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Enough excuses already: making your travel dream a reality

January 10, 2011 | Advice, Article, Travel | 42 Comments
Beach dreaming

If I had ten bucks for every time someone has told me how much they would love to travel – and then followed it up with a “but” - I’d have enough money to fund my own journeys for the next several years.

Most people when asked seem to have an unrequited dream of travelling the world.  Travel is something they’d “always wanted to do” until life got in the way.  The dream is talked about in the past tense, not the future and certainly not the present.

There are a million potential reasons out there that you can find for not doing something that you dream of, travel included.  An incredibly small number of those reasons are valid.  All of the rest of them are not.  They’re just excuses why you aren’t travelling, not why you can’tLike these ones, for instance:

 

“but I don’t have enough money”

Sorry, in nearly every case I don’t believe you.  You almost certainly do have enough money, or can obtain it within a year or two – you just choose to spend the cash that you do have on something else instead.  That’s fine, it’s your money.  Just be aware that every time you buy that new pair of shoes, a shiny new toy or rounds of expensive cocktails, you are making a choice about what is actually important to you.

If travelling really is your dream, it’s really not that hard to find the money to fund it.  To start with it’s nowhere near as expensive as people would have you believe.

I just finished six months of backpacking round the world and it cost me around $15,000.  That included learning to sail for a week in Thailand and a week on a yacht in the Greek Islands, a dozen flights, food, accommodation, booze and every other expense that I had.  I was hardly scrimping and could have done it even more cheaply if necessary.  They were undoubtedly the best six months of my life and my total expenses were a lot less than a hundred bucks a day.

Try finding anything else that will bring you that much happiness for that little money.  A new car?  Home theatre system?  Diamond earrings?  Forget it.

If you don’t have the cash right now, start working towards it.  You’ll need to make some sacrifices, but that’s ok.  It’s time to figure out the difference between needs and wants, and stop buying shit you just don’t need.

Stick a picture of your dream destination on the door and look at it for inspiration every time you think about going to the mall.  Cancel your cable TV subscription – your real life experiences will be a million times better than the fantasy worlds on stupid television shows.  Move into a smaller apartment and sell all of the junk that doesn’t fit into it.  Oh look, there’s another lump of cash plus lower expenses.

Set up an automatic transfer into a savings account from every paycheck, and make sure it is really difficult to get the money back out again.  This is the start of your travel fund.  Buy one less coffee a day, or take a packed lunch to work instead of buying it.  Take the money you would have spent on those and put in a jar beside the bed.  Look at that for inspiration too – in a year there’ll be enough in there for a one way flight to pretty much anywhere.

You’ll find out really quickly that once you start downsizing your life and focusing on the end goal, your travel fund will grow faster than you ever thought possible.  In a year, or maybe two at the most, guess what?  You’ve got the money to hit the road for months on end.  Now go do it.

 

“but I have too much debt”

Debt can be a real anchor around your neck, and although it’s easy (and true) to say “don’t get into debt in the first place” – especially credit card debt – it doesn’t change the fact that many people still have it.  It is probably best to pay off your high-interest debt before trying to go travelling for a while, as the monthly payments will be a real drain on both your finances and your happiness.

Sell the stuff you don’t need (hint: that’s probably most of it) to make a decent one-off hole in that debt, and then reduce your expenses and set up regular payments to get rid of the rest of it as above.  Once it’s paid off, those same payments become your travel savings instead – you’ve already got used to living without them day to day.

As for student loans, this probably depends on the payback requirements in your country.  If you can defer payments for a while, then just do it – they aren’t a good enough reason to put off your travel dream, and you’ve got the rest of your life to pay them off at a comparatively low interest rate.  If you wait until these loans are fully paid back before you hit the road, the danger is that too much of life will have passed you by in the meantime.  Don’t let that happen.

Backpackers

“but I don’t know if I can do it”

You don’t know if you can do it … but I do.  You can.  Over the years I’ve met a lot of people travelling who really did have a reason to doubt their abilities – and they were doing it anyway.  A guy who broke his back in a car accident and has been in a wheelchair ever since, who had been travelling the world for over six months.

A couple of grandparents in their eighties who were backpacking (yes, they both carried backpacks) around Western Europe and staying in hostels most nights.  A friend of mine who is dependent on medication that has to be kept refrigerated at all times, and yet has happily packed her bags and headed to the other side of the world on multiple occasions.  If they can do it, so can you.

You are much more capable than you think you are, especially under pressure.  Society and the media conspire to make you fearful of the unknown, to force you to stay home where it’s nice and safe (even though it isn’t).  Don’t buy into any of it.  You can do this.  Just give it a go.  You’ll be amazed at just what you can do when you have to, and that sense of empowerment will stay with you the rest of your life.

