Every time I visit a travel blog or any site about world travel it seems to be the same thing. An adventurer sitting on a beach in Antarctica or riding a camel in the rain forest. They seem to jump from one exotic location to the next, carefree with only backpack, a laptop, and a hacky sack. These people are professional travelers, some make a ton of money, some sleep at hostels or on camp grounds. One thing these writers have in common, they have us dreaming of a life where we wander free from one adventure to the next. What about world travel for the rest of us, those who are tied to one place living a “normal life”?
Most of us can’t spend our days on the beaches of Vietnam writing, we have normal (possibly soul sucking) jobs and responsibilities. Depending on your circumstances you may have a family, bills, mortgage or a million other responsibilities that keep you grounded. So, I ask myself is it possible to be a world traveler while holding down the “standard” life? I feel strongly that if you desire it, world travel is possible for anyone, no matter their time constraint, fiscal constraints or other obligations.
I am a travel blogger (apparently), yet I have a normal life, wife, home, office job etc. Up until five years ago I really didn’t leave the country as an adult. This all changed when I had come to the realization that I was letting my life fly by. So, I made a decision (with some coaxing from my wife) to see the world. In the last five years, I have visited close to 20 countries and I traveled well. I usually hit 3-5 new countries a year. This combined with many shorter trips exploring my own country, the United States.
I know that is nothing compared to Joe the camel rider, but it shows world travel is possible if you put your mind to it. I will describe the keys to world travel when you have other obligations. First there are some good things to not living a completely nomadic life.
Benefits of Being a Part Time World Traveler
1) You can reset physically: If I travelled full time I would be so obese I would need a rascal within 3 months. When I travel I treat my body like an old tire. I eat like crap, drink like a fish and I don’t rest well. My health would be nonexistent if I was a full-time traveler. Some might say, “well you wouldn’t eat like that all the time”. To those people I respond, you have no idea how little self-control I have. If it is new, I am eating (or drinking) it. Being home lets me get my diet back in order.
2) You can reset Financially: No need for me to get eaten by fleas in a hostel, I am staying at the Intercontinental or Sofitel. Not travelling ALL the time helps me save more so I can really enjoy the trips when I do get away. I don’t think twice about spending money on a blowout meal when I am away, because I have been saving for it.
3) You get to have a sense of home: Friends, home, family (if you’re into that) can all be yours. World travel doesn’t have to be a choice between experiencing different cultures and having a home life. You can have both, which I will demonstrate.
4) A sense of anticipation: One of my favorite things about travelling is the anticipation of the trip. Leaving the grind behind and getting ready for an adventure is an enjoyable part of going away. I can’t speak from experience, but I feel those that travel nonstop must lose some of the thrill. I love turkey (the food) for example, I look forward to Thanksgiving every year with excitement in anticipation of eating pounds of it. If every day was Thanksgiving, I don’t think my turkey cravings would last.
This is all great but how can a normal person become a world traveler? World Travel might seem out of reach, for the 9 to 5ers, but it is possible. The main thing to do is manage your most import resources: that is money and time.
Commitment to World Travel
1) Commit to travel– This seems like a no brainer, but it surprised me how many people say one thing and do another. One blog I like, Nomadic Matt, describes this situation perfectly in this article . It describes a girl who wanted to go to Ireland, but who he believes will never make it there. What is funny, I hear this story a lot. I work with someone who is probably in her late 50’s that told me she has always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon. To that I reply, no you don’t (not to her face). I understand money and time are an issue, but if you truly committed to driving to the Grand Canyon, you would easily have gotten there.
Tip #1 Commit to world travel or stop talking about it.
2) Get Your Passport: I hope most people who wish to see the world have a passport, but I am always surprised about all those that don’t. If you are one of them, stop reading and get your passport, I’ll wait. Good, you’re listening to me or not… I’ll just pretend you are. If you don’t have a passport expect to spend the next 5 years watching Anthony Bourdain wondering how much fun travel is.
Tip #2: Get the tools you need, starting with your passport.
