It’s just the fourteenth day of the month, and the machine refuses to spit out money. The screen coldly shows a three digit figure and I walk out of the ATM empty-handed.
For me, this is not a new phenomenon. Since past few months, I have been living like an Urban Poor with no regret.
Year 2016 began with my passion for travel growing stronger than ever before. I wanted to go back to the mountains of Ladakh. I wanted to visit Dah and Hanu, the villages that inhabit the last and the purest breed of Aryans. I wanted to sit in a cafe in McLeodganj and fill notebooks with silly poetries. I wanted to gorge every yummy street food available in Kolkata markets. I wanted to explore all the palaces and temples that whisper tales of the times gone by. I wanted to cycle around the forever French Pondicherry. (For which I’ll obviously have to learn biking. Ok, don’t judge me. I have an explanation for this, but let’s save it for later.) I wanted to travel across my country, and then after exploring every nook and cranny, travel across borders too. I wanted to… and I still want to.
But to start ticking off this never-ending bucket list, I needed to start saving.
Yes, travel is definitely worth more than money will ever be. But for a girl working in a demanding industry like advertising where pay cheque is a joke; saving money for travel was a big challenge.
So, I welcomed the New Year with a simple plan. I opened a separate account to take out a piece of my salary every month without fail. I call it my ‘travel punji’.
This travel punji has brought a lot of discipline in my life. Every month after a certain amount gets deducted from my salary, what I’m left with is just a little cash that helps me get through the month.
Travel punji has also changed my lifestyle to some extent, if not completely. I don’t remember the last time I visited a mall and returned with handful of shopping bags. Splurging stopped. Smart buying started. Today, when I open my wardrobe, I see only a handful of clothes, and I still feel it’s more than enough.
Yes, there are certain things that take a toll on my monthly budget. For example, food. I just cannot resist good food. Of course I can have two home-cooked meals every day; but when craving for a something specific comes to me, my grey cells stop working and taste buds take charge, resulting into a hole in my already-burnt pocket.
Second thing that forces me to use up all my monies is the taxi meter. I love travelling, but hate commuting. The home-office-home routine, last-minute meetings, late nights, work pressure, and the usual rant-worthy factors suck up all the energy, and make cabs the only preferred mode of transportation. I should seriously work towards commuting by public transport like trains and buses. I’m sure, I’ll easily add a few more pennies in my punji.
Well, the third reason is purely sentimental. Someday I might get successful in curbing the other two, but this one has emotions attached to it – It’s the joy of gifting. Deciding on a suitable gift, buying it, wrapping it with pretty wraps, giving it to your dear ones and waiting anxiously to see a twinkle in their eyes when they open it; the whole process is so thrilling and relaxing at the same time.
I pray to God that I’ll never be so broke that I stop this happy habit. And I pray to God that my travel punji may never be bare.
But no matter how empty or full the punji is, I’ll keep travelling. I’ll keep investing in moments. I’ll be rich with memories that can never be traded with any currency.
That’s my promise!
PS: The word count of this post is more than my current bank balance. 😉
If you have interesting tips on how to manage travel funds, please share it with me. I’d love your guidance. Or if you want to know more about my future travel plans and how I’m going to use my Travel Punji, feel free to ask a question.