What Running to Tahiti Taught Me About Money

I’m not bad with money, per se. Not horrible. I pay my bills on time, always, and keep a very organized record of my accounts. My problem is that I have bills in the first place. My problem is that I enjoy spending money and usually on things. I love things. Aren’t things awesome? I love shoe things and clothes things and book things. Yay things! Then I run to Tahiti, and I realize that things are not actually purchased with money. They are purchased with units of my life. Yikes. My life is made up of a lot of running shoes.

Money is just an invention, right? It’s a placeholder, but for what? For time. So when I spend $80 on a pair of discount Asics that I don’t reeeeally need I’m not giving away $80. I’m giving away approximately 4 hours of my life. You may be willing to trade cold heartless cash for cool stuff, but are you willing to trade your time?

Five days a week I trade in my time, eight hours a day, for money. Why? The marketing machine that is commercial capitalism wants you to believe that you trade your time in for money so that you can go out and buy things. Things will give you meaning (false). Things will fulfill you (false.) Things will make you happy (ok SOMEtimes). Then the rush of those things wears off and you have to go out and buy more things to feel that false sense of fulfillment. You have to work harder to get more money to buy more things, but you’re working so hard to buy those things you barely have time to enjoy them so their meaning diminishes even more but the quest for happiness does not and so you do it. You work harder, you take on another job, you trade in more of your lifetime, (Think about that word. Life. Time.) to acquire more things that continue to fail to give your life meaning. You’ve given away the precious time of your life for the acquisition of ultimately meaningless things.

Is that what I want my life to be? Running shoes and book bags? (Dammit if I don’t LOVE a good book bag). Not if I don’t have time to go running or to read the books I’ve put in my bag. I’m incredibly grateful to live in a country and a time that afford me the ability to work for a decent income; one that gives me a roof over my head, a steady stream of food on the table, a car to get around, cat food for the furry babies, and a little extra for a new hat. Good lord I’m practically royalty. Grateful grateful, I’m very grateful. I have just what I need to be comfortable, and then some. The trick is to not spend the “then some” but earmark it for an investment in a meaningful life.

This all seems rather logical but we’re brainwashed in the western world from such an early age to value things. Toys, video games, treats, presents. These are the epicenters of many an American child’s world. I don’t necessarily believe in complete deprivation of material goods to combat this. I truly loved my Teddy Ruxpin doll and Little Mermaid sleeping bag. At some point it’s an important lesson to learn however that these things did not make me who I am. What made me who I am are the friendships I cultivated at the slumber parties where I used my Little Mermaid sleeping bag, and the imagination sparked in my mind by talking to a teddy bear who could talk back. Friendship, imagination, kindness, play. These are the elements of my childhood that made me who I am, despite the fact that Disney and Toys R Us would have me believe it was the things themselves.


And so no, I do not completely discredit the value of things. I am more likely to write a better story in a beautiful journal with a fancy pen than I am on a boring black and white composition notebook. I will walk with more confidence in an outfit that makes me feel beautiful than an ill-fitting dress I’ve had for 10 years. Just remember it’s the story that matters. It’s the confidence. The things are just tools.

A light bulb goes off as soon as we start planning our trip to Tahiti. This four-year endeavor has been its own form of internal currency trade, but I never realize the weight of that until I begin to think about giving the currency away. Each dollar we put into savings represents a hard-earned mile. So a couple of months ago as I research the cost of a diving expedition in Bora Bora, I feel this overwhelming resistance to lay down the $200 to pay for it because it’s not two hundred dollars I’m giving away. It’s two hundred miles! It takes us a lot of time, sweat, and energy to run two hundred miles and come time to give it away I have to make absolutely certain that it’s worth it. And that’s when it hits me. ALL of my money should be this precious. Why is it so easy to justify a quick afternoon blowing $50 on Zappos when it is so difficult to put down $200 for a once-in-a-lifetime experience we’ve been saving for years to have? Damn, my perspective is OFF. In that moment my paradigm did that shifting thing it sometimes does, and I no longer saw the numbers in my bank account as just numbers. I saw them as units of time; of my life. Very precious.

So what IS the point of money? Can’t we just get rid of it and all live in a utopia where money is obsolete and we help each other do what needs to get done? Then we don’t have to worry about all of this trading of time and money thing and we’ll just get straight to the happiness and meaning part. It’s a nice idea, but it’s not the way our world is set up and frankly I’m not interested in changing the structure of society. What I am interested in is a meaningful life. Stripping away things for only a moment brings quickly into focus what gives my life meaning: My family. My friends. Art. Connection. Travel. Animals. Books. Sunsets. Spirituality. Great stories. Adventures. My husband. My cats. Service. So what do I need money for? I need it for the security it affords me to spend time with my family. To see the rainforest before I die. To be with my community. To make art. To insure that the last 20 years of my life won’t be spent stressed out and panicked about debt but relaxed, and enjoying the people I love and cherish. Just the right amount of money can give me the security to infuse my life with an abundance of meaning. Too much (or too little) can make me mistake the money for meaning itself.

