Cold Comfort

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Luxury is a two-edged sword.

On one hand we crave it. The most expertly prepared food. Elite wines. Performance cars. Soft hotel feather beds. Pampering vacations.

On the other hand luxury can be a bit of a golden cage. Once the best is tasted, the ordinary can become unpalatable.  Our world can shrink.

One runs the risk of becoming a diva.

This is an area where the ethic of early retirement and the ethic of the miles game are in stark contrast.

From the point of view of an early retirement enthusiast, luxury is a landmine.

The desire to experience the best, it is argued, is merely an expression of our inner crybaby.

Worse, it’s a symptom of the profoundly corrupting influence of our destructive consumer society.

There’s definitely an element of truth to this observation.

After all, the same fine dining meals which can bring such pleasure, can also bring soft midsections, elevated cholesterol levels, the worsening function of our bodies, and even premature death.

In addition, our inner infant, on some level, can never be satisfied. As our budget grows so do our appetites. If we experience the perfect 10 on Monday, then on Tuesday 10 will not be enough. We will settle for nothing less then an 11.

these-go-to-elevenThese go to 11…

Seen in this light, the pursuit of luxury is an exercise in futility

But travel hackers see things a bit differently.

Although there is an aspect to frugality that pervades the miles game, namely the desire to experience life’s best at a deep discount, at its core playing the miles game is really all about giving the breast to that hungry infant.

The goal is to experience life’s best, to extract every last drop of nectar.

Fully flatbeds in the first-class cabin, premier cru wines, and ridiculously expensive hotels; these are the aspirations of the miles game player.

The fact that he doesn’t pay retail, only gives the miles game player an additional kind of pleasure, the illicit variety. The cookie swiped from the cookie jar. The stolen kiss.  To quote Woody Allen, “Is sex dirty? Only when it’s being done right.”

And there’s a logic to the miles game. After all, we may only live once right? Why not extract every ounce of pleasure that this world has to offer?

I am no Puritan, and I can easily see the logic of leveraging miles for business class or first class awards. After all it does hold the promise of transforming an uncomfortable 12 hour flight in coach, into an enjoyable mini vacation in the front of the plane.

But I certainly don’t want to become a slave to luxury. My first goal is to make all of my families’ flights free ones. Only once I’ve achieved that goal will I contemplate the pursuit of luxury.

Freedom before fanciness. That’s my motto. I’m having a coat of arms made up even as we speak.

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