Jackie Buys Some Happiness

by Jackie D on February 1, 2014


We’ve had some real talk about money here before. Most of it centered around the fact that I don’t have much, but that when I do have it, I tend to spend it. I’ve always preferred having things or experiences to having money, but I do realize that this comes with a risk: what if something happened to me — what if I got injured and suddenly had medical bills to pay, or if something happened to my car and I had to pay for the damages or, God forbid, an entirely new car?

Honestly, at the moment, that type of thing would almost bankrupt me.

But the other type of lifestyle comes with risks, too — what if you save up all of your money and never dole out for expenses: you rarely go out with friends, don’t take a weekend trip away ever, always buy the least expensive things at the grocery store — not because you have to (and I understand that some people do have to), but because you just want to save up.

But what if you save up and then you still have a medical emergency or need a new car or new place to live, and you have to spend all that money you saved anyway, and you never got to do anything in the mean time? It seems a little strange to me to save up money for your future self while completely ignoring your present self. Where do you draw the line?

One of the things I am trying to do in my twenties is find the balance between investing in things or experiences that I want to have, and saving money for future experiences or things (or, God forbid, for emergencies). Maybe it’s overly optimistic of me, but I do believe that there has to be a happy balance somewhere.

I believe there are purchases that are worth the investment as long as they genuinely improve your present quality of life, even if these things may not last too far into your future, or if they seem like a risk. I firmly believe that — to an extent — it is possible to buy some happiness.

Right now, there are three forms of happiness I’m spending my money on: my apartment, my website, and (SPOILER) traveling. Rent in Los Angeles is twice what I was paying in Chicago, and it’s been a bit of a shock. However, having my own little studio apartment is something that makes me exceptionally happy. I crave my alone-time, and I’m apparently really obsessed with decorating, because I spend most of my free time drooling over every single post on Apartment Therapy and updating my “To Buy” board on Pinterest.

I’ve also just spent some money to have my website professionally designed because, I mean, it’s time. Get with the program, jackie travels.

And traveling. The past few years have all involved travel in one way or another, but no year has looked the same. My idea of travel — the places I want to visit, the experiences I want to have, and the things I want to take away from these new places — has gradually evolved each year. The only thing that doesn’t really change is that travel costs money, even when you’re on a budget.

Investing money in these three things really freaks me out, because these are three expensive things. I have to keep reminding myself thatthanks to an otherwise frugal lifestyle, I can afford it, although just barely. More importantly, these three things greatly improve my life. They make me extremely happy, and they are a means to a very rewarding end: my own apartment gives me enough independence and alone-time to work on my writing (and make it through all 3 seasons of Walking Dead in a week), my website is a productive outlet for the thing I love to do most, and traveling is my sanity.

There are plenty of other things I’d love to add to this list but don’t have the money for right now — eating at new restaurants, buying new furniture for my apartment, adding to my book collection, owning every pair of shoes on the Seychelles website, traveling through Australia for six months, upgrading my camera, upgrading my laptop, and so on.

You can’t have it all, but you should at least allow yourself to have one or two or three things if you have the financial means to do so.

I’m becoming more comfortable with this idea of investing, although it’s a slow process. I’m not sure the creators of Apartment Therapy ever meant for the Therapy part to be taken literally, but if you need me in the next few days, I’ll be calming myself down by adding every page of that website to my Pinterest boards.

(PS: If you want to invest in your business/personal life too, I have discounts for us! “Us” meaning that if you click here and order business cards from this specific link, you get a discount and I also get a discount. We’ll be like drinking buddies, only with cute business cards and zero alcohol, so fewer bad choices will be made. Same amount of networking will result though, probably.

If business cards aren’t your thing, you can also click here to sign up for a class on Skillshare, a website that offers classes on everything from Photoshop to cool typography to building your own website or running a business. It sort of rules.)

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Wherever I Am

by Jackie D on January 2, 2014

“Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.”
- Mary Oliver


volcano boarding

tikal ruins

1. Palenque, Mexico 2. Leon, Nicaragua 3. Little Corn Island 4. Tikal ruins, Guatemala
Backpacking, January 2013

usa road trip

durango railroad

1. Somewhere in Kansas 2. Durango, Colorado
Moving from Chicago to Los Angeles, February 2013


Toronto, Canada
TBEX (Travel Blogger Exchange) Conference, May 2013

Santa Barbara, California
Random day trip, June 2013

Jacksonville, Florida
Business conference, July 2013

Kiawah Island and Charleston, South Carolina
Family vacation, August 2013

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California
Night Photography workshop, August 2013

Eastern Sierras region (Mammoth, Mono Lake, Bodie Ghost Town)
Fall color photography workshop, October 2013

Los Angeles, California
Officially home again as of 2013

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I’m fairly sentimental when it comes to souvenirs. Only recently have I begun to consider the idea of souvenirs that won’t last forever — things like spices (which I brought home from Israel), beauty products (beyond the stolen hotel shampoos), or food or alcohol (when legal to do so). Recently, I’ve become slightly obsessed with soap.

It probably began a couple years ago when Boyf (those of you who’ve been reading for a while will remember Boyf) brought me a bar of beer soap after he visited Milwaukee without me. He did this chiefly as a peace offering, knowing that I am most efficiently pacified when presented with exotic gifts. Not only did it work, it also made me realize that I am actually more interested in fancy soap than I ever thought I was.

savannah soap

I put a bar of soap from Savannah, Georgia, in my mother’s stocking this past Christmas. She opened it, gave it the proper thirty seconds of appreciation, and then displayed it in her bathroom as decor. Fast forward a few months to the point where we’d run out of every other bar of soap in the house, and I noticed that the Savannah soap was still sitting on the bathroom counter. I decided that if she wasn’t going to make the first move, I was, and I put it in our shower.

She was astounded by how amazing this soap was. I kind of was, too. I’ve tried to find one adjective adequate enough to encompass all of the goodness this soap’s scent offers to the world, but so far the only way I can think to describe it is “Jesus.” It smells like it will save mankind.

Since then, I’ve brought home soaps from the Corn Islands, Toronto, and Mexico. In Chicago there was this hand-made soap I bought compulsively at the biannual craft fairs, although I’ve since forgotten the name.

corn islands

Bringing home these souvenirs that I might use for cooking, bathing, or other day-to-day activities we normally associate with home is extremely comforting to me. It emphasizes that contrast that I currently love about my lifestyle, the juxtaposition of home and traveling. I absolutely love taking a shower in my own bathroom in my own apartment in a familiar city, but equally comforting is the scent of a soap that reminds me of a place far away from that apartment, from a city that I may or may not ever see again.

The fact that the soap is a temporary thing is bittersweet in the way that my travels are, too. I don’t really practice the “slow travel movement,” the idea that the best way to travel is to spend a long time in one place so that you become immersed in the culture and truly get to experience it like a local. For me, part of the thrill of travel is the fact that I am an outsider, that I will not be there long enough to feel like the people who actually live there.

toronto souvenirs

The fact that soap runs out is kind of a weak parallel to the transitory nature of travel, I know, but it’s generally the same idea. I love the feeling of arriving in a new city with a map in my hand, knowing that I’ll have to leave it in just a short time — and I also love the feeling of being back at home after that visit, unwrapping the new bar of soap I’ve just unpacked, and knowing that I’ll still smell like that unfamiliar city for at least another few weeks.

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