Some people tell me about the places they want to go again and again but never seem to actually plan to do it. The first thing I usually ask is “why haven’t you done it already?” or “why don’t you go soon?” to which they often respond with a variety of trivial excuses. I’m not talking about weekend trips or a one week destination beach holiday package, but rather proper travel to see and experience a country.
I believe there are only 3 ingredients needed to travel and each can easily be accomplished with a little effort. My travel mantra has always been “Dream It – Plan It – Do It” and this post has the ingredients on how to do so.
The first ingredient to traveling is having the real desire to do it. I say REAL desire rather than desire because people often tell me that they’ve “always wanted to go somewhere” but never plan or make the effort to actually make steps towards doing so. To me if you’re just saying you want something but never actually make an effort to do it, it’s not a real desire. For a long time I talked about wanting to learn to play guitar, but until I actually bought a guitar and started practicing I would not say my desire was tangible and therefore it was not REAL.
If you’re reading this post you’ve clearly thought about traveling so the next question becomes whether you really want to or not. Some people like the idea of travel but don’t actually enjoy traveling. I have a hard time understanding this, but I realize some people prefer to stay within their comfort zone and are not ready to experience the strangeness of the world outside their bubble. I invite those people to read my trip reports and hopefully see that the world is not as scary or difficult a place as the media often makes us believe. If you have already traveled and didn’t enjoy it, I’d challenge you to try again. The best way to dispel fear of the unknown is to gain an understanding of it to the extent you feel like you truly know it. I’m always happy to answer questions or provide advice to those who are hesitant to travel, so please get in touch with me and I will try to help dispel any concerns you may have.
Those who have the REAL desire to travel but still haven’t done it usually revert to one of two excuses: “I don’t have the time” or “I don’t have the money.” Time and money are the next two travel ingredients I want to talk about.
Time is a funny thing – it goes by second by second, day by day, we never regain it, and yet we still delay pursuing our desires in life. Everyone is guilty of this, including myself, but I think it’s important to set aside time to truly enjoy life. The usual excuses I hear for not having the time to travel are with respect to work or family.
I always find it funny when people use work as an excuse for not pursuing their real desires as to me, the whole purpose of work is to gain the money to provide your needs and realize your desires. Some people love their jobs, and I understand that. If your desire to work is greater than your desire to travel then stop reading this post and get back to work! More often than not, work is simply an easy excuse that will always be there unless you choose to find a way around it. There will always be a next big project or bonus or promotion for you to chase, but what is the purpose of chasing such things if they never allow you to pursue your dreams or desires?
I tend to meet more hourly workers than salaried employees while on the road, which I believe to be due to the flexibility of their jobs. Corporations do a great job of controlling our lives through limited holidays, savings plans, stock options, performance bonuses, and retirement benefits, but are also usually willing to allow employees additional time off if they’re valued contributors to the company. It never hurts to discuss potential options for finding time to travel with your boss. Unpaid leave is a great option for many employers, especially if it’s taken during a slow time where they have excess personnel anyways. As the quality of internet connections and technology becomes better and better, it’s also becoming very easy to work remotely, something I often do via Citrix and Skype. The key is to discuss your needs and your employers needs and find creative options to benefit you both. If they’re not willing to negotiate or compromise with you, perhaps it’s time to work for someone who is.
The family excuse may be valid, but it really depends on what the excuse is. Putting off travel because of children is usually followed by excuses for the child, the main one being that they’ll miss school (or soccer practice). To me, travel is the best education I have received, and whether your child has to miss school for 1 week or 1 year, their growth in knowledge will be far greater than what they miss in the classroom, especially if you continue covering the classroom material while on the road. I have seen many parents home-schooling their children when traveling, while also exposing their children to foreign languages, new foods, a variety of people, and the countries or cultures they would may have had to learn about from a text book had they not traveled.
A family excuse that I do truly understand and sympathize with is when someone is responsible for the care of another, but I still think people need to evaluate whether they can find ways around this. Although some may perceive it as selfish to go off on a trip when someone at home needs your care, I also believe that those receiving care would feel selfish if you didn’t. We also never know when something may happen to us, and in many respects I think taking the time to travel provides the perfect opportunity to assess what would happen to the recipient of your care if you one day couldn’t be there for them. By organizing alternative care for a few weeks or months, you’ll have the opportunity to trial what would happen to your loved one if you were not there, and come up with better solutions in the event it does not go well.
Finding the money for travel is all about dedication and sacrifice. I have met many unskilled workers with minimum wage jobs who have managed to save the money for long-term travel, so I find it hard to believe most people when they say they can’t afford it.
There are hundreds of money saving tips out there but to me it all boils down to having a ‘work hard play hard’ mentality and avoiding the consumer mentality. If you can work a second job on evenings or weekends to save some extra money, it may be all you need. As an added bonus, you’ll be so busy working that you won’t have time to spend it until you’re off on your dream adventure. I met a pizza delivery boy from New York who worked a lot of overtime and he was traveling Europe for 4 months on his savings. I also know a girl from London who does as much promotion work as she can for 6 months a year and then rents out her place and travels to cheap destinations for the remaining 6 months. Everyone can do it with hard work and sacrifice. Whether you downsize your place, cancel your cable, sell stuff you no longer use, or go out less for entertainment, there are always ways to save.
Returning to the ingredient of REAL desire, I always find it funny when people tell me they can’t afford to travel right after they tell me about their new iPhone, latest designer jean purchase, and how much money they dropped at the bar the weekend before. To me, consumerism fills short term wants but fails to return long-term happiness. The memories I have of past trips stay with me forever, and greatly contribute to my satisfaction with life.
When I lived in Canada my cost of living was 2-3x what it costs me to backpack in a budget destination. That’s especially sad when you think there are only 168 hours in a week and I spent over 100 of them either sleeping or at work. Of the remaining 68 or less hours a week that were available for my own time, I spent as much time as I could with friends or pursuing outdoor activities. Assuming I only spent approximately half of that free time at home, the hourly cost of living in my house for only 34 hours a week was outrageous. Do a similar calculation for yourself and you may begin to wonder if a lot of your monthly expenses are worthwhile.
When I look at the cost of purchases now, I always calculate how much it will cost me in travel days. I can have a solid day on the beach in Central America or SE Asia for $30, so when I look at the cost of a $60/month cable tv subscription, I quickly determine that I’d much rather have an extra 3 weeks (24 days) on a beach each year. Your exact circumstances may differ, but you should assess if your hard earned dollars are being deployed to yield the optimal lifestyle satisfaction for you.
I hope this post helps you consider your own situation and travel goals. I’d love to hear feedback on obstacles you have overcome, or seen people overcome, in order to pursue travel.