Ten years and one day ago, almost 3,000 people died in the terrorist attacks on September 11th.

While I was reflecting on the events of 9/11/01, I started to think about the individuals who lost their lives that day. I wonder what kind of plans they had for their futures. What kind of plans that will never have an opportunity to be fulfilled. It hurts me to think that some of those people may have been working 60 or 70 hour weeks, sacrificing their time and quality of life in the moment to financially prepare themselves for a future they would never see. That just isn’t right.

Life is unpredictable. Putting something off until tomorrow can easily turn into putting it off for weeks. Or months. Or years. And when things don’t happen until tomorrow, there’s a chance they will never happen. It’s so important to experience life today because you never know when you’ll run out of opportunities.

With that being said, don’t be stupid. A lot of people think “life is short” means “max out your credit cards and screw a budget”. Who cares about debt when you could die at any moment, right?

Wrong. In fact, that’s a horrible idea. The point of experiencing life is to have freedom, and oppressive debt is the opposite of freedom. It doesn’t take a bunch of money to experience the world anyway; in fact, you can have incredible experiences no matter how rich or poor you may be. Here’s how:

Dirt Poor

Maybe you have an outrageous amount of debt and work an hourly job where you can’t afford to take time off and still meet your budget. You might think enjoying the world is completely out of reach. You’d be wrong.

Use your weekend (or whatever time off you get) and devote the entire day or two to doing something you love. And yes, I said the ENTIRE day. Dirty dishes? Leave ’em. Laundry? Forget about it.

Imagine having an entire day to yourself where you can read your favorite book, watch your favorite movie, and take a nice long walk at sunset. You don’t have to spend a dime, and you don’t even have to use a drop of gas to go anywhere. Put your responsibilities aside and take a guilt free day or two where you just do what you love. The dishes and the laundry will still be there when you get back.

A Little Breathing Room

You might be in debt, but you are making more money than you’re spending. Your net worth is growing slowly but steadily every month. You might think you need to save every single penny you make. You’d be wrong.

You can come up with a few bucks to give yourself a day of vacation. Maybe you work a few extra hours of overtime, or maybe you cut back on spending a bit this month. How much money do you need? Depends on what you haven’t done yet in your city. I’ve lived in Dallas for over 3 years now, and I haven’t done over half of the top 20 attractions in my city.

There is probably something in your city that you’ve always wanted to do. If not, use Trip Advisor to find something you never even knew about. You don’t have to go on vacation and leave your hometown to do something awesome.

Workaholic

If you are one of those people who thinks the key to life is working 70 hours a week for 45 years just so you can play a little golf when you’re an old fart, I’d like to strongly encourage you to re-evaluate your priorities. You’re missing a whole world of possibilities.

Tiny Globe

Photo Credit: flickr.com/horiavarlan

I don’t care if you’re a new hire or a sales manager or a Sr. Vice President or the CEO; your company can survive without you for a week. If you have the money, go see the Swiss Alps or the Great Wall of China. Go bungee jumping in New Zealand or go scuba diving in the Mediterranean. And for Pete’s sake, don’t bring your laptop!

If you are a workaholic but can’t afford a big trip like that, then go somewhere cheaper. If you can’t afford that, at least do something new and fun in your city or take a weekend to yourself.

Don’t Wait Until You’re 65 to Live!

One of the best things I’ve ever done was blow my entire signing bonus in Europe after I graduated college. I had never left the country, and I wanted to experience a new part of the world before I started a career that wouldn’t allow me a five week European vacation until I quit or retire. Sure I could have saved the money. I might even be a few thousand dollars closer to The Hoff in our race. But at the end of the day, that net worth number I report on every month is just a number. It’s completely meaningless if I don’t use that money to experience the world and/or make it a better place.

Do me a favor and do whatever it takes to have a financially responsible and personally meaningful experience. Because you deserve it, and tomorrow might be too late.