- Introducing The Oregon Trail Guide to Personal Finance
- The Oregon Trail Guide to PF: Preparing for the Journey
- The Oregon Trail Guide to PF: Shopping at the General Store
- The Oregon Trail Guide to PF: Surviving the Trail
- The Oregon Trail Guide to PF: Reflections on the Journey
This is the final installment of The Oregon Trail Guide to Personal Finance. If you’re new, take a few minutes to browse Part 1: Preparing for the Journey, part 2: Shopping at the General Store, and Part 3: Surviving the Trail.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to Oregon. Hopefully you’re whole party is intact, no one’s been attacked by a bear, and your wagon is still in decent shape. It’s time to settle down now that the hardest part of the trip is over.
Or is it?
Sometimes the journey, although it seems contrary, is the easy part. Taking what you’ve learned and applying it in settling down is often more difficult than getting to the destination. We don’t want to repeat the same mistakes in our new life that we made in the old one. To avoid this, it’s important that we take some time to reflect on what we’ve learned. Thinking about what worked and what didn’t is not only important to help us, but it’s also useful to others who are beginning their travels. Imparting that wisdom on them means that their journey might just be a little easier.
Here’s a few things that I’ve learned along the way:
Seize opportunities at the right time
Although an opportunity might seem lucrative and beneficial, it’s all about the timing. For instance, if I’m in a race again Abraham Lincoln to get to Independence Rock, stopping and talking to a random hitchhiker or panning for gold might not be the best choice (however, if I’m really short on cash, I’m panning for gold. The money earned is well worth losing the race). On the other hand, I’m only going to accept the challenge to race is circumstances are right. If my party is sick, short on food, and my oxen are getting tired, I’m not entering them in a race, regardless of the payoff.
Opportunities will present themselves all the time. You just need to measure what’s a good time for you to accept it or pass. And your circumstances, and gut feelings, will give you all the information you need to make that decision.
Don’t always take the easy way
Because sometimes the hard way is more rewarding.
When you’re traveling the Oregon Trail, you will often face forks in the road. One way will inevitably be easier, less treacherous, quicker, and cost less. The other way? Well, that’s a different story. That way will be filled with hard times, bad weather, it’s slow, and can get pricey. But the hard way often has a bigger pay off in the end. For instance, on a number of the difficult paths, I stumble across dead buffalo to harvest, people to barter with and more challenges that reap greater rewards. Yes, it takes me longer to cross that part of the trail but when I’m done with that path, I’ve earned 100 coins, have 6 feathers, medicine and my food storage is completely full.
Although I get angry and frustrated that a particular leg is difficult and time consuming, when I look back at all I gained going through it, it all seems totally worth it.
Accept that bad things will happen
On the trail, you will face a series of bad events. People will get bitten by snakes, your wagon will get robbed and you will endure tornadoes, snowstorms and impassable trails. They’re unavoidable, unexpected and unwelcome. But there’s nothing you can do to prevent them. The only thing you can do is accept that they will happen and try to prepare for them as much as possible.
Create a store of extra supplies. Have an emergency fund. Don’t freak out; stay calm, collect yourself, assess the damage and make a plan to fix what’s broken. Take the time to grieve for your losses but don’t let them overwhelm you so much that you can’t keep moving forward. Accept the negative turn of events but then, pick yourself up, restart your travels and whatever you do, don’t quit.
In the same vein as forgoing the easy path for the more difficult one, there will come times when you need to take an unexpected detour. I can’t count how many times I’ve been walking down the trail and I come to a seemingly impassible part. At this point, I’m left with two options: 1) go around, which will cost me time, supplies, and sometimes money but we’ll get to our destination or 2) try to climb the impassable trail, causing undue stress on everyone and everything involved. While going around instead of continue on the straight path I had mapped out seems like a much less desirable option, it’s usually the more practical one. There’s no need to put anyone in harm’s way just to satisfy my need to stay on one particular road.
Besides, detours can often lead to fun, memorable adventures.
Stop and help others
We learned in part 3 how important networking can be to surviving The Oregon Trail. It’s also important to stop and help others simply because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of the reward at the end. If you see a woman being attacked by squirrels, take the time to help her survive. If a child is stranded in a lake, float your wagon over to him and pick him up. If a butcher wants you to deliver a letter to his wife at the next fort, deliver the letter. It really doesn’t take much effort to make someone else’s life a little easier, especially if you’re headed in that direction anyway. And the karmic rewards you’ll eventually reap are far more gratifying than any financial rewards.
There’s also the added bonus of knowing you did a good deed. That kind of morale boost is often what we need to keep going when times are hard. And morale boosts? Are often much more important than anything else.
This concludes The Oregon Trail Guide to Personal Finance. Thanks so much for sticking with it. I hope you learned something along the way that will be useful to you in your own travels down your personal Oregon Trail