Part I: The excuses we make and how to stop making them

This is the first installation of my “How To Start Traveling Series”.  Read more here. 

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I pretty much only travel solo, and while that used to be a choice, recently it’s because I can’t find anyone to travel with.  I ask people all the time to join me in Thailand or Paris or wherever, and I’m completely serious when I do so, but I know that fewer than one in a fifty people will actually take me up on the offer.  I see their eyes light up with the possibility…just before they look away and start listing all the reasons they can’t.

It’s frustrating because I know they can go with me, but they’re not letting themselves.

The following ‘reasons’ you’re not going on that three week vacation in September, or not backpacking through South America like you’ve secretly been dying to do, or not even taking that weekend getaway to the mountains, are actually excuses, not reasons.  I’m going to call them excuses so you feel bad about using them.  Yes, I’m trying to shame you into travel.

Excuse #1:  “I don’t have the money”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard this line I’d have enough money to buy you that stinkin’ plane ticket!  I think the root of this excuse is the misconception that travel is only for the idle wealthy, those with matching leather luggage and money oozing out of their pores.  This is not the case.  I mean, seriously, do I look like one of those people?

The author about to complete her first ever river crossing on a motorcycle.

The answer is no.

So how much does travel actually cost?  I can’t answer that–there are simply too many destinations and options out there.  But that’s the beauty of it–there’s a trip for every budget.  Personally, on a three week trip I have spent as little as $600 and as much as $3000.  I’ve also traveled for months at a time for a few thousand dollars.

There are hundreds of online resources to help you travel cheaper (check out www.nomadwallet.com to get started), so I’m not going to go into details here.  What I will do is provide some price comparisons to put the cost of travel into context.  If you can afford any of the following, you can afford to travel.  If you can’t afford these things right now, then plan a trip for next year or the year after (a real trip, not an imaginary one–start here then make a savings plan).

money_compare

The moral of the story here, and the point I will try to pound into your head, is that travel is a choice.  You can choose to put your money towards coffee and eating out, or you can choose to put your money towards airfare.  And I’m not saying that you should sacrifice all the things you enjoy so you can afford that one trip, but if you tell me you can’t afford to travel while we’re noshing on Beau Jo’s pizza a splitting a pitcher of beer, I’m not going to believe you.

Excuse #2:  I don’t have the time

This one is harder to tackle than the money issue.  (This is particularly true with Americans.  The original American Dream has morphed into a culture of uncompromising hard work with nothing but monetary reward–and that’s only if you’re lucky.  Personally, I’d rather my hard work be rewarded with more vacation time, but that’s not an option).

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Mount Kenya

Anyways, we’re caught up in this idea that we don’t have any time to waste.  In my mind, that’s even more reason for traveling now–you can’t take your dream trip to India when you’re dead.  Furthermore, item #6 in this article says taking a vacation increases your life span, so really, you’re not losing any time at all–it comes out even!  Seriously, though, taking a break is healthy and good and will make you happier–isn’t that important?

And for those whose work responsibilities are too overwhelming to permit a two-week vacation, my advice is blunt:  lighten up.  Very few people in this world are important enough to bring their company to ruins if they step out for a quick vacation.  To put it another way, think about this:  what if you were in a serious car accident and were hospitalized for three weeks.  Would your company survive while you healed?  If the answer is yes, then it will also survive while you heal your overworked spirit on vacation.  (And wouldn’t you rather be on vacation than in a hospital?)

Excuse #3:  I’m afraid

Okay, no one actually says they’re afraid, but it’s in the back (or front) of everyone’s mind when they contemplate travel.  Maybe you’re a nervous flyer, or you fear not being in control all the time, or you’re overwhelmed by visiting a country that doesn’t speak your first language.  Those are all legitimate concerns, but please don’t let them stop you.  I have faced down those fears in dozens of countries, and yet I’m still a little afraid of my upcoming trip.  Does it mean I’m not going to go?  Hell no.  It just means I have to put on my big girl panties and deal with those fears like the intelligent, resourceful, adaptable human I know I am [deep, deep down inside].

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro

Another fear people often have is less tangible:  it’s the fear of being gone, of not being home.  That’s not scary on the surface, but it leaves us with a lot of doubt.  For example, your friends will be living their normal lives–without you there.  Will they forget you?  Will they realize you’re not important in their lives?  Again, lighten up.  I have these fears every time I leave, and yet every time I come home I am welcomed with open arms and a return to normalcy that honestly bewilders me.  Life will go on, but you will be enriched because of your travels, and will then enrich the lives of your friends with your stories and perspectives.  Only good things will come of that. 

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There you have it, the Big 3 Excuses and why you shouldn’t make them.  I hope this post has inspired you to take that vacation in Scotland or book that trip to Peru.  Or, if ‘inspire’ isn’t the word, maybe it’s given you a much-needed kick in the pants!  Here’s to your happy travels!

