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How To Make Travel a Part of Your Life

Traveling is just the best, isn’t it? If your response starts with “Yes, BUT….,” then that probably means you like it, but have reservations. In my experience, people with reservations (as in misgivings, not the “I have reservations for this really cool restaurant” kind) tend to talk about travel frequently, but only rarely make it onto the road (or into the plane, or onto the boat). The reason being that the more you wait for the right time or the right circumstances in your life that make it conducive to travel, the more apprehensive and less likely you are to go through with it.

If all of the above sounds like you sometimes or if you have questions like “how could I even afford traveling?” or “but what about [insert obstacle of your choice]?”, then this article is for you. To determine how you can implement the nebulous travel plans that might be swirling around in your brain, please answer the following four questions:

1) How much do you want to travel?

Travel takes time, energy and money that you might be spending elsewhere. This is true, and probably nothing new to you. Otherwise, you would already be gallivanting around the world on a regular basis. So, what it comes down to is this: do you REALLY want to travel and are you willing to rearrange some things in the rest of your life for it?

Please take a moment here, sit yourself down comfortably and earnestly think about this question. Is wanting to travel something that you are willing to give other things up for? Do you believe that the stuff you will learn and experience, the memories you will create, the new friends you will make, are worth a little sacrifice? If the answer to this is YES (as I hope it is), please read on. If not, this article might not be for you.

But just knowing that you want to travel is not enough. Now that you know you are determined, you should set a destination.

2) Where would you like to go?

Everything gets easier with a goal in mind. So, while it might be a bit daunting to think about making sacrifices for a nebulous “I want to travel (more)”, it will be easier if you can say to yourself: “This brings me one step closer to seeing the Machu Picchu!” or “But then I will stroll along the streets of the Eternal City and experience the romance of ‘Roman Holiday’ for myself!”

Finding your perfect travel destination will be the basis for all the other steps down the road, so don’t skip it. It is another mental exercise, but here, get a piece of paper and a pen and simply start thinking and writing down all the exciting destinations that come to mind. If no ideas occur to you immediately, you might want to take to the Internet for inspiration.

Once you have a nice variety of possible places, you need to determine which one to tackle first. Look at the possible places and picture yourself there. Does one of them stand out? Do some of them scare you a bit? After checking them, are there some that eliminate themselves for some other reason? Usually, a dream destination list reduces itself quite quickly. If no one destination automatically becomes your dream travel goal, there is a nice wikihow that might help you solve this issue.

So, on to the next question!

3) How long should your travel last?

Some of you might go: “Duh! For however long my corporately allocated vacation is.” For many of you, with “normal” jobs and “normal” lives, the question of how long you would like to travel for might seem silly.

But when you look back at your travel destination inspiration list, you might notice that some of your dream spots can be visited in a very short time frame, while others will take many days or even weeks to explore. Most cities can be easily traveled in 3-5 days, plus the time to get there and back. If, for instance, seeing Hong Kong has always been your dream, then you could go there for four days and get an adequate sense of the place without having to rush everywhere. But, depending on where you live, a flight to Hong Kong might be 12-24 hours, so the question is – will you travel there for just a long weekend? Or should you maybe make it part of a more extensive trip throughout Southeast Asia?

If one of the destinations on your list is “South America,” then a long weekend is probably not a smart travel time frame, no matter where you come from. To properly experience just one single country in South America, you would need at least several weeks. And since there are 12 countries total on that vast continent, corporate vacation alone might not cut it for you. If your personal days really do not suffice, but experiencing South America in all its splendor is your dream, then you might have to look into taking an unpaid vacation or a sabbatical.

Taking a sabbatical, putting your old life on hold or even selling your house/apartment to travel the world is a whole different kettle of fish, though. This article is not necessarily going to be much help to people who want to give up everything to become a full-time traveler. I have never been a real hard-core nomad, so I have no first-hand experience in what it takes to become one.

