It happens to me every time I travel. I talk with people who hear about what I am doing and where I’m going, and they always say the same thing: “That sounds amazing! I wish I could do that.”
“Somebody Had To Do It.
No, but seriously, what’s keeping you from it?”
I’m not judging anybody; I’m just trying to figure out what people’s priorities and motivations are. There could be a really good reason why someone wouldn’t travel much, but the replies I get are usually variations of the answer:
“I don’t have money to travel.”
[ I don’t instantly tell them that I managed to travel around the world for absolutely free for two years, way back when the internet wasn’t big (and social media didn’t even exist!), but I do have the bragging rights and the experience. ]
Fair enough if their answers are true, but for many people who say this, they should actually be saying “I’ve chosen to spend money on a lot of other things, so now I don’t have money to travel.”
We choose what we value more over other things, either consciously or unconsciously.
Many people, young and old, have no problem happily spending their money or the money delivered to them by a very fine credit card company for luxuries every week. I’ve chosen to focus my own spending priorities on meaningful experiences.
“But you know, the rest of the world is really dangerous.”
Most people don’t really come out and say it that way, but that is what they truly mean.
“If I leave home, something terrible will go wrong.” Aside from the fact that bad things can happen in your own country just as easily as anywhere else, there are only very few places in the world that are outright hostile to visitors.
The more you travel, the more you realize you are at least as safe in many places around the world as you are at home. Sure, you shouldn’t be planning a trip to Somaliland or Kabul right now (even though I have western friends actually living there now), but the list of inhospitable places is really short. The list of amazing places is incredibly long, so let’s get started.
“I like staying at home.”
This is another way of saying, “I’m afraid of change and different experiences.” Before you write me off, understand that most of us feel this way at one time or another. I think it’s just something that needs to be overcome.
I was 24-years-old myself when I made the leap to travel far away by myself. And nowadays I am surrounded by 18-year-old backpackers on their gap-year doing four countries in eight months!
A small group of people will be brave enough to do it, and the rest will stay home, never venturing out beyond their own culture of comfort. It’s their loss; don’t let it be yours. But just don’t tell me you wish you could travel like me too.
“I’ll do this kind of stuff when I retire (or at some other distant point in the future).”
I see nothing wrong with the general concept of delayed gratification. I have a high school and a propaedeutic diploma in Journalism, I look both ways when I cross the streets, and it’s reasonable to give up something now in expectation of greater future benefit.
What is dangerous, however, is when delayed gratification becomes an excuse for not living the life you want. Right now.
How many people do you know that actually do the things they say they are going to when they reach arbitrary ages of leaving the jobs they have given their lives to? Far more common is the downsizing of dreams along the way.
If you want to play golf all day and take your medication at regular intervals, the 40-year career track plan should work well for you. If you have other ideas or ambitions, though, don’t kill yourself as a slave for the future. Instead, go and figure out where you want to travel and do something about it.
That’s why there are Four Important Questions to Ask Yourself:
1) Am I satisfied with my work? Does it meet my needs and fulfill my desires?
Your work should not exist merely to provide income for the rest of your life. Ask yourself, what am I working for? Am I working to make a living or to make a life? If your work supports your goals, that’s great. If it doesn’t, maybe it’s time to make a change.
2) Think back to the times you have left your home country. What did you learn on those trips? Do you think you have more to learn?
For me, the more I have traveled, the more I learn, and the more I realize how big the world really is. When I was younger and had spent a fair amount of time abroad, I used to say that I had traveled “all over the world.” More than 60 countries later, I laugh at that idea. There are still many, many countries I have yet to visit, and even after I achieve my goal of visiting every country in the world, there will still be many places within those countries that I still won’t have experienced.
3) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be? (Don’t think about reasons why you can’t go there.)
Brainstorm through the six inhabited continents – Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, North and South America – and think about cities or countries on each of them that you’ve always wondered about. No, even dreamed about. Chances are there’s somewhere, and probably several places, that you’ve always wanted to go.
Finally, while I believe that international travel is not nearly as expensive as the lifestyle many people wear themselves out to maintain, it’s true that it does cost money to travel around the world.
Therefore, you should also understand the answer to this question:
4) What are your financial priorities?
If you don’t know the answer offhand, it’s easy to get it. Just look back at your bank statements, financial software, or credit card statements for the last three to six months. Whether you like it or not, where you’ve been spending a lot of money is where your priorities are. If you’d like to value experiences more than “stuff,” you may need to make some changes.
I once wished to live in a brand new fancy apartment in a nice neighborhood in town and even didn’t mind that the elevator wasn’t installed in the first 4 months that I lived there, on the 8th floor. Oh boy, was that nice. But it cost me that much that I realized I could have spend that same amount of money on accommodation while traveling to somewhere else. Sitting on the couch, having that sliding balcony door open, with a cat purring on my lap and the television connected to Netflix, I wanted to leave so dearly…
So yes, I can say you can travel, you just have to find your own personal priorities. Make dreams come true, or as I say: dream with your eyes wide open.
If you want to extend it and go crazy on months-long travels, or even escape for a year, you might have to prepare a little bit more. See how your financials at the moment could be stretched out that long, how to earn money on the road, or how to get accommodation in exchange for help (or how to achieve great things for yourself while also making a difference in the lives of others) and then you’ll get to how to align your values in your life, learn how to reduce stress and do the things in life the right way the first time and rise above the norm of mediocrity…
Sorry, I am dragging off too much.
The rest of the story is up to you. Think about the questions above and make your plan. What’s that one place – or ten places – you’ve always wanted to go to? Write it down and stick it somewhere close to you so you’ll reminded of it every time. I did that with country maps and inspirational quotes myself.
If you don’t take your own dreams seriously, who will?