So thank you, whatever inspiration visited my brain and gave me the idea of Running to Tahiti. Not only has it been an incredibly fulfilling journey unto itself, it’s given me perhaps the most important life lesson I’ve encountered. Money can buy you happiness… if you spend it on a hard-earned plane ticket to Tahiti where you’re sure to have a truly meaningful adventure.

But only if you don’t blow it on running shoes first.

how to run 786 miles in 3 months

It’s time for some major calibration. If you look up and to the right you’ll see a “Running Tally” tab right next to “Here’s How it Works.” What you’ll find in the “Running Tally” is a whole lotta nothing. I have yet to create a useful spreadsheet that tracks all of our mileage and can be plugged into this web page cleanly. I have tracked our progress by writing down our miles right after we run on a checklist on our fridge. I know, I’m actually using a pencil and paper. It’s weird. I count up the miles once a month and make a deposit into our Smarty Pig Savings account, therefore I can track how many miles we’ve run by checking to see how much money we have in the “Running to Tahiti” Smarty Pig goal. I checked this morning and we’re at $481.90. Woo hoo! That’s not exactly a huge amount of money but it sure ain’t small! What’s even more exciting is that the percentage-to-goal ticker on the little piggy icon has raised to 11%. We’re in double digits people! Double digits to our goal! Yay!!

Sccccreeeech. Hold on there. Before you get too excited allow me to put things in perspective. Yes it’s great that we’re 11% to our goal. However let me break it down for you. If we were on track we’d be 37% to our goal and we’d have run 1,541 miles by now. We’d have $1,541 dollars in the piggy bank. Wah wah waaaah. Deflation.

I knew we’d be behind. I knew in January when we embarked on this adventure that running 20 miles a week while I’m on the AMC at Theatre of NOTE would be next to impossible. I set the goal anyway. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment (and disappointment). I figured we’d pick up a lot of extra miles in training for the Disneyland Half Marathon, and we did in fact make up SOME lost distance, but we all know that our training was not as robust as it should have been. I did not anticipate producing a main stage play at Theatre of NOTE during that time. There seems to be a recurring theme here that rhymes with Beater of OAT. I love my theatre company, I truly do, and I don’t regret committing to the AMC or producing “Wonderlust.” However it’s clear that my involvement there is keeping me from pursuing my goals and dreams that I supposedly want more than anything. Why do so many people in this crazy world, so many people like me, create so many distractions from pursuing their dreams? Often in the name of altruism, teamwork, or “duty.” Are we just delaying the possibility of failure? Are we just afraid that once we start going after what we want, we risk not getting it? Are we just so insecure with ourselves that we put others first so as not to have to admit that we don’t believe WE deserve to take precedent? And by all of this we, of course I mean me. I’m embarking down a whole philosophical discussion right now regarding the nature of dreams that I’ll save for a later time. For now, I’m disappointed. Disappointed, but not defeated. I possess a little thing called resilience.

I can't help but think the photographer just placed that flower there. Am i a cynic?

Time to crunch some numbers. Brad and I each must run 783 miles before January if we want to start 2012 on target. Est possible? I’m not sure. Let’s see. There are 13 weeks left in 2011 (how is that possible!?). To enter 2012 on target would mean we’d have to run 60 miles a week for the next 13 weeks. That is 8.6 miles a day for the next 91 days. Okay, get your laughs out now people, I agree. It’s not gonna happen. Notice I didn’t say it wasn’t possible, but it’s not going to happen. The sad reality is that we will enter 2012 behind on our miles. The good news is that December 31st, 2011 marks the end of my term on the Artistic & Management Committee at Theatre of NOTE. Next year I am exempt from the obligation to work on a committee, and I plan on mostly donating money in lieu of working hours for the company. I need time more than anything. Time to get back on track. Let’s create a plan shall we?

“Wonderlust” closes on Saturday. AMC tasks continue but start to become manageable. I believe that Brad and I should be able to handle 26 miles a week. Combined that’s 52 miles/week. That will take us 676 miles closer to Tahiti by 12/31/11. End of year pedometer will read 1,157.9 miles. That is the best we can do, and I’m excited about doing it. Here we go!