Have you always wanted to travel…or wish you could travel more than you’ve managed so far? Do you sometimes long to be that person or couple who shucked all their possessions to hit the road and become world travelers?
You are not alone. According to a Globus “Time to Tour” survey, 91 percent of Americans wish they could travel more. In fact, the survey reports nearly half (47 percent) of people ages 55 and over said if they could do things differently, they would travel more.
A British Airways survey of 2,000 baby boomers reports one in five said their biggest regret is not traveling enough.
- Living the Travel Dream
- Time: I want to travel more, but…
- No Money, Honey
- 10 STEPS TO LIVING YOUR TRAVEL DREAMS
If you are one of those who’s been dreaming and wishing, but because of (insert your reason here) you fear it will never happen, don’t give up those dreams. Your travel dreams are attainable and we hope to give you some information and inspiration to do it.
Whatever your reasons for putting off travel, it’s never too late to start.
Living the Travel Dream
Some people are living the travel fantasy and they’re doing it without leaving their jobs and giving up all their possessions.
We are doing it. We’ve been doing it for the past 20-plus years. Before that, we were part of that 91 percent who wished to travel more.
Like many who are settled in to family lives, we wanted to travel more and we wanted to maintain our lifestyle. We didn’t have a lot of time or money, but the passion to see the world was so strong we knew there had to be a way. Putting our heads together, we discovered it is entirely possible to travel more without breaking the bank.
We’ve talked to so many people just like us who want to experience something new. You want to breathe different air, learn about other cultures, meet the people, eat new foods, climb mountains in far away places, wiggle your toes on white sand beaches and dance at music festivals. You have an adventurous soul.
Some say that kind of wanderlust is in your DNA. According to one expert, people who love (or long) to travel are:
- Have higher awareness
- Welcome change
- Know themselves better
- Have higher self-esteem
- Are more observant
- More grateful
- More appreciative
- Are very independent
- Adapt well
Some people who share these characteristics do give up all their possessions to lead a nomadic life, seeking and experiencing everything they can. Some travel the world with a backpack, couch surfing and crashing overnight in hostels in order to travel.
But the rest of us, especially if over thirty, find those options nearly impossible.
You have a family and responsibilities. The money may be gone before your paycheck reaches the bank. Weekends are too busy. The two-week vacation isn’t long enough for the world tour. Or if you’re about to retire, there’s still the house and the yard, the dog, kids in college, and a host of other commitments. Travel always seems out of reach. But it’s not. And here’s why.
Values and Beliefs About Travel
In most cultures we’re programmed to think of travel as a luxury, not as part of our everyday lives. We value education, hard work and family. So, we go to school, we get a job, get married, buy a home and a car, and some of us have children. That’s what’s expected and, for the most part, things run well that way. We cross our fingers and hope we can afford the luxury of travel sometime in the future.
Pushing our personal desires to the back burner is normal and natural. Our mental preconditioning is validated when we have very real obstacles standing in the way.
Time…Money…Responsibilities and Age – our travel dream crushers
This quartet of reasons is most often cited as why it’s impossible travel more…if at all. They’re valid reasons, for sure. But not good enough to let your travel dreams die.
As an author, I’m fortunate to be able to work anywhere, so one part of my problem is solved. I’m not tied to one place. My partner in crime works on contract and works from home, so his schedule is flexible, too.
But it wasn’t always like that. Before I transitioned to freelance writer, I had a nine-to-five job like most of the rest of the world. I had children at home, a dog, a house to keep up and responsibilities. People depended on me… and extra money was nonexistent. All I could do was dream about travel.
So, how have we managed to travel to 48 out of the 50 states, Mexico, the Virgin Islands, the Yucatan, Australia, Canada, and a few dozen countries in Europe, Africa and Asia?
Although I could be retired now, I still work. We still have a family. We still have a house and car…and responsibilities. We are not rich. And yet, we have trips planned to Mexico and several U.S. states this summer, and Europe in the fall.
