I love to daydream about destinations and have a long list of places that I'll see 'someday.' In today's guest post, Shanna Schultz gives some practical tips for making your travel dreams a reality.
Where in the world do you want to travel? Do you have dream destinations on your bucket list? What is stopping you from getting to those places? Time? Money? Kids? Friends and family are frequently amazed (or sometimes exasperated) with how many places we have been to. I frequently hear, "That's really great that you are going to [insert location]...I would love to go there someday."
This is usually followed by some reason that they are unable to travel: "but it would be too hard with the kids, maybe when they're older, I don't have the vacation time, I don't have the money."
Travel doesn't just happen. One very rarely just has a pile of money or time sitting to apply towards knocking one of those trips off the bucket list. So, what do we do differently than the majority of other people out there making excuses for why they can't go places?
Travel is a priority in our lives.
What does making travel a priority mean in our daily lives? It takes diligence and sacrifice. We don't eat out. We shop at the thrift store. We don't travel like most people, we travel cheaply so that we can go to more places.
There are many things that you can do to make travel a priority in your life so that you can make some of those bucket list trips a reality instead of just a far away dream.
Other than the practical tips below, the most important advice that I can give you is to dream big and look for outside of the box ways to make your travel dreams happen. Instead of saying "I want to go, but I can't go there until X, Y and Z happen," look for solutions to the roadblocks that are stopping you from going.
I can't imagine our lives without travel. It is our escape and it feeds my imagination and my soul in ways so profound and deep that I have a hard time putting them into words. I wish that I could share that with the world (and in many ways, this desire to share is what made my blog come into being). You CAN travel to see the places that you want to see in your life. It will take some planning and some rearranging of your priorities to make your travel dreams a reality, but you can do it!
Relish the Planning
So maybe you have a few years of saving before you can go on one of your bucket list trips. Savor the planning. Clip photos out of magazines and make collages out of them. Read and participate in blogs about your destination. Cut clippings out of magazines and absolutely make the most out of your planning time. The planning and anticipation are half the fun, and your trip will be here before you know it!
When times get rough and my butt is dragging through another day at work, I pull out my mental file that I keep for upcoming trips and it makes those little road bumps in my day easier to handle.
Shift Your Target
If you are on a tight travel budget, heading to a place like London, Paris or Italy might not be the best choice for you (don't get me wrong, these places CAN be done on a budget, but it takes more planning and preparation).
There are a lot of other great places in the world that are just as beautiful and inspiring, more authentic, less touristy and sometimes most importantly CHEAPER.
Italy might not be in the cards, but what about Croatia? I have been told that Croatia is beautiful, and it will definitely be cheaper and much less crowded than Rome. It has much of the same scenery, great Roman runs and the same great Mediterranean climate.
Maybe Tokyo is out of your budget, but what about Thailand?
Paris is great, but not necessarily for someone on a budget. Perhaps you could fly into Paris and stay for a day or two to see the highlights, then head out of the city into the French countryside where lodging and food will be within your budget.
I know what it's like to have one's heart set on a specific destination but what I often find is that when I start to look into a different place, it doesn't take long before I am just as excited about the offerings of the new place as a I was about the old one.
Save, Save, Save!
Traveling is not without its sacrifices and even budget travel requires funding. Take those extra funds that you were using for fancy coffee, cable TV, movies and dining out and put them in your travel fund (this is the part where you have to make a decision about where your priorities lie.) Arrange for a pre-set amount of money to come out of each check and go into a travel savings account. It really is easier to save this way. When the money never actually gets into your hands, you barely notice that it's missing.
Combine Work and Travel
I know that this isn't an option for everybody, but if you are at a flexible place in your career right now (or are maybe without a job, like so many other people at the moment) perhaps you can combine your work and travel dreams so that they can coexist happily?
There are many options for working while you travel. While these will vary with the location that you are going to, there are many opportunities for work in other countries (please research and find out what the requirements are to work in the country that you are considering). I have heard of many travelers funding their travels by teaching English, becoming a nanny, being a care taker, etc.