 

“but I’ve got kids”

Congratulations.  Well done.  You do realise that they totally aren’t a reason not to travel though, right?  Especially if they are young – but even if they’re not – taking them on the road with you could turn out to be one of the best experiences any of you have ever had.  They’ll be exposed to new cultures, languages, food and experiences in a way that they never would back home.

They’ll make dozens of new friends – probably more than you will, in fact.  The education and world view they’ll receive will beat anything that they could possibly learn in a classroom.  You’ll travel differently to those without children – perhaps not staying in hostels, and probably moving more slowly and spending longer in each place.  That’s a good thing.

Don’t believe me?  No problem, you don’t have to – I don’t have kids, after all.  In that case, check out the blogs of a few parents that I’ve met in the last six months who have all uprooted their ‘normal’ existence and taken their kids on an extended adventure around the world. Colin and Tracy at Our Travel Lifestyle and the ‘Got Passport‘ family are just a few of the many, many people out there doing this.  If they can do it, so can you.

Suit and tie

“but it will hurt my career”

I seriously doubt it.  It might possibly hurt your current job if your employer can’t or won’t hold a place for you when you come back, but spending a few months travelling is not going to damage a career that you might spend forty years or more in.

Any employer worth working for in the future will see the major benefits that a period of extended travel provides (problem solving, cultural understanding and awareness, a wider range of experience, just to name a few) so if anything travel is going to broaden your employment options, not limit them.

Not to mention the fact that you – as many others before you – might decide you’d like to try your hand at something completely different after your time on the road anyway.  Worrying about your current career seems a bit unnecessary in that context, no?

 

“but my friends and family think it’s a stupid idea”

It’s hard to feel that you’re doing the right thing when it seems that nobody else understands, and travel is no exception.  Tell the people that you know will be supportive early.  Talk to the others after you’ve bought your ticket, and try to gently explain to them why far from being stupid, it’s probably one of the greatest things you’ll ever do.  Convey your passion and ask for their support, if not their understanding.  If they still don’t get it, start looking around for people that do.

One of the best ways that I’ve found to maintain motivation and enthusiasm is to start your own little cheer squad.  A great place to start looking is on Twitter – create an account and search for the #travel hashtag.  Subscribe to some of the vast array of travel websites out there.  Check out the myriad of Facebook groups devoted to the type of travel that you’re interested in.

There’s an awesome community of incredibly supportive people out there who totally get why you want to do this.  Come and be a part of it.

 

“but I’m going to wait until I retire”

Don’t.  Seriously, please, just don’t.  You have absolutely no idea what the future holds.  You might get to age 65 happy, healthy, rich and full of excitement about your impending travel plans.  There’s an equally good chance that you won’t.

Do you really want to spend the next few decades working yourself into the ground with just the faintly remembered glimmer of your travel dream to light the way, only to find at the end of it all that poor health or some other misfortune means that you never get to follow that dream at all?

If you were hit by a bus as you walked out of your retirement party, would you really want your last words to be “If only…”?  Even if you do manage to travel post-retirement, it’s highly likely that you won’t be able to do it in the same way as you would have when you were younger.  You’ll miss out on some of the most incredible experiences out there, just because you’d put them off for far too long.

I’m not saying don’t travel once you’re older – far from it.  Absolutely travel then – just make sure you do it when you’re young as well.  It’s not an either-or proposition.

Right, well, I think that’s most of the common excuses taken care of.  So what are you waiting for now?  Go book a ticket.  Come back and let me know when you’re done.

Backpackers image courtesy of garryknight, suit and tie image courtesy of tsmall

 

Review: The Art of Non-Conformity, by Chris Guillebeau
The Friday Photo #38 – Rhino road block, South Africa

42 Comments

  1. Reply

    Abbey Hesser

    January 10, 2011

    Get 'em, Dave.

    That is all.

    First comment. YES!!

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 11, 2011

      Consider 'em got. ;-)

  2. Reply

    SaphirID

    January 10, 2011

    Great post - thanks Dave.

  3. Reply

    Kieron

    January 10, 2011

    Brilliant Dave - we're sick of hearing the lame excuses too!

    There's always a way to make your dreams happen, it just takes motivation and a bit of sacrifice.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 11, 2011

      Absolutely - doesn't matter whether it's travel or anything else...

  4. Reply

    Shannon

    January 11, 2011

    I agree! I have 3 student loans and probably will be paying on 2 of them for the rest of my life. I am leaving for my RTW trip in April and I am just factoring the payments into my monthly budget. Simple as that. It's very do-able!

