I Want More Plane Tickets Home

Even if they cost more than my monthly salary.

Photo: Dan DeLuca

I’m a copywriter, and I’ve spent the past month writing about a $1,000 sweepstakes. I’ve written “What would you do with $1,000” hundreds of times, but I know exactly what I would do with $1,000 — I would buy a plane ticket home.

I’ve lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina for four years, and I visit my family in Santa Cruz, California every six months or so. I wish it could be more, but the high price tag — and the guilt that comes with dropping an entire $1,000 so frequently — holds me back.

For Christmas and New Year’s, I don’t even think about the price of flying. In my mind, the holidays are an obligatory time to be with my family. At the time of year when many of my Argentine coworkers hop on the subway or drive a few hours to visit their families for the holidays, I trek to the airport for the 20-hour adventure home.

I’m not complaining — I love living abroad. I understand that a hefty price of flying home is one of the things I’m going to have to learn to deal with if I want to keep living here without losing touch with my family.

Plus, my parents have helped me to pay for a lot of flights, which makes a huge difference when a flight is roughly equal to my monthly salary in Argentine pesos. But that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with the mental weight of a consistent $1,000 expense.

And then there’s the guilt: I’ve averaged a trip to the US every six months, but there are still so many places in Argentina that I want to get to know. I think a lot of friends assume I travel a lot because I live abroad, but I spend the vast majority of my flight money just getting home. I love California, but I’d love to take shorter trips around my adopted country.

Plus, considering most of my Argentine friends have been to the US once or twice in their entire lives, traveling there frequently sometimes feels excessive.

Buenos Aires is the capital of three hour coffee breaks, long chats over a bottle of wine, and dedicating all of Sunday to consuming grilled meat surrounded by family and friends.The longer I’ve lived in Argentina, the more I value long, deep conversations and the less I care about repeating outfits or having an outdated cellphone.

So ironically, the more I live in this place so far away, the more I recognize the value of being home for those few weeks a year that I get to spend sitting around the kitchen table with my mom, or rock climbing with my dad. I cherish the time just driving to grab a coffee with my younger sisters, or going out for lunch with my brother — things that I might not put as much importance on if I lived closer.

The hard thing about plane tickets is that they make it difficult to visualize the real value of what I’m paying for. Yes — my ticket price technically pays for the fuel, the paltry sandwich and peanuts onboard, and the service of the smiley flight attendants. But it’s hard to see all of the costs of a boarding pass broken down — especially when the reason I buy it in the first place is just to transport myself home.

In the end, the price of the plane ticket is what gets me home to family, and if $1,000 every few months is what it takes to spend time with them, then that’s what I’ll pay.

Annie lives and writes mostly about food in Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can follow her on Twitter and find more of her work at anniebacher.com.

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