When I first went away in 2006, people told me they wished they could do what I was doing. For some people, it is easy to just jump ship and travel. We have it in us all along and we just need a gentle nudge to actually do it. For me, all it took was a trip to Thailand and a bit of jealousy towards some backpacker before I was quitting my job to travel. For others, though, it is a lot harder. They are more tied down, more afraid, more uncertain. They want to do it, but, instead of the nudge I needed, they need a full-on push. After all, fear is a powerful force.
So what keeps people back?
“I have too many responsibilities.” This is the biggest excuse people give for not traveling. But when you leave, you have no responsibilities. Bills disappear, car payments go away, and errands you have to run become non-existent. It is often said that the more stuff we own, the more our stuff owns us. The modern world creates a lot of baggage that ties us to society’s approved path. But once you make the decision to go, you’ll find that all those bonds quickly disappear and those responsibilities vanish. The only responsibilities I have are the ones I create for myself; the only bills I have are those of my everyday needs. Once you come back, you’ll also realize you can do with less.
“I don’t have the money.” People are always under the illusion that travel is expensive. It’s not. There’s a plethora of ways to travel cheap. I traveled the world for about $40 a day. You can backpack Asia on $20 a day. Same with Central America. Europe can be expensive, but if you Couchsurf and limit your restaurant dining, you can do it on $40 dollars a day. I’ve heard of people who do it on less. Travel is not expensive, you just need to make it a financial priority. We regret the things we didn’t do. If you want to travel, use that money now – you can’t take it with you when you die.
“I won’t gain any skills.” People think traveling is a luxurious holiday – it’s all fun and games in their mind. They think taking time off from their “real world” jobs won’t advance their careers or give them any marketable skills. NOT TRUE!!! Travel can be work. Landing in an unknown country and finding your way takes talent. In fact, there are a lot of skills you gain while traveling:
- Negotiation. Ever try talking down a vendor in India or Asia to a reasonable price? That takes skills. You need to know what they want and what you want in order to come to an agreement. Bartering and haggling on everything from hotel rooms to bus tickets to goods requires the ability to artfully negotiate. You need to know when to push more, settle, and walk away. Negotiating is a skill you can take right into any boardroom.
- People Skills/Networking. You walk into the room at a hostel and there are twenty people chatting and having fun. Then there’s you. You can either go break into that group or sit by yourself. What do you do? Travel forces you to develop people skills so you can meet new people and socialize with them. You learn to be comfortable enough to talk to anyone and introduce yourself to anonymous strangers. The most sociable people end up at the top.
- Adaptability. Travel teaches you how to adapt to sudden and unknown changes in situations. It teaches you how to be versatile. In the business world, you adapt or perish. This is just another skill you can use!
- Cultural Awareness. In today’s globalized world, it is important to know and understand other cultures. Traveling exposes you to cultures and people of the world. You gain insights into how people do things. Back in the “real world,” that skill becomes hugely important as companies from around the world interact with each other. If you’re the only person who has been to China when it comes time to work with a Chinese company, you’ll likely be picked to work on that project.
Those are just four skills you pick up traveling. Traveling isn’t a career break, it’s a way to harness those soft skills you can’t learn in school. You know, the ones that truly matter at the end of the day. Companies can teach you systems and best practices, but they can’t teach you these skills. You learn these yourself and, when you come back, you can also put them on your resume!
“The world isn’t safe.” Despite what CNN and FOX News might say, the world is safe. People aren’t killing each other in the streets. Everyone around the world wants what you want. They have jobs, families, and things to do. They want their kids to be safe, earn enough money, and be allowed to live life. You are not their priority. Moreover, American cities don’t even rank in the top ten of the world’s safest. I believe the safest American city is somewhere around the 40th-safest in the world. People aren’t going to terrorize you for being American. Travelers from all corners of the globe are crisscrossing it at any moment without any problems. As long as you use street smarts to avoid dodgy situations (just like you would back home), you’ll be fine.
How to stay motivated
Now that you’ve seen that most of your fears are unwarranted when you think about them, there are a few ways to keep yourself motivated to get out on the road. Here are five simple things to keep yourself motivated and thinking about travel:
Watch the Travel Channel. There’s good programming on 24/7 that will keep you dreaming of destinations around the world. I watch it a lot when I am home. It’s full of great tips, advice, and ideas for future trips. Seeing other people there will make you want to be there, too. I especially love Man vs. Food and Anthony Bourdain.
Research places to go. Keep looking up places you want to go visit and eventually you’ll get there. I’m always looking up places online, reading news from overseas, and just getting to know the world because the more I hear about places, the more I want to visit them.
Read travel blogs. There are lots of travel blogs out there. Read sites like mine to stay motivated. I read a ton of blogs, and they all keep me interested in traveling. Reading the adventures of other travelers can show you that it is easier to travel than you thought, give you advice and tips on the art of travel, and teach you about places you’ve never heard of. One day you’ll get sick of living vicariously through others, and you’ll go out and create your own travel stories.
Buy a guidebook. Planning your next trip and looking through guidebooks will keep you wishing, dreaming, and making your trip closer to reality. Even if you don’t go to all the destinations, at least you are keeping the idea of a trip in your mind and staying focused on that. Just keeping it in the forefront of your thoughts is half the battle.
Learn a language. Join a language class and pick up a language you might use on the road. Once you’ve learned the language, you’ll hate to waste your new skill. And the only way to not do that is to travel to where they speak it!!
The fears people have about traveling are unfounded. Once you get over your fears, there’s nothing holding you back from traveling. Once you make the decision to go, there are a lot of ways to keep yourself motivated.
As you slowly shed your baggage, you’ll have doubts. People will try to talk you out of it, and you’ll wonder if you can do it. Change like this can be scary, and people naturally get nervous. But, by keeping travel in your mind, you’ll keep yourself motivated and stay on the path to breaking free from the cubicle. Because the more we think about something, the more we want it and the more we do to make it happen.