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 11, 2011

      Great attitude, Shannon! As you say, it's very do-able ... most things are if people are prepared to make a few sacrifices to achieve them...

  5. Reply

    Abby

    January 11, 2011

    AGREED! First, I decided to travel after I lost my job, and it turned out that living in cheap Central America saved me a ridiculous amount of money, and I was actually able to pay off my debt. Plus, after two years on the road, I was able to go right back to work. My career is fine. No one noticed I was gone!

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 11, 2011

      Haha, awesome! It's funny, people never got it when I said that travelling in Asia was going to save me large amounts of money compared to staying in Melbourne last year, so I totally know where you're coming from!

      Congrats on the new gig, by the way - sounds perfect for you!

  6. Reply

    IsabellesTravel

    January 11, 2011

    Great article! Valid points. You`re so right: just GO is the best advice for anyone who`s considering traveling but may have some doubts. Thanks for putting them there one by one and explaining why you CAN go!

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 11, 2011

      Hey thanks! Like so many other things, just 'doing it' is the best way to find out whether you're capable of extended travel. In nearly every case - you are!

  7. Reply

    Amanda

    January 11, 2011

    I think you must have been reading my mind, Dave! I have been working on a very similar post. Maybe it's just because I'm motivated by a new year, but I'm really sick of excuses, too! So many people put off travel for truly stupid reasons. I say, if you want to do it, just find a way to make it happen that works for you.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 12, 2011

      Yeah I think a number of us are feeling a bit like that - we're so motivated by the potential of 2011 that excuses just don't wash any more, from ourselves or anybody else!

  8. Reply

    Good solid points which show how simple it can be to switch from "engrained habits" to a "think out of the box attitude"! Thanks for sharing this post :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 12, 2011

      No problem, glad you enjoyed it!

  9. Reply

    Adam @ SitDownDisco

    January 12, 2011

    I think a lot of people realise they can do it if they really want, but it's just too scary. Fear of the unknown and all that stuff. I understand it. I felt like that for years too and didn't have kids. I think a mortgage and kids really does make the dream of long term travel infinitely more difficult meaning it can take a long time to make it a reality. And then you need to have a partner that agrees. It's just easier to stick to what you know. :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 12, 2011

      Totally agree about the fear of the unknown being an issue - I actually wrote about it as part of a post a few months ago, where I said (sorry about the self-quote!):

      "Fear, in other words, of the unknown. We’ve been conditioned since childhood that fear is a bad thing. That being afraid is something to avoid at all costs. It isn’t. If you’re at least a little scared of what life has in store for you around the corner, you’re doing something right."

      It's always so much easier to stick with what we know - it's never hard to find a reason not to do something. In my opinion, though, just because it's easier doesn't always make it the right thing to do.

      Thanks for your feedback, Adam - I really appreciate it. :)

  10. Reply

    Michael Hodson

    January 14, 2011

    I've really stopped with this conversation with people back home. Basically they don't want to travel long-term, but they do fantasize about it. I'm cool with that. It used to get me upset also when people said, "wish I could do what you did/do," but whatever.

    I try to talk the people into it that I actually think are suited for it. And usually by trying to talk them into baby steps (sorta like how I did it, actually). Take their first solo trip. Take their first solo trip to a country where they don't speak the language. Then take a month somewhere. And so forth.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 14, 2011

      Yeah I have to admit that the 'wishing' thing still manages to irritate me - it just seems like such a cop out. Take some responsibility for your life, people! You've done damn well to not let it get to you any more! :)

      The baby steps thing is a good one - I've managed that a couple of times too (although failed on far more, I'm sure) and it's so awesome to see people stepping outside their comfort zone ... and loving it!

  11. Reply

    Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_

    January 15, 2011

    I'm totally with Michael on this one... so many people say they want too, but they don't really want too... they want to fantasize about it!
    PS.. its been a while Dave, I'm going to swarm your blog with comments now! YAY

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 15, 2011

      Yay! Now that I've rescued this and your last comment from the spam filter, you can swarm away! ;-)

  12. Reply

    Chris - The Aussie Nomad

    January 17, 2011

    Great post Dave, I sold all my stuff and paid all my debts (15k) before leaving. It took awhile but really wasn't hard to do. People just need to get over the whole its too hard rubbish when in reality its not.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 18, 2011

      Yeah they really do. Where there's a will, there's a way - it's not always easy, but it's almost always possible...

  13. Reply

    Liv

    January 18, 2011

    Hi Dave
    You are SO right about the excuses! Yes, leaving securities like your friends, job and regular paycheck takes a certain courage, but I think in most cases there is nothing people really cannot return to. Great post. Liv.

