I believe that money is a tool that should be used to help build the life of your dreams. After you’ve repaid your debt, saved for emergencies, and funded your retirement, anything you have left over is yours to do with as you please.

I never thought I’d reach the “do with as you please” phase personally. It seemed like a pipe dream. But over the past year or so, I actually have found the time and the money to begin pursuing my passions.

One of the things I’m most excited about is travel. After getting a small taste of it (and after having watched every episode of The Amazing Race), I’m eager to see the world outside of Oregon. Kris and I have a big trip planned to France and Italy later this year, and we hope to visit Chile and Argentina in 2012 or 2013, but I want to do more than take big expensive touristy vacations. I want to have adventures, even if they’re small ones.

My recent train ride from Chicago to Portland was one such small adventure. Next year, I hope to free the time and money to hike across England (Hadrian’s Wall perhaps). And at this moment, I’m on another of these small adventures.

For the next week, I’ll be on vacation in Alaska. My friend Mac (from Get Fit Slowly) and I are guests of my neighbor, the real millionaire next door. John has been bugging me for years to spend a week on his boat, and now seems like the perfect time to join him on his “yacht”:

Yesterday, Mac and I flew from Portland to Seattle to Juneau to Petersburg. If things went according to plan, we’re just now setting out from Petersburg to make our way around the Inside Passage. We plan to do some salmon fishing and some crabbing (if the season has started) and, eventually, to make our way to Glacier Bay National Park. Next weekend, we’ll end up in Sitka, from which we’ll fly home to Oregon.

I have no idea what sort of internet access I’ll have during this trip, so I’ve taken steps to make sure things run smoothly in my absence. Comment approval is in capable hands. I have a stack of guest posts scheduled for publication in case I’m not able to process posts from me and my staff writers.

I’m excited to pursue this small adventure. More than the other things I’ve accomplished over the past few years, this trip makes me feel like all of my hard work and smart choices are finally paying off. By doing the right things with money, I’m able to use some of it to do the things I’ve always dreamed of.

It’s my hope that your own hard work and smart choices will allow you to pursue your dreams, too.