You have to be good to yourself. Always!

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You have to be good to yourself. Always.

After recovering from traveling for family events, I will keep this phrase in mind whenever I have to book another trip. This is something that rings true especially when you have to travel.
It’s hard to be good to yourself while traveling when you are on a budget. Or short on cash. But traveling is going to be expensive (money-wise or comfort-wise):
-Excessive cheapening out on lodging can increase your exposure to bed bugs, noise and unclean places. I have stayed in hostels, shacks, tents, etc during my travels and honestly I will always prefer to stay at a hotel with a good track record for a good night’s sleep. BTW I will never stay at an America’s Best Value Inn AGAIN. Especially in Kentucky.
The Flying -vs-Driving Debate: While flying has become obnoxious and irritating, driving through long distances (8 hours or more) can be just as draining. I’ve found that if the drive is more than 4 hours long, it merits some overnight stay either at the destination place or mid-way to the destination place. At least with flying you can opt out of driving far afterwards.
-Food: It’s hard to eat healthy while traveling. If you want to save money, invest in a plug-in cooler that will keep your food either hot or cold and prepare some simple meals like sandwiches and snacks. Traveling with a few homemade meals will not only save money, but help avoid the dreaded food-poisoning (and a ruined trip!). If you can’t prepare meals, scout out the nearby restaurants along the route or destination point for some healthy choices.
-ALWAYS BRING WET-WIPES/DISINFECTING WIPES! I can’t stress this enough. You will encounter enough contaminated surfaces to catch at least ONE COLD/FLU if not careful. Excessive hand washing is encouraged while traveling.
-BRING YOUR OWN LINENS AND TOWELS. Better safe than sorry. Check for the bed size of the place you are planning on staying in and either bring your own clean linens and towels. Seriously, don’t even bother using the provided comforters: most only get washed once a year. While on the subject…
Bring a flashlight and check the mattress for signs of bedbugs! If you find them, change rooms immediately! I don’t care how paranoid this may look but after roughing it throughout the years (worst was while staying in an old dorm for bible camp with roaches falling from the ceiling), I have become more careful on avoiding as many bug-infested places as possible.
If you can’t be good to yourself while traveling, then don’t travel at all. Unless you are traveling for an emergency, don’t expect to be 100% fully-rested/nourished after cutting one too many corners on lodging/food and transportation mode. I learned this the hard way and which was why I haven’t written in while (thanks food poisoning!)

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A new level of gambling

I will state this now because I have seen too many idiots do this for fun: I do NOT gamble (cards, slot machines, casino games, etc).

Yet what I have been doing for the past year has been so far, a gamble.

Months of silence were caused by a long semester of intense studying in American Government, Modern Greek and Math. The most pain in the ass one was Math, trying to test into another Math class. I worked my butt off, but those online tests are just AWFUL. I managed to test out of one class, but could not test out of the other class. So I had to take summer school. Six months of Math into one month was brutal. My days consisted of 8 hours of studying, doing homework and testing.  The hard work paid off (for now).  I’d thought after all of that Math I should have come up with a formula (or two) on how to estimate whether this expensive gamble will pay off. (I haven’t 😦 )

I agree education is a good investment but frankly when you tally up the expenses (tuition, books, food, etc), you do get the feeling that the process itself is a gamble:

<Silent Sobbing>

A few caveats:

-I didn’t factor in a meal plan because I live off campus, until I had a good look at my schedule and realized that I wouldn’t leave campus until 8PM. And there are microwaves around campus but absolutely no refrigerators available for student use to store leftovers for lunch and dinner time. 😦

-I spend about $40 a month on gasoline, give or take depending on how much I have to drive to campus. If the weather is nice enough (no snow or rain) I would ride my bike on the 6 mile trek to campus to save some money. Another peeve: the $36.14 Transit Fee for a bus system that does not run pass 5PM and would add 2 hours to my campus commute because everyone who isn’t a student also gets to ride in it. And there are no stops within walking distance.

-I’ve managed to get two scholarships to cover tuition and fees (excluding parking permits) and the meal plan but did not qualify for the book scholarship, which means I have to pay for books and if I am lucky to get a good parking spot, I would have shell out another $624 for the student parking permit at the closest parking deck on campus. At least this permit will last for two semesters. The reason I am considering upgrading my student parking permit is because the regular low-cost lots need to be cleared out on Tuesdays because of basketball games. The parking Nazis have handed out parking fines like candy because sporting events are more important than academics.

-Did not include housing because I live off campus and since the rental company did not raise our rent, we just renewed our lease. I have considered moving closer to campus until I realized that a) the noise level would not let Cutie and I sleep and b) the rent spikes are increasing at an alarming rate in that area. I dodged a bullet by not being a first-year freshman under the age of 21, which would have forced me to shell out nearly $9,000 for a dorm room on campus per semester.

If I were still working it would have taken me 2 1/2 months to earn enough to cover the above expenses (excluding housing, groceries, utility bills, etc). By the time I have saved enough, the yearly events would have popped up (holidays and birthdays, anniversaries, etc) and would have been too dead broke to even afford car maintenance. Time wise, I would not have enough time to spend with Cutie, run errands or sleep if I were working full-time and studying full time. The only way I can manage to work and study is if I am lucky enough to land a part-time job on campus or near campus that would not conflict with my studying schedule. I am still waiting from a few places I applied to.

Yes this is a new level of gambling. Because I have NO CLUE on whether once I graduate I will land a full-time job before or after graduation. Or, if I do, I would be able to recoup most of the uncovered expenses for the education from the best university in the state (not a diploma mill!). Or not get a job because of other factors, such as a decrease in demand and age discrimination, among other things. If I am not able to find full-time work after this, I am just calling it quits. I understand that in order to compete in a demanding field, education is important but I cannot afford to do it continuously for the rest of my working years. I have considered opening a business or doing contract work, but I do not have the ideas to meet an unmet demand and I am not able to travel extensively because of my family life. It would take A LOT OF MONEY for me to work super-long hours because the time I loose with my family is time I won’t get back. I really hope, with time and hard work, that this will all pay off.