Managing your Resources: Time
Set Priorities: I don’t have time to travel is a B.S excuse for most people. The average person watches an average of 77 days of television a year. Of course, you can’t fly to Europe for 4 hours at a time, but it does demonstrate a point. People waste their most valuable resource, time. You can find a couple of days to piece together to at least get a 5-day weekend now and again. Even if you can’t spend two weeks in Asia, you get a 8 hour flight to Ireland and spend four days there. Use that TV time to get caught up at work to free up your days. I am sure ABC & HBO won’t miss you for a couple of nights.
Tip # 3: Use your time wisely
Take Your Vacation: I read somewhere that the Americans let 658 million vacation days go to waste. The idea of my company getting one more hour of my time than what they pay me for makes me cringe. If you’re letting your vacation go to waste, you need a wakeup call. Why the hell would you let time off you’re entitled to disappear? Do you think the company or stockholders will leave you in their will if you work more than you need to? You will not get a pat on the back, you most likely won’t even get a thank you if you waste your paid time off.
Also, don’t give me this “I have too much work to do” garbage. I don’t know you, but I know you won’t remember that useless spreadsheet or pointless meeting in 5 years. But you will remember the week in South Africa or the trip to a Greek Island.
Tip # 4….I repeat, Take your damn Vacation.
Don’t Play it safe: I like Vegas (I don’t love it, but it is ok) I also like the Bahamas. If I only had a week and a half, I’m not going to Vegas or the Bahamas. I am going to Prague or Costa Rica or any of the number of places that have a wow factor. Everyone I ever talk to about travel think they are living it up by going to Vegas. To me it is somewhat boring, commercialized and expensive. You can get to Rome for the price of a good hotel and airfare to Vegas. You will also save $5000 in gambling fees.
Tip # 5 Mix it up
Managing Your Number #2 Resource Money
Take care of the Basics: One of the biggest reasons people give for not being able to travel is money. I understand everyone situation is different, but most people have their priorities out of whack. If becoming a world traveler is really more than a pipe dream then it is time to get your spending priorities in order. I can (and eventually will) discuss all the ways to save money, use credit card points and come up with deals to travel cheaply.
Unfortunately, none of these mean anything if your financial house isn’t stable. Look at where your money is truly going, do you have a $250 cable bill? Are you going out with your friends three times a week? I assure you those Jalapeno poppers at AppleBees are not going to create the memory that a trip to Cuba will create. Although, eating at Applebees does create its own horrific experience that can be remembered for a lifetime. The point is if possible, cut out the unimportant to make room for world travel.
Tip#6 Spend Carefully
Get a part time Job: This might sound like obvious advice and may be easier said than done, but it circles back to what I mentioned about time management. Since you already cancelled cable, you aren’t wasting time watching Nickatnight reruns, so you might as well put that time to good use. Uber driver comes to mind, but there are ways to earn a little extra at home if you have kids to watch or other obligations at home. Freelance writing a couple of hours a night can bring in a little something, and it only takes a little a night to build a nice world traveler fund.
Tip #7 Get a Part Time Job to Start a World Travel account
Be Flexible and Persistent: I usually have at least 5 places in mind when planning my next trip. I then get obsessive, searching for the best deals night and day. I get a better chance of scoring a great deal, given my flexibility. This is how I was able to get two round trip tickets to Istanbul ,along with a 5 star hotel for less than $1500. I am guessing that a near civil war and a pending vote to hire a dictator didn’t hurt my chances of getting a deal, but I digress. Deals are out there, one-day airline tickets will be $500, the next day $1000 and back and forth. If you are looking at a bunch of spots, you’ll find something you can afford.
Tip #8 Vary Your Destination
Knock out two (or more) countries in one shot: I try to schedule at least a day layover in different country when I go away. This way at least I can check off a lot more places. It also saves a ton on airfare. Some might say you can’t really experience a country in a 20 hour layover and that is fair. If you plan right and never stop moving, you can see a lot of the biggest things. Even better you get a feel for a place you may want to spend more time in further down the road.
Tip #9 Plan multiple destinations
These are just some basic tips to hopefully inspire you to start (or continue) your traveling journey. Once you get over the fear and mystery of travel you can make a commitment to do so. If you are anything like me your first trip overseas, it will be like a hit of crack (I assume) …you’ll always want more. All you will be able to think about while wasting away in the office is finding your way back to another destination. Or, on the flipside, you can look back when you’re 75 and say, I always wanted to go to (fill in the blank).
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