Back when I was a graduate student in London, one of my favorite things to do on the weekends was to go to King’s Cross Train Station and buy a return ticket to a place I had never visited before.
While a few places I picked left a lot to be desired, overall it was a wonderful. Just looking at my fellow passengers and wondering where they were going, what they were like and on a couple of occasions, even talking to some, far outweighed any of the negatives.
In general, I like to do things on a whim. However, as I have gotten older and (hopefully) gained a touch more wisdom I have come to realize that there are some things that really aren’t good to do on a whim regardless of age, the amount of money you have, etc.
Here are four that immediately come to mind:
Generally, I try to not refrain from judging people but it never ceases to amaze me how many people treat marriage as a joke especially in light of the fact that there are many people in the world who would dearly love to get married but cannot because the person they love happens to be of the same sex.
However, there are some out there that get bored/high/silly and get married on a whim. Sometimes, the two people barely know each other.
While this may make for a great romantic comedy plot line, the truth is that when you marry someone you are entering into a binding legal contract that you (usually) cannot get out of the next day because you’ve changed your mind. While you can apply for an annulment, it isn’t as easy as some sitcoms make it out to be.
In most states, certain criteria must be met to obtain one. If you are stuck in a marriage you don’t want to be in, then be aware that in some states like my home state of Virginia, you have to be separated at least a year or more before you can divorce. Even if you are in a state that grants fast-track divorces a quickie, no-fault divorce may cost several hundred dollars or more.
In the meantime, as long as you are married, the other person is your legal spouse and your legal next-of-kin. If you happen to “forget” you got married, then you could land yourself into some potential legal hot water such as what happened to actress/comedienne Janeane Garofalo who married producer Andy Cohen while drunk in Vegas in 1991. It was only last year that Garofalo discovered that they were in fact still married, and there were questions that she may have owed money in back taxes for failing to file for over 20 years as a married couple. As it turns out, she did not, but she probably wished that she had spent the time sorting out this snafu on something more important.
Look at it another way: you wouldn’t buy or sell a home or entire into some other legal agreement on whim so don’t even consider getting married on a whim.
2. Getting a tattoo.
Let’s be frank: there are some truly beautiful tattoos out there, some “meh” ones and some that are just downright ugly.
I had a (male) yoga instructor once whose tattoos could have been classified as art. A lot of time and planning when into them and he had a specific artist he work with. On other hand, I had friends in college who after a night of drinking, ended up with some pretty ugly tats and/or tattoos of logos and college emblems on various parts of their bodies.
Granted, it you want a certain logo or emblem embossed on your flesh, then go for it.
My point is, make sure it is something you want to live with for the rest of your life. Usually, the people who love their body work took some time to think about what they wanted before they went under the needle.
Yes, they can be removed, but anyone who has ever had a tattoo removed can tell you that it is often a painful, time-consuming process that may end up costing 100 times or more than the actual tattoo.
Therefore, if you get inked, chose carefully.
3. Having a baby.
This one is a little harder to do on a whim, but I have a close friend whose parents got married at 18 and decided they didn’t want to wait for the pill to kick in. They decided, “What the hell! If we have a baby, we have a baby!” and two weeks into the marriage, they got pregnant with my friend. While they were delighted they had him-and I am, too-they admit that they wish they had waited given that the father was just starting his freshman year of college and money was very tight those early years.
Now, as someone who was ambivalent about having children, I know there is seldom if ever an ideal time to have a baby, but being a parent is for life. While it may not be easy, you can get out of #1 and #2 on this list eventually relatively unscathed. However, you cannot get out of being a parent once you become one.
Yes, babies are cute. They are wonderful. However, they have very real needs and expenses that must be met, and they do change your life permanently. Anyone who denies this is a liar.
In my late teens and early 20s, I traveled extensively through Europe and even went to Thailand for a month by myself. I usually had no set itinerary; if I liked a certain town or city, then I would stay there for a few days or maybe as long as a week or two. Usually, I asked locals for suggestions on where to do next.
However, planning a trip around the world is huge. It can sound very romantic, but the truth is traveling abroad especially to less developed countries can carry some risks.
In some cases, one must have certain inoculations before a visa can be issued. Even if it is not the case, some countries strongly recommend certain ones. Do not take these lightly. There is usually a reason for this.
Also, it pays to keep up on world events. Right now for instance may not be a great time to travel to Turkey or Egypt given the political events that are taking place in those countries. Sometimes things happen which you have no control over and you may be forced to change your plans.
On another note, make sure you are prepared. Do not assume every place takes credit cards because many do not. Have emergency money available, and make sure there is someone dependable that you can call in an event that a crisis may arrive. Being penniless in a foreign country can lead otherwise sane people to do some crazy things i.e., see the number of backpackers every year who are busted for trying unsuccessfully to be drug mules.
Being a Westerner will not get you out of a jam either. In some case, it may even make throw the book at you harder than if you were a native.
I always thought the accounts of Westerners smuggling drugs out of Asia was highly over-exaggerated until I took a bus ride from Bangkok to catch a ferry to take me to the Thai islands and two very high, overly-excited Australian backpackers on board shared their “brilliant” plan to smuggle some several kilos of weed, “the really good s***t”, back home and earn enough money for them to take another trip around the world the following year.
I have no idea if they did this or not, but I hope they did not.
Also, I made sure to shake out every item out of my backpack and turn out all my pockets lest one of them decided to slip me a special gift. In case I sound paranoid, I saw the authorities at the Bangkok airport take away a person who supposedly was trying to smuggle drugs and trust me when I say you don’t want to mess with these guys—ever.
In conclusion, I am the first to agree that there is nothing worst than living a life that is completely scripted and never allows for any sort of spontaneity. With that said, there are times when some thought and careful planning aren’t just a good idea, but absolutely essential.
It may be a cliche, but it is true: an ounce of prevention can lead to a pound of cure. Likewise, an once of pretension is worth a pound of manure: trying to sound like an expert to yourself or saying you know all the risks when in fact you do actually know very little usually does not end well.
Live life, life it well but at least sometime, take a little time to plan!
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Ed: Bryonie Wise