From Wanderlust to Wealth - The Mindset Shifts That Can Buy You Both
I entered my early twenties with a sense of invincibility. Armed with a "what the hell" kind of confidence and an unquenchable thirst for freedom. I yearned to forever have a plane ticket in hand, life condensed into 23kg, chasing the sun across the globe. My destiny lay in an airport lounge, at the top of a London double-decker bus, and aboard a boat filled with Dutch-speaking strangers on the canals of Amsterdam. The money, the man and the freedom seemed within reach so long as I kept following my heart, plane to plane, beach to beach.
There were moments of total bliss – in the ceaseless Balinese summer, in the mouth watering sunsets, scaling Croatian cliffs on scooters, and exploring charming European streets. These experiences, whilst incredible, didn’t mute the intermittent nagging that ‘something was missing’. My final stop was Indonesia. I was, ironically, drawn to the Balinese shores by Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Eat, Pray, Love,' which held promise of a spiritual journey. Bali offered ten months of summer, interrupted only by two months of unexpected rain and a slight chill in August. It meant a killer tan, swapping beer for wine, and more partying than I could care for. Bali was paradise. I had a maid, a massage room, a cleaner, laundry services and self care for my bottom dollar. Despite this, the freedom I craved eluded me.
When I eventually returned home, I was met with a resounding sense of failure. As rich as my experiences had been, I failed to find the ‘freedom’ I so desperately wanted. I spent weeks grappling with the conflicting craving of adventure, while also yearning for security. If I wasn’t exploring, I would be settling down and to settle, felt like a failure. But why did it have to be so black and white? I realised that a significant shift in my perspective of what ‘settling down’ meant, was necessary. And that just maybe, I could redefine what freedom truly meant.
Once a die hard traveler, I found myself seeking homeownership. Never part of my grand plan, homeownership was boring and conventional. It felt like the total opposite of the exciting future I had envisioned. It was synonymous with a conventional lifestyle. It felt comfortable and simple. A life of bills, choosing curtains, mortgage payments and the restriction of not being able to move around freely. Perhaps it was born from a desperation to find balance. And to prove that home ownership can look different.
I found myself sitting in my mum’s car declaring that my now-fiancé and I were in fact about to purchase an apartment together. After combining our savings, KiwiSaver Schemes and some assistance from the Home Start Grant, despite having a relatively modest combined income, we managed to secure a central Wellington apartment. At 25 years of age, we were officially ‘on the ladder’.
In the months that followed, what I encountered reshaped my perspective on settling down. It changed my perception of home ownership, freedom, and, above all - money. I realised that I didn't have to choose between travel and security, between a steady job and a life of wanderlust. When approached thoughtfully, homeownership was not a restriction. It was a path to consistency, loyalty, and, most importantly - freedom. It symbolised a commitment to myself, my future, my partner, and even my country. I felt settled in, not settled down.
First and foremost, I learned the power of financial discipline. Contributing a significant portion of my income toward our mortgage made me appreciate the value of money. I started to think about my regular mortgage payments as forced savings - I was increasing the equity in my home every fortnight. Other money I had, aside from going to essential expenses, went towards managed funds. Anything that remained went guilt-free toward all the things that brought me joy.
Secondly, I found freedom, and not in the way I had always romanticised. I once thought freedom equaled travel. No responsibility, no routine. But the words of Elizabeth Gilbert became my new definition. “Four feet on the ground, a head full of foliage”. Freedom now meant finding (and owning) solid ground. A place to call my own. The only natural thing to come next would be for me to bloom. I started to understand the concept that unlike the transience of travel and renting where money seemed to flow in only one direction, my mortgage payments and ever-rising property value created more opportunities. I could leverage our first home to buy more property if I wanted, or start a business. I could rent it out to travel, to move to a different city or country in the future.
Last of all of course was the shift that came when I finally challenged myself on what it meant to me, to ‘settle down’. I came to understand that settling was not inevitable stagnation, it was growth. As a proud 30-year-old owner of nearly two properties, I look back with fondness at my younger self. I feel grateful for the financial experiences of my early twenties because if it wasn’t for those years, homeownership wouldn’t have been quite so profound in its learnings.
From wanderlust to wealth, this shift showed me that embracing the anchor of a home doesn't mean giving up on adventure; rather, it provides a foundation from which I can explore the world with a sense of security and a home to return to.
INVESTING IS FOR COOL KIDS
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