I’ve sunk down to the level of a lazy home dweller within the past two weeks. The first few days I got here, I was spending the entire day exploring Zagreb’s museums and parks. Now when I get home from work, sometimes the most exciting part of the day after work is shopping at the nearby grocery store. My tourist bucket list for Zagreb is collecting dust. Part of the reason is because I just want to decompress at the end of the work day.
I think the other big reason why I don’t do anything is because of my social class attitudes. My parents are immigrants from the Vietnam war, and they’ve always been hoarding any money they can squeeze out from their low-paying labor jobs can get. Of course, their financial strategies have rubbed off of me. So in Zagreb, I’d rather buy groceries from the cheap market and cook at home rather than eat at restaurants and try new foods. One time I walked up to a museum and left when I learned that the admission was about $3. I’m writing this post at home because I didn’t want to go to the movies partially because of the fee (which is only $6). These are little purchasing decisions that probably don’t make a huge difference, and I don’t think it’s on other people’s minds. But it’s a constant thought on my mind.
I’m worried that being too cheap will keep me from great international experiences. But I’ve been pushing myself to be more risky with my budget. This weekend, I went to Slovenia with the other interns to explore the city and Lake Bled. And next weekend, we’ll be spending the long weekend in Budapest. But the amount of money I’m spending made me so nervous that I declined a trip to go to a beautiful coastal city in Croatia. Maybe it’s for the best? I don’t know. At best, I’ll just be losing out on a few nice pictures. The worst is knowing that I’m missing out on the connections I can make with the other interns.
I know that I have a lot more economic freedom than my parents thanks to my educational privilege and access to generous scholarships, but it’s hard to stray away from the financial habits I’ve learned since birth. I don’t want to get carried away and spend everything, but I also don’t want to be regret shutting myself away from experiences I could have had. I’m worried that I won’t learn that balance before this trip ends.