I’ve been collecting frequent flyer miles for over a decade, when I bought one of my first plane tickets on US Airways and absentmindedly signed up for their Dividend Miles program. At the time, it didn’t seem possible that I would ever be able to earn enough miles to redeem for a free flight, but I decided it couldn’t hurt to collect, just in case.
Over the years, I have not only built up enough frequent flyer miles for a free flight, but many times over. I flew over 30,000 miles last year, and banked everything to US Airways, thus earning me enough for a free flight that year alone. In 2011 I earned 100,000 miles. Safe to say that I have plenty of free flights saved up.
But I never redeemed any of them, ever.
Table of Contents
Stashing miles under the mattress
The problem is that frequent flyer miles aren’t hard currency, and they can vanish in the blink of an airline CEO’s eye. A ticket that costs 25,000 miles (the average cost of a domestic coach award ticket) could next week cost 50,000 or even 100,000. And an airline could decide to just expire everyone’s frequent flyer miles as what happened with Alitalia at the end of 2012.
And yet, faced with the prospect of effectively free travel (free travel!) I caved under the pressure. Faced with the option of going anywhere, I went nowhere. I would look at my ever-increasing mileage balance with increasing disquiet, but I wouldn’t do anything about it. I had become a frequent flyer mile hoarder, always collecting, never redeeming.
However, when I heard about the potential upcoming merger of US Airways and American Airlines, it was the kick in the pants I needed to spur me into action. Why? Because a merger would radically alter the rules of this particular mileage game. Known would be replaced with unknown, and usually, when two companies merge, the customer is almost always on the losing end of the deal (witness any cable/phone merger that resulted in higher prices, worse service, and less competition, which is to say pretty much all of them). Could they decide to take all those miles away from me? I didn’t want to find out.
What’s stopping you?
The barriers to having great adventures are usually described as external:
- Can’t get the time off work
- Not enough money
- Not enough time
- Unsupportive partner
But I believe that the barriers to adventure are almost always internal:
- Lack of intentionality
- Not focused
- Too comfortable
But that’s as may be. It may not be enough to recognize that when you say “sorry, I just don’t have the money” you really mean “I’m scared to go.” I mean, you’re still scared, right? Or when you say that your job won’t allow you to take time off, it’s because you don’t know what to do with your unstructured time. Knowing any of this doesn’t change anything. (I always thought that who ever said “knowing is half the battle” knew nothing.)
So instead, I urge you to keep this in mind: you have opportunities for adventure right now, and they will expire.
- You may have a flexible job situation but no money. But your job situation may become less flexible, which could make irrelevant any money you eventually save up. Or vice versa.
- You’re healthy and active, and then heaven forbid, that becomes no longer the case.
- You have a supportive partner today, but not tomorrow.
I don’t mean to alarm you or scare you into living like it’s your last day on Earth or anything. Yes, the apocalypse is always a possibility, but we’ll all have bigger problems should that happen. I’m just stating that your situation right now is always transient, and some opportunities you have today may not be there tomorrow. All the more reason to prioritize the goals you have based on the opportunities you have right now. Just as it might get easier, it might get more difficult. Why wait to find out?
Experience the challenge of endless adventure
So don’t put off adventure. Not just because you’ll regret it, but because there is no reason to. Your life is happening now. There are only two questions to ask yourself: How badly do you want it? And what are you willing to do to make it happen?
Stay tuned, and I’ll have lots more to say on this particular adventure of mine.
But enough about me: Are you planning an adventure? If not, what’s stopping you?