Motivating Yourself to Travel

By Nomadic Matt | Published June 30th, 2008

Motivate yourself to be fearless 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.

comments 30 Comments

Matt-

Great article… so full of actionable tips. It’s hard for me to imagine not living a peripatetic life, but I know people who have precisely this kind of fear, and your article gives them most of the tools they need to get off the couch or out of the cubicle and get moving!

And sometimes the best thing to do is to just pack up and go. Even if it’s only for a weekend and you find a last minute deal; that’s the way to experience travel and realize it’s realize not as hard as you think it is.

Peter Quinn

Hi. I am a long time reader. I wanted to say that I like your blog and the layout.

Peter Quinn

NP

Great article! And very true. I am already following all the steps in your article to keep myself motivated during the saving and planning stage. I’ve always dream about traveling and reading these blogs and watching the travel channel definitely makes me jealous and wish I could be where these people are. It’s also give me a lot of motivation to keep planning and saving for it so that I can get out there.

Once you’re on the road the old excuses seem silly, but explaining them to family back home when you’ve decided to extend a trip is difficult.

The travel channel was a huge motivator for me, but then the local cable company back home turned it off in exchange for a education-less cartoon channel.

Reading travel blogs became my motivator and thats why I decided to start one of my own. I hope it inspires even just one person to set out on a journey.

Really good stuff Matt.

With some practical advice as well which is key.

Well thought article. Travel is simply one of the best forms of educations around – it broadens the mind, its offers experiences you simply can’t get at home, you make great new friends and you gaina first hand understanding of what makes the world what it is.

To add to Matt’s list (and I certainly encourage reading blogs and books), I think a globe or a map of the world in a visible position is a great and simple reminder of how much we can explore out there.

woody

Hi, you have some great posts and images there… I am surely inspired to travel now.

NomadicMatt

@peter: Glad you enjoy the blog!!

@everyone: Not enough time to comment individually but just want to say thank you for the positive feedback and opinions!

I think financial priority is a big one. Everyone always asks how I can afford to travel, but they just have to look at how often they buy books, clothes, cds, and nights out and you can quickly see why I can afford it and they cant.

matt, this is your absolute best post ever! i thank you for providing me your motivation. i’m about to graduate from college, so it’s really nice to hear that someone not much older can afford to do this. :) thank you again!

Sam

Do you just save up all your money then quit your job for a month or so and hit the road then come back and go back to work?

NomadicMatt

@Sherrie: Yes! Once you cut out those 4 dollar starbucks coffees, you can save quit a bit!!!

@Sam: I worked and save before I went and now I work and travel and work and travel…(etc etc)

Great post.

Mark H’s idea about the map is so true – there is a gigantic one right behind the screen of my computer and I have a million white pins that represent places I have not been.

The only thing financial thing I can’t seem to get rid of is college loans, but to Eliabeth’s point, even just taking the smaller trips is enough to hold you over.

You are so right! So many people just postpone their travels until they are retired when they are too old to really maximize the experience! Stop procrastinating and just GO!

Great post, everyone (at least the ones in the rich parts of the world like Europe and North America can travel if they prioritise it. And very true that material possessions tie you down, I have certainly held off buying that ps3 and big-ass LCD tv as I know I am about to become a ‘global nomad’. Just do it.

A small bit of inspiration – a list of 30+ families taking the plunge with RTW travel…

http://thewidewideworld.com/2008/06/25/comings-and-goings/

It’s strange but true. Having lived “on the road” for so long it’s hard to remember these feelings, but I guess I must have felt some trepidation at some point.

Dave Prine posted a great article on our site about how to stay motivated after travelling: Keeping the dream alive. There’s a lot of cross-over but I think you both make some great points.

I love your site. :) Love design!!! I just came across your blog and wanted to say that I?ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. Sign: ndsam

sandrar

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

Couldn’t have said it better. Traveling shouldn’t be just far off fantasy. And those that are afraid can refer to people like yourself who have done it. Great site and hope your success continues!

