Hedonist for a day

Argh- I can’t even lie: I ate myself silly today. Yesterday I did the same, and to make it worse I am indulging in a glass of Merlot RIGHT NOW. All these things were ordered out, while I spent two nights in a hotel, enjoying a luxurious bath each evening while live streaming Netflix shows (for anyone who doesn’t know, my water heater is 5 gallons. Works for a shower, not a bath. I looooooove baths.)This is a very different pace from my cook all meals in my internet-less home: so what gives?

Per diem. Oh the magic of per diem. My job sent me to a conference, and they are covering the fee, the travel, hotel and I’m getting a per diem. Now of course it’s not all fun and games, but the fun and games are… well, fun. I could just buy a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and hoard my per diem dollars, but frankly on this whirlwind of a trip (travel all day Sunday, Monday full conference day, Tuesday conference till 4pm followed by travel until after midnight) I needed a little bit of a break. I decided to indulge, and indulge I did. This one glass of wine I’m presently drinking cost what I typically spend on 3 bottles!

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As a vegan living in a small town, I rarely get to eat out. It’s something that I’m ok with. But in big cities this is a whole lot easier. When I read about a vegan place I really want to check it out and when I can order more than two things on the menu… let’s just say that it’s a situation for which I am completely ill prepared. I end up ordering more than I need after pressing (and frankly embarrassing) moments of indecision. Within 2 lunches and 1 dinner I consumed: a Seitan Banh Mi sandwich, Seitan high fives, dumpling soup and cinnamon cheesecake (Three Carrots) and a vegan wood-fired pizza (The Nook). I also had a rye Manhattan, a local sour beer and my current glass of wine. It all felt great!

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Which makes me wonder: are all my lifestyle choices, such as frugality, completely related to access? It’s easy to reject eating out when your options are limited to a dry bean and rice burrito or a green salad. Would I be able to make the same choices living in Indianapolis? More importantly, would I be willing to make the same choices? Is this hypothetical even important to explore? After all, I’m not moving, and if I miraculously make my 15 minute connection, I’ll be home a little after midnight.

I very much want to reach FIRE someday. I love watching my nest egg grow. For the most part, I don’t feel deprived. A trip like this, however, makes me realize that there is MORE. I’m not in a place where an every other month trip out to dinner (bimonthly would read better here, but it means two things… why hasn’t somebody fixed that already?!) would break my budget, and I think this is something that may warrant an introduction into our lives. Through our various challenges we’ve proven that we have discipline. I no longer need to gather evidence and proof, our behavior has earned our trust. I think we can financially and mentally afford to cut ourselves some slack.

That said, I don’t want to go full hedonist, due to a little something called “hedonic adaptation”. According to this theory, humans pretty much return to their base level of happiness despite positive or negative life changes. Aka, if you don’t go out much, dinners out will make you crazy happy. If you do it every day, they will become the new “normal” and you will need something more stimulating to make you crazy happy. So as always, we’re looking for a sweetspot- how many dinners will give us the desired results?

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As a stoic at heart, I also view hedonism with suspicion- after all, it’s “a common vice”. It’s actually very effective to view it as such- it can be likened to alcohol. Can be fun, and there’s nothing wrong with occasional use. When you need it all the time- well, that’s when you have a problem. I don’t want to get there with seeking life’s pleasures. I want to find every moment delightful, not mundane, and therefore need to keep full hedonism at a distance.

I also don’t want to deny myself everything- it’s all about balance. Tomorrow, I might spend some extra time on the treadmill to make up for all my eating, but I’m not beating myself up for anything (and I worked out in the hotel gym, so I didn’t fully turn into a blob). I look forward to eating in cool, local places again but I also look forward to many delicious home-cooked meals. I look forward to craft brews as well as my own brew bucket wine. What I mostly look forward to is the “choose your own adventure” nature of life, where we can learn from what we do and course correct when necessary. Whether it’s dinners out or the big stuff.

What page of your adventure book are you flipping too?

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