  14. Reply

    Katrina

    January 19, 2011

    "You don’t know if you can do it … but I do. You can."

    Awesome and so true! Thanks for this. Love kick-butt posts!

    (ps: something else to get people off their hineys and moving: http://www.tourabsurd.com/passport-initiative/)

  15. Reply

    Lizzie

    February 16, 2011

    My parents always tell me how their parents saved their entire lives to go traveling, but they all ended up dying around 60 or getting strokes and were never able to travel. So my parents are traveling all they can now instead of waiting for retirement :)

    I'm on my second study abroad trip and people always ask me how I can afford it, but really I save around $7000 a semester going to school in other countries. And my experiences havent even been in cheaper countries, they've been in Germany and Australia. If I did abroad in Thailand or Chile I would probably save §10,000 or more per semester.

  16. Reply

    Nomadic Samuel

    September 16, 2011

    Hey Dave,

    This is a great article. Excuses I feel are in some ways either a sign of fear or a lack of commitment. When one has a burning desire to do something, whether it be travel related or not, there is always a way to make it happen.

  17. Reply

    The GypsyNesters

    September 22, 2011

    Great points one and all. Especially like the money point. We have been travelling full time for three years now and when we add it up we manage to spend no more than we would have in an city apartment or house anywhere. It can be done if you just try.

  18. Reply

    LoveStudyAbroad

    November 10, 2011

    Wait until I retire- You never know if your health, your partner's health, etc. will allow it.

    I have kids- The college students I met who grew up in foreign countries were more well spoken, well adjusted, and more aware of the world than the rest of us. Definitely an advantage for them.

  19. Reply

    travelblognetwork

    September 12, 2012

    This post made me really teary eyed. I have traveled for five years and stopped about two years ago to live a "normal" life. I live near the airport and stare occasionally at the airplanes flying overhead wondering where the people inside are going to have their next adventure. Thanks for the motivation.

    • Reply

      Dave

      September 14, 2012

      You're more than welcome ... good luck with getting back inside the airport rather than just watching the planes flying overhead.... :)

  20. Reply

    Ian [EagerExistence]

    December 30, 2012

    I'm pleased to hear you spent $15k in 6 months. It means 2 things. 1. you had a great time, and 2. its on-par with my spending. Everyone told me I spent too much. But I spent $30k in a year.

    • Reply

      Dave

      December 30, 2012

      It totally depends where you go, right? This last year I spent less - more like $20k than $30k, I think. But, then again, I spent half the year in SE Asia...

  21. Reply

    Victoria

    January 8, 2013

    Hey! So it sounded like one of your friends had diabetes (the one that had to keep her medication refrigerated at all times). I'm in the same boat and I really want to travel -- I don't want my diabetes to stop me. How did your friend end up managing it? How long did she travel and where did she go? Thanks for your help!

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 9, 2013

      Hey Victoria, I've passed your comment onto my friend and asked her to drop you a line if she's happy to do so. :)

  22. Reply

    Ned Five

    January 9, 2013

    What if someone reading this is too young?

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 9, 2013

      How young is too young? If they're still at school, or at the sort of age (ie, under 18) where things like credit cards and entering into contracts are a problem, then perhaps consider something like an exchange program or studying abroad (scholarship-based if necessary) to get an experience of life overseas instead.

      If they're 18 or over, they aren't too young.

  23. Reply

    Jen

    January 15, 2013

    In 2004 I travelled Oz and some of SE Asia over an 8 month period. I found this experience amazing and since have taken my partner to some of the fantastic places I visited in Asia on our annual holidays from work in the UK. We are considering travelling on the last 6 months (Feb-Aug) of my maternity leave (First child). What are your thoughts on this, have you met many travellers with new borns? What countries would you recommend?

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 16, 2013

      Hey Jen. That's a great idea, in my opinion. :) I've met and spent quite a bit of time with the families I mention in the post, all of whom have travelled with kids ranging from six months to around 8 years old. Take a look at their sites and drop them a line with any specific questions, I reckon! :)

  24. Reply

    Tony Chan

    April 24, 2013

    Love this article Dave!
    I'm planning a ATW trip in the next few years (2015 to be exact!). I've done a lot of traveling through the world, now I feel I'm ready for the big leap of a ATW trip. Reading about people who have done it and come back are what keeps me chasing my travel dream.
    You're right on the ball when you say your friends and family will think it's a stupid idea! People my age think I'm insane for being so "immature" and "foolish". I should be married, wallowing in debt and working a 9-5 job to be "happy". Funny, how I feel more connected with people I've never met online that support what I want, then the people I know.
    Thank you so much for the post!


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