Fernanda

Hi Matt,
great post!! You mentioned that you read a lot of travel blogs. Could you share which are the ones you enjoy the most? I am looking for recommendations of other travel blogs I should be reading. Thanks!!!

Cheers from Seattle,
Fernanda

Great read Matt. Agree with you and also Mark H that travel truly broadens the mind and we are firm believers of that for us and for our daughter. Gearing up for our relocation to Thailand so we can do more slow travel in Asia. Let us know if you are heading back to Thailand- would be nice to meet up.

Happy New Year!

Melanie

It is so true that people try to discourage you as soon as you have made the decision (while others emphatically encourage you!) I took a few substantial trips about five years ago but stopped for school… now I’m getting back on the road again this fall and I’m nervous/excited/afraid/totally convinced it’s going to be way more awesome than anything.

They key is really getting up and going. At first it can be daunting, but once you know you are committed, it is easy to embrace the lifestyle.

NomadicMatt

It’s the first step that is always the hardest.

*“I don’t have the money.”*

Yep, I hear that one. People say this to me. Okay maybe their other reasons are valid, but money? Oh pleeease!

When people ask me, “Well how much do you make?” (Thinking, it’ll be a really high figure) I tell them quite simply: $2,000

“A month?” they shriek, “That’s way more than I make!”

No. A year. I make $164 a month.

“Wait, a year? That’s like $5 a day. You’re joking. How can you survive on that?”

No, that’s $5.47 a day to be exact. And look at how I live: a motorhome, a tent, a car, no electricity, no toilet, no running water (in other words no utility bills), no rent, no mortage, I get up with the sun, sleep with the stars (thus no need for lights), I cook over a fire, I do more walking than driving, I travel in a small area (rarely leaving Maine, never leaving New England), I spend a large space of my time on the beach or hiking in the forest, the only thing I ever buy is food for me, food for my cats, and gas for the car and motorhome, the motorhome is parked most of the year, most travel is down in my car, and once I get where I’m going I park the car and walk everywhere. Uhm…please explain to me why it is I NEED more than $2,000 a year to travel?

They just stand there flabergasted and speechless.

Now granted if I was driving more and walking less, or going overseas (thus needing air fare) or eating at resturants or buying things, yes, I’d need more money to live on, but the fact is, those things are NOT a part of my life, so I don’t need more money than $5 to travel.

Staying in a small local like I do, means I’ve seen more of the area than any tourists or locals do. I’ve been in every city/town in Maine, I’ve seen ever cove, every beach, every mountain, etc. I’ve visited most of the town museums, been to all the “tourist attractions”, attended tons of fairs and festivals. Sure I’m not “seeing the world”, but than again, that’s not what I wanted to do, I wanted to see every single inch of the State of Maine.

I think when people think they want to travel, often times they are not motivated because they are not really sure where it is they want to go or what they want to see, or they think they HAVE to go every where and see everything, either way it fizzles their motivation so they look for excuses why they can’t go – like money. If it’s too hard to take a trip across the ocean, why not start small and take a trip across the town? Work your way up to farther away places a little at a time. No one said you had to start out big.

I’m all too familiar with the questions people ask me about going off travelling….I even get that look that suggests I should be settling down, building up a career and buying a house but in reality, that stuff doesnt bother me! I’m happy to go out and experience the world and build up my skills and knowledge that way than sat behind a desk working 9-5. I set up my website travelmotivation.co.uk to help motivate people to go out and persue their dreams and make them into a reality as too many people just leave them as dreams that are unachievable. You have some excellent advice on this article and I’m glad other people feel the same as I do to share their knowledge and experience to get others to do the same!

Thanks

Sandra
travelmotivation.co.uk

Liz

I wanna travel around the world, my husband is terrified of not “knowing” enough and would travel with experienced people. We are in our 50′s retired and able to travel with being gone half the year for 2014 from our home but traveling very expensive because he won’t roam as I would. It would be nice to get travel partners that could help us along the way. Perhaps that is what I can include in my website I am attempting to get started with host gator that you suggested.

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