Alright everyone. Gather round, take a seat. It’s time I sat you all down and had a chat with you about what it REALLY takes to get out there and get moving. I have touched on a few misconceptions about travel and how I personally infuse travel into my own life in a recent article. However, I am not you. You are not me. We are all unique in our lifestyles, jobs, relationships, and situations. This list is not exhaustive, I will always have more to say…
1. “I don’t know where to start.” Let your destination choose you. That’s right. You don’t need to come up with the coolest place to go, look no further than your own realm of relationships. Remember your good friend from college, who moved to a distant place with the suggestion that “anyone should come visit”? Open your eyes and your heart. I just returned from a two month stint in Costa Rica, for a dear friend’s wedding. It just so happened that I padded the wedding with two months on either side, surfing, adventuring and playing with monkeys.
2. Take charge of your financial freedom. Sign up for Mint. It’s basically your own financial advisor, without all that judgement and embarrassment of dealing with real humans. Mint compiles a comprehensive guide to your personal spending, monthly and yearly budgets, and a link to your credit cards, debit cards, phone bills, and (eh-hem) student loans. You can set up different funds for “goals”. Mine includes Thailand, Emergency health, and World Travel. The goal settings in Mint are incredibly detailed, breaking down any possible cost and putting just a tad bit of cash in them every month. Never look at your checkbook again.
3. Learn how to find cheap flights. I could write an essay on this topic alone, so I will be as concise as possible. Do NOT look for flights on the weekends, imagine the rest of the world, planning to escape… when is the most convenient time to look for those flights? That’s right. On the weekends. Flight search engines and airline companies alike raise and lower prices weekly, daily and even hourly. Start your research at odd times, search often, search diligently. Search flights like it’s the most important thing you’re doing at the moment. Oftentimes you can compare prices from SkyScanner, Kayak, Orbitz, CheapOAir, StudentAir or another search engine and find discrepancies with company airline sites like American Airlines, Delta and JetBlue. The few minutes it takes you to call a representative could save you hundreds of dollars.
4. Fly at odd times on odd days. I know this is a tough one for all of those 9-5ers out there, but if you can figure out a way to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you can save yourself some serious cash. When using certain search engines you can click a more advanced search option, usually called “flexible dates” or “search 3+/3-“… let the numbers do the talking. You’ll see a dramatic spike in prices from Thursday-Sunday.
5. Instead of fixating on your next raise or bonus, how about you start negotiating for more time off, not more money? What are you going to do with the money anyway? Buy the next new iPhone? Or would you rather buy a ticket down to the Caribbean and spend a week paddle-boarding with dolphins. I know my choice.
6. Reach outside your comfort zone. Traveling out of your little bubble of a life will be challenging. You will be frustrated. You will be tired. Unfamiliarity seems to really get under our skin… my advice? Get over it. Relax. Take a few breaths, realize that you are NOT home, you are NOT in your home country and you are NOT in control most of the time. This is shocking to most, as I’ve seen perfectly capable and stable people crumble to the ground at the first mention of a late-arriving train or flight. Chill out please. It’s all in the journey isn’t it?
7. “I don’t have time off.” See number 5. We all have time off. Perhaps you have a secret stash of days off? Or Maybe you’re a slave to your career… if you are… you shouldn’t read more of this list.
8. “If I ask for time off, I’ll get fired.” Really? Are you that invaluable or do you just assume? If you get fired at the drop of a question, then I suggest asking for time off. If you don’t hold enough value there, do you really want to work there?
9. Be honest with yourself. Do you have a weekend or weeks to spare? Get used to the idea that “travel” can happen in your state or country. I do hate the word “stay-cation” but the idea is great. Check out websites like Gidsy, where locals host their own free (or nominally priced) activities in their own states and cities. Sure, there are busts, but with a 24-hour window for sing-ups the duds get weeded out by the creators pretty quickly.
10. Do your research. Bookmark travel websites, blogs, anything that will help you with your goal. The New York Times Travel section usually highlights some wonderful websites and tools. The most valuable information lies at your fingertips. You no longer need to peruse the travel section of the bookstore or interview your worldly aunt. The internet has a wealth of information, in case you weren’t aware. The FrugalTraveler section of the Times says it best: research is the traveler’s best friend.
11. “I don’t have anyone to travel with.” So WHAT! Go it alone. You have two feet and a brain don’t you? Have we all forgotten how to interact with strangers? Traveling alone is one of the most incredible experiences you can throw yourself in to. It will be good for you, I promise. Curse me later when you’re talking to yourself in a hotel room, but I swear, good will come from it. See number 6 and this article about getting your head out of your
ass. I mean.. book.
My favorite resources for budgeting, flights, and general planning have always been other travel bloggers. My bookmarks include: Matt of ExpertVagabond, David Lee of GoBackPacking, Jodi of LegalNomads and Matt of NomadicMatt. What better resources, than people who are out there, doing exactly what you are strive to do? I could list one hundred more incredible travel blogs and resources, but that’s for another time.