To travel the world. A dream of many; a reality of few. But why?
Well first, travel is framed by the media as a luxury. The idea has been ingrained in our heads since the day we were born. Those stupid Sandals commercials with the good looking couple running down the beach and “Time of you Life” playing in the background are not a real depiction of travel. Sure, many hardworking people like to take a short break and head to a tropical destination for some R&R, and that is wonderful. But this is not the only way to travel.
Just because you may not be able to afford a five star resort on the beach, (or may not be interested in one), does NOT mean that traveling is out of the question or not in the cards for you. The truth is, that travel is not a luxury, and can often times be quite the opposite. Traveling is about living life, and experiencing the vast differences in our world. And the other truth? Travel is as accessible as we make it.
I have never responded well to the word ‘no’. I have a different view of the world than many, and feel that as opposed to an absolute, the idea of ‘no’ is simply an obstacle to overcome. The idea that I ‘can’t’ do something drives me. It forces me to creatively and strategically find a way around the ‘can’t’. And I do. I always have.
So the idea that being able to visit the many places that I dreamed of seeing, the places that had intrigued me my entire life, was not attainable? That was not going to work for me. Why should money, or other people’s conventional idea of ‘normal’ stand in the way? “Normal people don’t travel the world.” “Only rich people get to travel the world.” “You have to save a lot of money to take a trip.” That’s all bullshit.
My motto in life: “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
And the idea of ‘impossible’? Just fuel in the fire.
In many ways, I truly believe that traveling is our duty to the world. To a higher power. To nature. To our fellow beings and companions of this earth. No matter what you believe, the truth is that there are wonders out there that somehow came to be. And why would they be there if we were only supposed to hang out in our little corner of the world?
Reality? We have a planet to save. And why would anyone care about the planet if they don’t know what it has to offer?
When you travel, you begin to understand all that we have to lose. There is an unimaginable, immeasurable amount of beauty and wonder on our Earth. Why not make it a priority to dedicate a small portion of your life to attempting to begin to understand how amazing our planet really is?
And… there is absolutely nothing like it! Traveling is an allegiance we have to ourselves. To fulfill our lives, to gain insight to the lives of living things throughout all parts of the world, and make our time on this planet impactful.
Travel to breathe the air of new places. Travel to taste the flavors of different cultures. Travel to feel alive. And if nothing else, travel to prevent a futile existence.
So stop making excuses and get on the damn plane!
So… whether it be a week or a year, 10 miles or 1,000, you CAN and SHOULD travel. Now here are some steps to get you started on your journey.
1.) Decide where you want to go.
The exciting part about this, is that you don’t have to think of it as your only/last trip… since you are going to travel regularly now remember? Do some research. Figure out what kind of a place you want to go first. The beach? The mountains? A culturally rich destination? Maybe domestic, maybe international?
During your research, allow information like exchange rates, safety, availability and pricing of airb&b, hotels, or hostels to help influence your decision. For example, if you are on a tight budget, maybe don’t go to Capri, Italy this trip. (I learned this the hard way.)
2.) Sign up for a points credit card (or several)
Credit cards get a bad wrap. They can be dangerous, sure. BUT, if used properly they can provide amazing benefits. American Airlines, for example, often offers 50,000 bonus miles for signing up for their credit card and spending a certain amount within the first few months.
The trick here? Don’t buy a bunch of extra random stuff. Although, that sounds like a lot of fun and I have tried many times unsuccessfully to convince Yaron that is a cool plan. Use the card to pay for normal expenses that you would have otherwise used your debit card for. Then pay them off with the money you would have used in the first place. And viola! You have just acquired 50,000 miles for no extra charge to you! This will potentially get you a round trip ticket anywhere you want to go, depending on when you book of course.
Savings: Anywhere from $500 to $2,000
You can also do this with hotel credit cards to get free nights. Yaron and I are paying for our entire stay in Europe this June with hotel points and awards from credit cards. The same rules apply: spend a certain amount on the card within a certain period of time, and get points, awards, and/or free nights.
Savings: (for the hotels we are staying in) $3,000
3.) Plan your trip budget
Figure out how much money you are going to be able to spend on your trip. Your hotel and plane ticket are covered, so now that leaves food, entertainment, other forms of transportation, and souvenirs. Figure out how much you are going to be able to spend per day, and try to plan around that. For example, if you want to do a fun excursion and/or have a nice dinner one night, plan to balance that with a beach day and eating cheap street food the next day. It is all about the balance.
4.) Do your research!
You probably already did some research in order to choose your destination. Now it’s time to dive in to your research and come up with some sort of agenda or outline for your trip. Traveling is partially a practice in becoming more adaptable to your circumstances and learning to calmly work through any hindrance that may be thrown your way. The latter part of traveling, however, is learning to plan well enough to minimize complications and maximize your time and money.
Planning is key. I suggest that you leave some room for exploring, wandering, and relaxing. But having some sort of outline is crucial. This will help you budget properly, take advantage of all a place has to offer, feel accomplished, and be able to relax while on your trip.
Packing is also an important aspect of planning. Packing properly allows you to focus on your trip and have fun. Packing poorly will make you miserable and consume your time and energy while traveling.
But don’t fret; you are always going to forget something. The difference is, without proper planning you may end up forgetting so many critical items that you spend your travel budget for the day at a drug store. Taking the time and energy to plan what you pack and pack properly will make a world of difference. And save you so much time, space, and frustration.
Just as important, maybe even more so than remembering things you need, is resisting the urge to over-pack. Do you really need that fourth pair of jeans or that full size shampoo? Do you really want to lug 60 pounds of shit around just because you couldn’t decide what shirt you might want to wear on Tuesday so you brought 10? I am working on a post designated to packing which will hopefully make it easier to narrow it down.
5.) Book any other forms of transportation in advance if possible, or at least have a good idea of how much they will cost.
Chances are good that you will not be staying completely in one place during the duration of your trip. You may want to explore the city, visit certain monuments, or even maybe jump from country to country. It is very beneficial to have some sort of idea of how you will accomplish this before you go. This is important in planning your budget and your time.
A good example of this is traveling in Europe. In order to get from place to place in Europe, because presumably you are not going to stay in the same place in such an awesome continent, you will take the train, plane, or bus. You need to compare times and costs of these options in advance, and book plane tickets in advance of course if flying is the best option. Most of the time these forms of transportation are not super expensive, but again it depends on where you are going.
Planning here, at least a little, is critical. I also learned this the hard way. See my post: Planning is Key; Don’t be Like Me. (My Epic Fail in Spain) for more insight on the consequences and chaos that can result from lack of planning.
6.) Now, roll with the punches and take it all in.
We will never be perfect. And who would want to be?! A large part of the fun and excitement in travel is figuring it out for yourself and making mistakes to create amazing memories and great stories.
The most important part of traveling, by far, is just being present. Allow yourself to fully arrive, and enjoy your first breaths of foreign air. Be where you are, and immerse yourself. Absorb the colors and flavors and energy of this new and exciting destination. And listen to the melody of a different corner of the Earth.
Take it all in. And don’t worry if you forgot something or if you missed your train. That’s what traveling is about.
So now you should be well on your way to…well somewhere. I will revisit and go more into depth on many of these steps in later posts, but this gives you a foundation to begin. You will be glad you did. And so, no more excuses. Do it. Do it now.
And if traveling isn’t for you, that’s cool too.
But how will you really know, until you go?