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13 Comments

  1. These are good points that will help people realize they can travel if they choose to.

    Where I take issue is in the assumption throughout this piece that if people were true to themselves, if they got over their unreasonable tendencies to choose otherwise, they would (or should) always choose to travel. That’s YOU. It’s not everybody.

    You say, “It’s frustrating because I know they can go with me, but they’re not letting themselves.” Or is it frustrating because they could go with you, but they’ve chosen to do something else with their time and money, something that you wouldn’t enjoy as much?

    • Well, I wrote this article for people who want to travel but seem to be convinced that they can’t make it happen. If they weren’t hoping to start traveling, I assume they wouldn’t be reading an article like this.

      And as for the people who I said “can go but aren’t letting themselves”, I’m referring to the ones who *talk* about going (“Oh I’d love to meet you in Thailand!!”) but then start leaning on the reasons I listed for why they can’t go. Again, I’m assuming I have a certain audience here. Does that clear things up?

  2. Well I must say, all three hit the nail on the head. I’m really proud of who you have grown into. I love you blog. I love seeing your pictures too.
    Sarah Foster’s Mom.

  3. Looking forward to reading more of this, please keep the series going!

  4. Sarah – Thanks so much for the nice note. Sorry I didn’t get to see you before you left. I look forward to reading your posts. And I wanted you to know (since much of this post was aimed at and/or was a great fit for me) – I just bought my ticket to Ireland. It’s really going to happen! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Who told you any such thing?? :) It was motivated by a conversation about you, but it was very much directed at *anyone* with travel hesitations, myself included. So glad to hear you’re going to Ireland, tho! Have an amazing time!

  5. Hi, just came over here from a friend’s page :) Nice to see someone living the dream! So, my question is also about money, as it says “coming soon,” and I really want to know! :) Did you save a lump sum, and if so, can you tell me what is a reasonable amount to save before “traveling for 14 months” or whatever it is? I can’t wrap my brain around a dollar amount. I am a very frugal traveler, catching flight deals, staying in hostels or Airbnb, sharing meals when possible, not doing much excessive. . . I want to go places, but I just don’t know how much to start with to feel “safe.” Any advice you can give is awesome.

    Oh, and Judy – you will love Ireland!! It’s unforgettable.

    • Hi Erin, thanks for writing! Yes, the “coming soon” bit is a little overdue, isn’t it? I did indeed save up one large lump sum prior to travel. I decided what my goal was after a day of research online for the average daily cost of budget travel in each of the countries on my list (Lonely Planet, Wikitravel and Nomadic Matt were my top resources). I made my calculations based off the upper end of budget travel (to give myself some buffer) and multiplied it by the approximate number of days I’d spend in each country. When in doubt, I rounded up. Then I added in the cost of my various flights, added it up, and came to $20,000 for 14 months of travel, half in Western Europe ($$$) and half in developing countries ($). That cost included an anticipated ascent of the Matterhorn for $2000 and swimming the Hellespont River for $650, costs which you can probably cut out. Then, to give myself a buffer, I decided to round up and save $25,000. Do I plan on spending that full $25,000? Lordy, I hope not! But knowing it’s there, whether for use on the road or for getting my feet back under me when I return home, is very comforting.

      Previously I have traveled for three months in East Africa on $3000, five months in South America for $4000, and seven months in Central America for $5000 (all including airfare), so your destination has a big role in how much you spend (ahem, Western Europe…).

      I’m keeping track of my expenditures and should be posting an update in the coming month, so check back often or subscribe by email using the box in the right sidebar.

      Hope that helps!

      • THANK YOU so much for that – so helpful! I’ve been scouring blogs for over a year now, and most people say “I saved a percentage of my income,” like they’re afraid to say $20,000. It’s like GREAT, do you make $25,000 or $125,000 a year? :) So thank you, this is exactly what I was hoping for, and it’s right in line with my savings plan. I’d figured $50,000 for 2 years, so I think I’m way ahead of the game :) Excited to start, and to keep an eye on your adventures! Thanks again,
        Erin

        • No problem, glad it was helpful! Stay in touch and I’ll follow your trip, too!

          • Just a little observation from my experiences; I’d saved up about £9,500 ($14,000) to travel around the world for a year; my circumstances meant it probably wasn’t enough by a couple of thousand $, but that’s because you always need more than you plan for :D (my ‘buffer’ wasn’t enough!).

            Being British, I avoided Western Europe (far too expensive), but Australia and (surprisingly) West Africa leeched more money than I expected. I was working on a budget of between £20-£30/day ($30-$45), but that excluded air travel to get there/back. (Though using sites like SkyScanner you can always get them cheaper than you’d expect).

            The varying performance of the US$ didn’t help my budgeting … :D
            The Barefoot Backpacker recently posted…Why I don’t want to holiday in Australia again!My Profile

          • Yeah, the money question is always tough. I always bring about a 25% buffer for those extra expenditures. If you didn’t see it, I posted a full (super-detailed) review of my budget for my last trip: http://uneventenor.com/how-much-does-travel-cost/ Sounds like you might enjoy it!

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