the U.S.

For many young travelers being presented with a negative or positive view of the U.S. may catch you off-guard. And you may find yourself wondering if everything that we’ve been told about our country is a lie.

Not necessarily, but how one group sees a geopolitical situation may be completely different from how another group perceives it.

When you live abroad, you see the way others see us. And that’s not a bad thing. We should have more understanding with other people from other countries.

Live abroad and become “the other.”

Living in a foreign country forces people into an experience of otherness. As a person of color, I’ve been the only black person in a class or a group (on many occasions). But there are many people who’ve never had the experience of being “the other.” It can be a shocking, disturbing and somewhat disorienting experience.

Young Americans need that experience so that they can develop empathy and develop a worldliness that can only be discovered through travel and a deeper curiosity about who and what is around us.

Young Americans need to travel abroad because not everything is about us. And to learn that life lesson, we have to venture beyond our borders. Those adventures foster a curiosity about the world that might fuel other adventures.

That curiosity about the world and willingness to explore it as a younger person will serve you well later in life if you go into international business or politics.

In recent election cycles, voters expressed concern about candidates lacking global awareness because they hadn’t traveled or lived abroad.  From a job perspective, international businesses look at global awareness through the lens of actual time spent living and exploring other places.

But, if developing a global awareness isn’t enough to entice you to live abroad, maybe the following reason will be enough: travel abroad because you can.

While you’re still single, have no kids, and basically have the least amount of responsibilities that you will ever have during your life. Of course, you can travel abroad at any age, but that first time when you have very little to lose and everything to gain, that first experience is everything.

For some people, that one experience will be enough. For others (like myself) that first trip will become addictive. And, each trip has grown my global awareness, my awareness of my role as an American citizen, and fed my lust for adventure.

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