If that is the type of information you are looking for, however, there are excellent sites out there I can recommend. Nomadic Matt, for instance, is an excellent resource for future nomads, and so is I am Aileen, or (in my opinion to a little lesser extent, as one of the things he focuses on is travel photography) the Expert Vagabond. They will be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to giving up everything at home and traveling the world for months or even years at a time.

But let’s say full-time travel is not what you have in mind. Instead, you have decided that a long weekend, a week or two or maybe a month will satisfy your current thirst for travel nicely. And you have found a dream destination that will be possible with that time frame. This will then bring us to question number 4:

4) Which type of travel will you enjoy the most?

Let’s back up a bit for this answer. What do I mean by “type of travel” and what are your options here? For some people, there is only one “type” when it comes to traveling: they go to the travel agent of their choosing and have them pick out a suitable vacationing package – complete with transportation, accommodation, and activities on site.

One example of a typical travel package they might propose is a cruise. On a cruise, there is a bus picking you up from your home, or a flight to the port from where the cruise ship leaves. You will have a cabin on the vessel – dark, dank and too small to swing a cat in if you are on a budget, or with a tiny porthole and vast enough to now swing a medium-sized dog in if you went for the “super-deluxe cabin” and blew all your life’s savings in the process. The ship has all-you-can-eat buffets that will entice you to eat your weight in cafeteria-style food and ply you with “local beers and wines” and soft drinks on the house. The activities will consist of tours that (for a pretty penny) can be booked as extra packages on top of the arm and leg you are being charged for this once-in-a-lifetime cruise experience. They will mean being loaded into a van or coach along with all the people you’ve been stuck on the boat for the duration of your trip and cart you out to the sights. From the harbor where the cruise ships are moored, it usually takes a couple of hours to the attraction. There, one of the young people working on the cruise ship will give you background information on the sight you are marveling at – all in your native language and pre-packaged for easier consumption. After, maybe, a stop at a souvenir shop for the requisite trinket to bring home, you are back on your way to the floating hotel, where the cycle repeats itself in the next port.

With this type of travel, everything up to getting you home safely is taken care of by the travel company. Like an all-inclusive vacation, which is another favorite travel option I see people choose, because it is safer in their eyes, or they just plain don’t know that there are other “types of travel” out there they could be choosing instead.

As you might have guessed from my description, these are NOT the travel modes I choose when I set out. Why you ask? I find them bland and uninspiring. Yes, with a cruise, you might get to see 10 destinations in 15 days. But what do you really see there? The boat, the ocean, the van/coach, and then a 7-eleven version of the destination you visit – convenient, sure, but also dull and almost lifeless.

Not so with other modes of travel. When you go on a self-planned travel adventure, the world is your oyster. You can go anywhere, do anything and have all sorts of experiences that are authentic and uniquely yours, not pre-determined by someone else.

For a self-planned trip, your transportation options are a lot more varied than with an organized travel group. You can walk, Segway, hike, run, take public transport (from convenient transportation modes like the subway or bus to sometimes fun and exciting ones like a double-decker tram or a ferry), drive yourself, have others drive you (such as in a taxi, tuk-tuk or pedicab), hitchhike, fly – the sky is the limit, here.

I like to split transportation modes into two groups: “getting there,” and “getting around.” For the “getting there” portion, your means of transportation mostly depends on the size of your wallet, the time you have available, and the distance needed. For the “getting around” bit, it will mainly depend on your personal preferences (and probably also a tiny bit on your budget).

This sort of independent travel takes a bit more courage than an all-inclusive resort stay or a cruise. But – if you ask me, and seeing as you are reading my guide, I’ll just assume you did – so much more rewarding that there is really no comparison. Being well prepared for it, though, makes it a lot less scary and infinitely more manageable. So, if you are ready to brave the quest a self-planned, independent journey represents, check out my Resources page or go to Start Here.

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