How is all that travel possible?
Conquering the obstacles: the mental reboot
At some point I realized we had limited our options because all we saw were the obstacles. We couldn’t afford the luxury of travel, so we didn’t travel. I’m not sure how I came to realize that we were the problem…not things or circumstances. I may have read something inspirational, or maybe seeing time fly by so quickly had something to do with it. I don’t know, but there was a definite awakening…a turning point where I realized if we wanted to travel more we had to change our perceptions about travel.
We needed a mental reboot. We had to make a conscious decision to break the “can’t do” pattern of thinking and view travel as important and necessary. A priority. We had to work travel into our lives, not around it.
Changing the old mindset didn’t happen overnight. But making a conscious decision to do it was crucial. If we wanted to travel more we had to examine the obstacles, figure out how to get around them, and actually make plans to travel more.
Time: I want to travel more, but…
Time is one of the first reasons cited as an obstacle to travel. If you have a eight-to-five job, there’s no doubt your time comes at a premium. You can’t just take off to go globetrotting around the world. That is your reality. So getting over the time hurdle is going to take some creative thinking.
The first thing to do is stop thinking you don’t have time to travel. Health issues considered, we all have a given amount of time in our lives. No matter how limited your time is…whether it’s only one day, a whirlwind weekend, or your annual two-week vacation, you do have time. It may be spoken for, but it still exists.
When I don’t go for my morning walk, or spend a half hour on the treadmill, I tell myself it’s because I have too many other things to do. The truth is, I’m making a choice to do something else with that treadmill time. Whatever that something else is, I’ve convinced myself it’s more important than exercise. If I have a free weekend and spend it binge watching Game of Thrones, that’s a choice I make.
We make choices all day long about what we do with our time. So, keep in mind that time is precious. It’s one of the few things in life that cannot be replaced. Every minute wasted is a minute you’ll never get back.
If you want to travel more, let’s start by looking at how much time you actually have.
For those in a full-time job, take a minute or two to sit down and figure out how many weekends off you have in a year, how many holidays you have in which to make a four-day weekend, then add in your vacation/holiday time.
If you get the usual two weeks vacation, with two days off every weekend times 52 weeks per year, I’m guessing the number of days you come up with is at least 114. That’s three-and-a-half months.
Some companies allow employees to use sick time for vacations, too, so those people will have more time. At minimum, three months is a whole lot of time to travel, even if it’s not all in one stretch. Those of you who live outside the U.S. may have longer vacation/holiday time available.
Okay, now that it looks like you do have time to travel more, start brainstorming. Explore all the ways in which you might be able to make a trip happen. Instead of thinking you don’t have one long block of time for that exotic trip to Kathmandu, start thinking about what you can do with the time available.
Short, but sweet: the benefits of short trips
One of the reasons we’ve traveled to so many states in the U.S. is because we’ve made good use of our weekends. When I lived in Minnesota, I could travel by car to four different states, and even another country…in a weekend.
Since living in Arizona, we’ve road tripped to five other states and to Mexico on a weekend or long weekend. We can visit Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Las Vegas, the Pacific Ocean or the Sea of Cortez in a matter of hours.
If I truly have a passion to travel more, why would I stay home when I can go to those places on a tank or two of gas?
Every trip I’ve taken, no matter how brief, is a mind-expanding experience. I enter a world outside my own neighborhood, I meet new people from all walks of life. I can enjoy nature and take photographs. I learn new things.
Wait. What about the bucket list…
You mean that lifelong dream of an epic European tour that encompasses nine different countries? The dream of climbing Machu Picchu? Not a problem. Keep those on the list. But for a moment, let’s imagine another scenario.
How many places can you travel to during a weekend or a long weekend? Where can you go overnight, or on a day trip? Is there an historic city nearby?
If you expand your travel destinations you will double or triple your opportunities to travel more. And it will cost less.
