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  • Hannah Phalen

Making Time For What Matters

I always wanted to get away. I love the thrill of the unknown, and the excitement of something new to learn about every day. In my world, where practically every minute of every day is planned to be busy, I crave breaking the routine and finding something crazy to do. I get through the banality of my Mondays through Fridays by dreaming of sledding down volcanoes, or spending days backpacking through national parks, or paragliding over a place I would have never dreamed of calling a second home, but do.

It's not like travelling as much as I do should ever have made sense for me. I grew up going to food banks and always looking for the next deal so we could afford the life my parents envisioned but had financial trouble providing. And, they were great at finding it. I will never cease to be amazed at how many free museum days, season passes, play groups, and community funded after-school programs I got to partake in due to my mom seeking them out. We didn't have a lot of money, but we were never short on excitement.

I took a lot of valuable lessons from this lifestyle. Some negative, some positive... I learned to seize the day and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. I also learned the horrors of credit card debt... although, sacrifices there granted me so much of my childhood memories too. Essentially, I learned not to let a lack of money stop me, but also not to let it take over my life in the ways it had for so many of my other members.

Growing up with the internet meant that I could look up anything I was worried about and make a plan to stop it. I could find out how to profit off credit cards instead of being trapped by their debt by taking advantage of welcome bonuses and cashback rewards, as long as I paid the balance off every month. I could find out how to find last minute flight deals, or find scholarships to live abroad for a year, or to attend college for four. I found that practically anything is possible if you seek it out enough and connect with the right people.

Even while I say that I can't wait to break my routine, it doesn't mean that I don't LOVE my routine. I love what I do. I have found a real passion in doing policy analysis, especially regarding housing and specifically homeownership. I've been able to connect my personal experiences to the policies I seek to create. I wake up every day excited to go to work, and I am applying to get my Masters of Public Policy beginning next year. But my life will not revolve solely around my career.

I make time to go to work during the day, study in the evening, and run my blog at night. I make time to train for triathlons and marathons. I made time to study and take the GRE and apply to grad school, while finishing my last semester of undergrad. I have time for a boyfriend. I have this time because I make it, and I love what I do. It’s also because I have found the most supportive co-workers and partner in life possible.

I also make time to take a break. I may work hard, but I know when to stop. Weekends are for fun only, and every couple of years I am not afraid to move out of the country and live a more simple life for a while. I've done this four times now, in Ecuador, Ireland, Chile, and China. Working so aggressively most of the time means I was able to take extended time off to take a gap year, study abroad twice, and get my Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate overseas. And I'm now about to embark on a seven month road trip through almost all of South and Central America.

This trip is something I have dreamed about since I was eighteen, living in Ecuador with no money or a plan on how to get home. I thought it may be cheaper to take buses all the way back than to fly, which is now a clearly very naive thought. But I thought that because I wanted to do it. I could see every country on my way up... get to know a little bit about each culture, see the land, and try the food. I couldn't stop thinking about it, even after I made it home.

I planned this trip for over four years. I studied hard and I worked hard in the meantime, too.

And now, I'm celebrating! I'm proud of myself, and people seem truly happy for me. I've started a blog to capture each moment and share it with everyone. I hope you follow along!

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