Get A Part-time Job In the Travel Industry
If you have the flexibility, a part time job at a hotel, car rental company or airline is an awesome way to save money if you travel frequently. I work in two of the three so our costs on hotel and airfare are greatly reduced and we get to stay at some really swanky hotels every now and again. This makes up for the times we stay in murky places to save money. Working a couple of days a week will also get you some extra cash to set aside for your trip while saving you money while you're on the road.
Travel On the Cheap
If we traveled like the majority of people travel, we wouldn't be able to afford to go to nearly as many places as we have. These are some of the ways that we save money while traveling:
- Instead of staying at a big hotel or resort, sometimes we stay at hostels or small family-run bed and breakfast type places. As a bonus, when we do stay in these places, we feel like we are getting a warmer and more authentic experience. I also work for a major hotel chain so I get pretty good discounts on hotel rooms. We stay in a lot of those, too.
- We eat a lot of inexpensive street food.
- We go to the grocery store and buy ingredients to make our own food or for a picnic lunch.
- We are very selective about where our sightseeing dollars are spent. We don't mind splurging on something great, but we read reviews and listen to what other travelers have said before jumping in. In Paris, instead of spending a chunk of money and a big part of our day going up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, we viewed it from afar instead and spent the day going to Sacre Couer and seeing the view of Paris from there for free.
- We don't pay to go on a lot of tours.
- We generally get around using the local public transportation.
- We don't buy a lot of kitschy souvenirs, preferring the experience instead.
These are all things that save you big money when you travel, give you a more real experience and help you to save more money for your next trip. Please, go after your travel dreams. Do not let them slip away. Start planning to check some of those places off of your list!
Bio: Shanna Schultz is a travel writer as well as a travel professional in the airline and hotel industries, and writes the There and Back Again blog. She lives in Lonsdale, MN and enjoys cooking and gardening. Her favorite places to travel to are Scotland and France. Find Shanna on Facebook and Google+.
Great advice. I’ve made travel one of my highest priorities for several years now, and it’s so much nicer to spend money on that instead of expensive clothes or shoes.
I agree. When I get to the end of my life, I would much rather look back on some amazing memories than look at how much stuff I have accumulated! Kudos to you for living your dreams!
So good to meet Shanna. She has some wonderful insights! I agree with Sophie. When people tell me they wish they could travel, I just smile and consider it pleasantries. Because if they wanted to, they would! That said, my mom said the same thing for decades as she raised us kids — and now she’s a globe-trotting jet-setter! Maybe people are just waiting for the timing to be right.
Thanks for the thoughtful reply! I almost feel sometimes that when I talk about all of the places that we go, some people just can’t relate (like it almost alienates us, in a way), so I have learned to be careful about who I talk in depth with about our travels, to avoid that awkward moment. People do talk a lot about where they would like to go, but without a lot of follow through. Maybe they are thinking that they will get around to it someday, or when the kids are gone, or when they are retired, but… Read more »
Great post and tips, thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading! I am glad you enjoyed it.
Love this post — the toughest thing in this economy is definitely that a lot of people cannot even get steady work to save and be able to afford travel. I’m doing some creative thinking on this myself, because it’s a really interesting (and kinda depressing) phenomenon that affects a lot of folks. If you’ve got any thoughts on this, please send ’em my way!
This might not be an option for everybody, but when I decided that I needed to find a way to travel more, I got a part time job in the airline industry. When I say that I work for an airline, people automatically think “Flight Attendant”. There are a lot of jobs with an airline that don’t require being away from home so much (customer service, reservations, etc.) The airlines are hard to get into right now, but someone that is persistent should be able to get a job with an airline eventually. I also work park time for a… Read more »
I wonder if some of those who find excuses not to travel, simply don’t want to, but can’t admit it. Imagine it would be tough (and probably politically incorrect) to say straight you’re not interested in travelling, experiencing other cultures, etc.
Great comment! I completely agree with you about this. Travel can be difficult and frustrating at times, and it can definitely take you outside of your comfort zone. There should be nothing wrong with admitting that it just isn’t your thing (and that you prefer to do other things with your time and money), but there is a lot of social pressure to want to travel (and I think people are stereotyped as somewhat ignorant for just want to stay close to home.)