I love day trips. They provide the perfect respite from the work routine, and again, usually for just the cost of a tank of gas. It’s amazing how many people haven’t seen the unique attractions in their own city, but seek them out elsewhere. There are wonders all around us, so don’t rule out those close by. Consider some of these options:
Most states in the U.S. have great national forests where you can picnic and hike and take fantastic photographs.
We did a day hike in Tonto National Forest just last weekend. If you’re outdoorsy, try a weekend. Save your pennies and buy a tent, even secondhand. A weekend communing with nature may be the best antidote for a hectic week at work.
Not in the U.S.? Travel may be even easier. One rainy day in Paris, on the spur of the moment, we took a train and then a short bus ride to a fog-shrouded Mont Saint-Michel. It was only a day trip, but that single magical day is forever etched in my mind as one of my favorite travel memories.
If you live in any of the U.S. states on the northern border, Canada is right on your doorstep, and right now the exchange rate is favorable.
If you live in the southwestern states, Mexico is right there and the exchange rate is also favorable. Live in the Deep South…how about the Virgin Islands, or Cuba while it’s still accessible.
A four-day weekend would be long enough for most any of these trips.
If you live in Europe, I’m so envious. You can go to any number of countries in a weekend just by hopping on a train.
When trip planning, if you only have a week’s vacation, getting on a plane for a long flight doesn’t make sense. Think of going somewhere close. You’ll have more time to explore and enjoy where you are, your trip will be more restful and, most likely, more budget-friendly.
Another bonus of short trips – several short flights using the same airline, paid for with an airline-friendly credit card, can quickly build enough air miles to offset the expense of that long trip to Europe. That’s how we’re paying for our round-trip flight to Europe later this year.
No Money, Honey
It costs money to travel and most of us want to be reasonably comfortable while doing it. So, we have to be creative and more goal oriented.
Take a good look at your household budget and where your money goes. Think about changes in your life. Are there any changes you can you make to further your travel plans?
- Give up buying new things for a while?
- Keep the car after it’s paid off and put that car payment money in a separate vacation fund?
- Give up smoking or another money-sucking habit and put that money into a vacation fund instead?
- Do your own hair and manicure your own nails? (and put the money in the vacay fund)
- Sell things you don’t need on OfferUp or eBay?
- Have a garage sale?
- Make sure the kids turn off all the lights and unplug electronics to save on utilities
- Eat out less and put that money in the vacation fund (an extra benefit is that home cooking is usually healthier)
- Buy the specials at the grocery store. Use coupons and cash back apps like ibotta and Checkout 51, but only on the things you would normally buy. Put the money you saved in your vacation fund.
- Change the exemptions on your employee tax deductions. Yes, the government will have your money interest free, but you can’t rob the piggy bank and you’ll have to wait until tax time to get it back. It’s a sure-fire way to save.
We all have ways we can cut back to save money, and even the kids can do it. In fact, saving money as a family project might be fun. How about working a temporary, part-time job for a few weeks to amass enough for a trip? Is there a side business or handyman jobs you can do for a time to sock away some extra cash? Taking on extra work is hard, but remember, it’s only temporary. We can do almost anything when we know there’s an end date…and a reward in sight.
I know. It sounds like a lot of work and sacrifice. Just remember, what you’re willing to do and what you’re willing to give up is a good indication of how much you really want to fulfill those travel dreams.
Some people enjoy thinking about what they want to do more than they want to do something to make it happen. That’s okay. Just remember, you really do possess the ability to make it happen.
There’s more than one way to see the world
If you really wish to travel more, but lack the funds, it’s time to get creative and consider alternatives to the usual tourist methods. There are dozens of unique ways to see the world, from hopping a cargo boat to Norway to working on a cruise ship. Too old to do that? Yeah, we are, too. So here are a few other ideas.
The Peace Corps: A newly retired friend of mine and her husband joined the Peace Corps for three months. The program takes couples, and there are programs that don’t require a two-year commitment.
