Crisis of Faith

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You may have picked up that I’m pretty bullish on this whole early retirement/travel hacking combo.

How could I not be?

I get to selfishly travel like a rockstar, build up my financial reserves, and gamble (with the odds in my favor!), all with the righteous feeling that comes from the knowledge that I am living ever more efficiently, and possibly even moving towards a greater good.

And what about when this wild ride is all over. What about when my bill comes due?

On that day of reckoning, I get to retire early, continue gambling, keep on traveling like a rock star, only with more time for self reflection and creativity.

I ask you: what’s not to like?

But that’s not interesting, is it?

Who the hell wants to hear about how great my life is? Certainly not you.

Well Mr(s). Schadenfreud, today’s your lucky day, because I’m really struggling with something.



Zee name ees Sigmund, not Schaden, what made you say zat?

If you’re a religious type, you can just call it a crisis of faith.

You see one of the things about the miles game is that this whole miles redemption exercise requires an awful lot of foresight.

The longer you wait, the harder it is to get value from your miles for a specific trip. (Especially during high demand travel times with limited scheduling flexibility.)

While I’ve undergone a bunch of change this past year, mostly tilted more towards greater efficiency (and happiness,) one thing that hasn’t changed at all is that I’m still a terrible procrastinator.

So I just started looking for tickets to Hawaii for spring break in March.

The plan is for us to meet up with my Japanese in-laws, including my father-in-law, who has a medical issues which is making us all very nervous.

But I searched and all the good award flights are unavailable at this point.

So I had to get creative.

I routed and held a summer round-trip business class flight from Portland to Chicago to Frankfurt to Seoul to Osaka to Seoul to Seattle to Portland.

I then added on a free one way business-class flight from Honolulu to San Francisco to Portland at the end of spring break.

Pretty clever, no? For the amount of miles necessary for a single business-class flight to Japan, I was able to squeeze in a bonus two day  vacation in Germany, as well as a free one way business-class flight from Hawaii. (Meaning we’d only have to book a one-way flight to Hawaii for the family at the start of spring break.)

But when I showed the award plan to my wife, instead of seeing the incredible genius of my creative booking, she pointed out that we would be flying with three children aged 4, 6, and 12 , extending our travel time in an already limited amount of vacation time, and prolonging our jet lag effect.

Where I had envisioned hours of sipping Dom Perignon in perfectly flat business-class seats, her vision was more along the lines of three jetlagged children and two the bedraggled parents stumbling through the streets of Frankfurt, and  then staying up all night with the kids jumping on the hotel room beds.

Sadly, as usual, I had to admit her vision was likely more accurate.

So it was on to plan two, try to book a reasonable itinerary to Hawaii with miles.

Not so fast.

At this point, none of my myriad miles currencies held much promise for even a mediocre award booking between Portland and Hawaii.

So there I was a new and fervent convert to the miles game/early retirement.

What was this fundamentalist to do?

Should I have burned up tons of miles for a crappy award redemption over spring break, putting in jeopardy my families crucial future international trips?

Should I have just bought the tickets with cash, eating into my precious early retirement funds?

Both options tore at my very soul.

Wasting money, in my early retirement “religion” meant that I would be burning up future freedom at the altar of present expediency.

Wasting miles on crappy flights would mean going very much against the grain of my miles “religion,” which is all about squeezing every last drop of nectar from each redemption.

And, by the way, I do acknowledge  how ridiculous this all sounds.

This whole wrenching decision of mine is the very definition of an “uptown problem.” (Which is to say it’s no problem at all.)

Right now there are kids living in Syria, and Sudan, and Somalia, and America… mourning the deaths of their parents, desperate for food, and worried about their very survival.

There are child soldiers being recruited, and suicide bombers being fitted for new vests, and girls being trafficked.

But the point, I think, is this; the new convert is the most fervent. And a newly held belief, the most binding.

So this admittedly petty concern actually did cause me some existential pain.

But I am in the process of moving on, with the simple admission of a basic truth: people are what are truly important in this life.

We have an opportunity to spend time with my father-in-law who is sick.

And time is the most finite of resources, and the most precious.

So fellow bloggers, you can take this religion and shove it!

I’m booking the trip to Hawaii, one way or another. Money, miles, and orthodoxy be damned.

But I won’t be bragging about it in this blog. That’s for sure.

I’ll just pretend it didn’t happen, get back to my metaphorical house of worship, confess my sins, churn six more credit cards, and figure out a clever way to transform planning ahead into a pleasurable game.


Note: Pictured in the featured image slide is 32nd Generation Shaolin Warrior Monk Shi Xing Wu (Master Yuan).

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2 Responses to “Crisis of Faith”

  1. Deborah January 14, 2014 at 12:19 am #

    Hi There, interesting posts. I noticed you have utilized a picture of 32nd Generation Shaolin Warrior Monk Shi Xing Wu (Master Yuan) and have posted it to your main site for the ‘Crisis of Faith’ article. I would ask that you respect this amazing athlete. Martial Arts Master and Zen Buddhist Monk by either clearly stating his name and that you have permission to use his image or by removing the picture from your blog and perhaps using a more appropriate image relative to the article. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.
    Thank you and Amitofo,
    On behalf of Shi Xing Wu
    Administrative Coordinator Shaolin Martial Arts Academy

  2. Miles Dividend M.D. January 17, 2014 at 9:15 pm #


    Thank you for enlightening me as to the identity of this martial arts and zen master.

    I chose the picture because I found it visually arresting.

    I meant no disrespect and will include a caption at the end of the post. Please let me know if that is (or isn’t) sufficient.


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