The Unsexy Life

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Pamela Chan, / Editorial

The last trip outside of British Columbia that anyone in our family took – other than 2 road trips to the San Juan Island and Oregon respectively – was 10 years ago. My husband and I went to a family wedding party in our honour in northern Alberta and we flew to Athens and various Greek islands for our honeymoon.  Since then it’s been a matter of logistics and monetary concerns that have kept us within a 100 mile radius here in British Columbia.  (If you’d like to see what that 100 mile lifestyle looks like, check out the account.) We live in a beautiful part of the world and enjoy visiting with family on Vancouver island once a year. Otherwise we explore natural settings closer to home.

Sure, other people in our situation are tossing a few diapers in a bag and heading to the airport with one toddler aged twin under each arm.  That just hasn’t been our story.

I grew up in a foreign service family and know the value of traveling and exploring other cultures.  In our own family, here in BC, we live a multicultural lifestyle; study a second language (and others too); celebrate many festivals from different countries throughout the year; and, constantly learn about different cultures.

So there have been no flights to X or Y.  No trips to Hawaii, Mexico or Cuba.  No jaunts down to Disneyland, Vegas or Palm Springs.  No photo spreads on Facebook about our trip to Paris or Tokyo. No quick whirlwind visits tying in with a class reunion overseas or someone’s destination wedding. No couple trip down south while the grandparents babysit. No girls’ trip to a winery or guys’ trip to see a baseball game in Toronto.

These facts make my family very unchic in some people’s eyes. Not long ago I met up with a couple from out of town. We spent a lot of time talking about their professional and personal interests and the new changes in their lives.  And they asked us…. um… well nothing, to be honest.  It must have seemed that our lives hadn’t changed, in their eyes, since the last time they saw us. They just didn’t ask us anything about ourselves.

Surely we can’t be successful or truly middle class if we live like this.  What the heck must we be doing to not be able to pull any of these scenarios off?  But I also know that a lot of other BC families are doing the same. The cost of living, real estate, transit and food, and children’s activities in BC is high.  Stable, long term, well paid jobs in BC are not plentiful. A lot of families are carrying heavy debt loads.

We haven’t sold it all and taken off on a boat or backpacking trip around the world.  And despite putting in many years of work working for the man between my husband and myself – oh yes, I have the resume to prove it – there will be no pension in the future to finance more traveling.  (Side bar.  84% of British Columbians work for small businesses.  I wonder how many of them will have pension financed travel in the future?) We’ve got our eye on running a healthy budget and not abusing credit card use. It’s not sexy or gripping stuff but it’s not a bad thing either. And it’s not that other globe trotting families  with household incomes under $100,000 a year are not living within their means. Maybe they’ve paid off their mortgage. Maybe they have lower overhead in other ways. It’s also not that our family have other priorities such as eating out at fancy restaurants or buying lots of clothes and tech toys. ( I use a non-WiFi activated phone on a $20 per month plan.  When I found out recently that I could download a Mandarin-English dictionary complete with character search into my phone, I almost cried.)  In our family living within our means is simply about breathing easier.

I’m not relaying some deeply personal information here.  If you’re shrewd, pay attention and hang in our hood, you’ll observe this fact about our family and other families we know.

Our story is the story of many British Columbians  – and not just those who are living in low income households. It’s not a sob story and it’s not about discussing a 1st world problem.  It’s just a story about a lifestyle that’s not uncommon but is also not often acknowledged.

That’s all.

How does your family juggle budgetary concerns, logistics and travel plans? You can comment about this posting on the Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!