Now, not only are my friends traveling to another country, they will also experience life firsthand in another culture.
Age is not a problem, either. Former president Jimmy Carter’s mother, Lillian Carter, joined the Peace Corps when she was 68 and worked in India near Mumbai for 21 months.
Teaching in another country: Couples can do this, too, and you don’t necessarily need a teaching degree. If you have up to a year’s time, have a college degree, and can teach, a government teaching abroad program is another option. In this program, you will teach for the government through a partnership between the US and another country. The partnership makes it easier to get a job teaching in another country and has a limited time attached to it.
Scholarships and Grants: Are you a caregiver? Need financial aid to travel? Road Scholar has financial assistance scholarships and caregiver grants for special trips each year. Thanks to its generous donors, more than 300 scholarships have been given away.
Splitting Vacation Costs: Splitting costs of that vacation cabin in the mountains with another couple or family can make an impossible vacation possible. And it will definitely be more budget friendly. We do this all the time with friends and family. Last summer we shared costs and spent ten fabulous days in a mini-mansion in Minneapolis, within walking distance from the beautiful Chain of Lakes. All we had to do was log into Airbnb.com to find the perfect place for our group.
Work a few hours per day: If you can work a few hours per day Worldpackers has opportunities with free accommodations at hostels, homestays, NGOs and Eco-projects. You can decide on the type of trip you want (work exchange, social impact or eco-program) and the areas you’d like to visit (Europe, South America, North America, Central America, Asia and Southeastern Asia.) Read more about it and get tips and first-hand accounts on the WorldPacker website.
House-Sitting: Budget friendly and especially good if you like pets. Many pet owners are looking for house and pet sitters while they vacation. My daughter-in-law just engaged a pet sitter for a week at their home (with a swimming pool)…and compensated the sitter for it, too. Make sure you have good references and be sure to double check theirs.
Here are some of the top house-sitter sites: House Sitters America is exactly what the name states…homes in the US only. Others such as Luxury House Sitting have home sitting opportunities all over the free world, some with pet sitting requirements and others without pets. Recently I saw a house sitting opportunity that listed 4 dogs, 3 cats, chickens and two lovebirds, and another with gardening duties, so make sure you check out the responsibilities closely. Trusted Housesitters is another that comes well recommended. HeckticTravels.com has great in-depth information on house-sitting, including other house sitting sites.
Home Exchange: One of my favorite ideas for creative travel is the Home Exchange website where you can temporarily exchange homes with someone in another state or another country. Someone in the south of France may be dying to visit your city or state. Someone in the U.S. might be delighted to stay in the English countryside. All options are there.
It should go without saying that you need to be cautious anytime you do creative things like exchanging homes, but verification is easily attainable now in a number of different ways.
Who doesn’t have them?
Some of us have greater responsibilities than others, but even so, there are things you can do to work around them.
Here are some ideas and concrete steps you can take to help change your pattern of thinking, get your travel dreams on the calendar, and travel more now.
you really want to fulfill those travel dreams.
10 STEPS TO LIVING YOUR TRAVEL DREAMS
1. Begin by writing a brief paragraph or two about why you want to travel more. What does travel mean to you personally? Are you looking for pure escape? Excitement? Do you want to broaden your horizons? What need will it fulfill?
2. Prioritize. Write a list of the places you wish to go, narrow it to a bucket list of five or six places you most want to visit…and then describe the reason each place draws you. The reason is important. It’s a lifelong dream because… Is it to challenge yourself, experience an adventure, research family history, etc. Be specific about what it is that you want to do once there: climb to the top of Machu Picchu; run with the bulls; hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim; stay in a floatel on the water. Or return to the scene of the crime. (kidding.)
3. Study the list and find a destination that would be the easiest to travel to. Write it down as your first travel goal. Usually, ‘easiest’ means one that’s budget-friendly and requires the least amount of time and effort. It’s important to see this as a real goal you can achieve, so be sure to list different types of trips.
