Saturday, March 10, 2012

Background on the Hostel Environment

     It has been quite some time since I felt good about anything.  The last couple of years have been a struggle for Ophelia and I and this trip is something we desperately need in order to preserve our sanity and keep us from hating one another.  It has just about come to that point.  I am very surprised that we made it this far without killing each other, but I believe the auction notice could have been the last straw if it hadn’t been for that Freudian slip of mine.  I am grateful that Ophelia took a liking to this hostel environment experiment.  Although my motives for this trip are purely self-serving, I really do believe that Ophelia will benefit greatly from this experience.  Both of us will and for once in a long while, I feel good and hopeful of the future.       I met Ophelia about seven years ago in a pub in Seattle.  I was there on vacation with some friends as was she.  The remarkable thing about that was the fact that the both of us resided in Orange County.  We had a wonderful romance in the Emerald city and decided to see each other on a regular basis when we returned home.  We dated a bit before getting engaged and eventually we bought a little condo together.  I wish I could say that all had been perfect like a fairytale come true, but we had our share of fights and spats over ridiculous things like so many other couples tend to have and we went about our lives relatively happy.  Then the economy took a shit and everything became a struggle and we began to rip each other apart at every turn.
      Work had fallen off for the both of us and I was eventually let go since no one was really buying rebuilt engines anymore or anything else for that matter.  Ophelia saw a cut in her pay and hours and it is just a matter of time before she is let go as well.  The repossession of our vehicles, the mounting debt, the looming foreclosure and my inability to find work have all added to our stress and has strained our relationship beyond measure.  The fights between us have grown exponentially over our plight and the appearance of the auction notice could have sent us over the edge if it hadn’t been for the introduction of the hostel environment experiment; an experiment that gave us a moment of hope and peace as we sat down to outline all the aspects of this trip to make it a reality.
      Making some money is our top priority of course.  I have a little saved up from my unemployment benefits as I had stopped paying the mortgage and the homeowners’ association dues.  We had gotten behind with them and our credit cards and the late charges and fees had all mounted up so quickly that it made it impossible to catch up.  When we lost our vehicles we had to pay cash for a used one; cash that was intended for the mortgage or HOA dues or credit card bills and something more pressing was always popping up to divert money away from those bills that needed to be paid.  A new water heater was needed at one point and had to be paid for in cash as our cards were maxed out.  The rising gas prices had also caused us to miss payments which in turn added more fees and late charges to an already bloated debt.  So I stopped making some payments as it was stupid to pay for something that we will eventually lose.
      The savings that I have will barely get one of us a round trip airline ticket and of course we need two as well as enough money to roam Europe for at least six weeks.  Ophelia and I began by taking inventory of all the stuff that we could sell in order to pay for the trip.  Most of it is crap that at one point we believed was important as it gave us the illusion that we were successful and well put together.  I am as much to blame for the accumulation of these material things as I wanted to feel successful and I wanted others to see and think that about me as well.  I had gotten caught up in the acquisition of things that really didn’t matter to me.  I was a grease monkey and the only things I really needed to make me happy were hot showers, the HD big screen, the Wii, my recliner and a steady supply of dubeage.  I could care less for the crystal stemware, espresso machine, furniture wine racks, goose-down pillows and comforter or the myriad of other crap that Ophelia and I constantly bought and brought home.
      It is nice to have nice things, but it made me lose track of myself and the things that really mattered in this world.  I can understand Ophelia’s perspective as she was raised quite differently than me.  Her parents are wealthy and she is used to having the finer things in life.  Of course they are very tight with their money and give her almost zero financial support.  It is for her benefit though.  Her father wanted to teach her a thing or two about self-reliance.  I could agree with that logic, but it is my belief that the man is just a prick and has never approved of her decisions, especially hooking up with this blue-collar Mexican Jew.  I believe that her parents are hoping that this mess we find ourselves in will mean the end of our relationship.  That is why they haven’t offered any support in our time of need.