4. List all the barriers to the goal: time, money, family commitments, pets, physical impairment, fear for your safety. See my article on travel fears for more information and how to beat them.
5. List the steps you can take to remove the barriers. Stay positive and start small with concrete, measurable steps to achieve your goal. Some steps may be as simple as picking the type of trip that works best for you, or finally applying for that passport; other steps may be more complex, such as listing all the ways you plan to save money, or figuring out a pet sitter, or how to care for an elderly parent while you’re away. Many of us as we get older have health issues, but just because we can’t climb Machu Piccu, that doesn’t mean we can’t travel, or travel more than we do now. We just have to figure out how to do it.
6. Set timelines. Setting timelines to complete our goals is critical. Decide where and when to travel by a specific date. Setting goals to save smaller sums of money in shorter time frames will seem less daunting than the full amount needed over a longer period of time. A goal to save $500 each quarter will seem more attainable than saving $2,000 in a year.
Age may play a part in your timeline for goal setting, but no matter how old we are, we can set goals, just not as far out as others. In fact, the older we get, the more important it is to have goals.
7. On the personal side, learn to say ‘no.’ Remember, all the things for which you say ‘yes’ are commitments that eat up time you are never going to get back. If that time is on a weekend when you could be traveling, consider it carefully. Let someone else plan the monthly office birthday party or take notes at an HOA meeting. At this point, you want to be thinking…if someone else can do the extra job, they should…while you work toward your goal.
8. Let your family and friends know your travel goals. You’ll be surprised how many of them might be willing to pitch in and help in some way or another. Maybe they’ll buy you travel gifts for Christmas, your birthday, anniversary or retirement. One of my friend’s siblings (six of them) all pitched in and gave her money for Christmas to build up her travel fund. She was halfway to her travel destination.
9. **Make travel plans** This is important. While working toward eliminating the obstacles to your goal, plan your trip. Get that passport. Research the Internet, look at amazing photos in magazines that detail your destination, research different modes of transportation and the best times to travel. Decide what you want to see and what you want to do when you get there…and what’s the easiest way to do it. Research all the ways to avoid long lines at some high-traffic tourist sites. Check Rick Steves website for some great information on how to get ahead of the crowds.
If you’re the spontaneous type, like me, forget the details and make a general list of what to see and do. My most memorable times are the result of those spontaneous moments. If you’re the anxious type and will worry about what comes next, do the detailed plan.
10. Buy a poster of your destination and hang it in your office. Visualization is a powerful tool and seeing it every day is going to keep you inspired and motivated.
11. Be selfish. Many of us tend to do for others first and think of ourselves last. It’s our nature. We will take all of our travel savings to buy that gift for the hubster because we know how much he’ll love it. Don’t do that. Seriously. When you’re sipping a glass of wine together while watching a romantic sunset on the beach in Jamaica, you’ll both have memories that will last forever.
Don’t wait for retirement to travel more
Many of us think when we retire, that’s when we’ll travel. But no matter what our age, time isn’t on our side and none of us know how much of it we will have. If you think I’m saying, “live for today,” you’re right. Making travel plans has never been easier and many airlines have discounted deals on package plans that make it even easier.
Programs offered by companies like Road Scholar are geared to 55 and older seniors and offer trips for all levels of physical activity. It’s great for older solo travelers who want to travel but not alone. As mentioned earlier, the company even offers scholarships for those with funding issues or special needs.
If you have a passion to travel, make a decision to do it now…even if you can’t possibly see a way for the big trip. Start with a weekend jaunt within your state or one fabulous day in the city in which you live. Short trips while working toward the longer one can be just as exciting…and amazingly satisfying.
Truly, the possibilities are all there within your grasp. With some goal setting and a persistent desire to make it happen, you can travel more often and have a life full of new adventures.
Let’s get out and GoRoamin