7 Ways to Stay Motivated to Travel

how to stay motivated to travelA motivated person can achieve anything they set their mind to. But how does one stay motivated, especially to travel, when you are busy working and living life while your family and friends disparage your ideas, you’re overwhelmed planning your trip, or maybe you’re just burnt out from being on the road?

Motivation is not an unlimited wellspring but a battery that has to be kept fully charged. While the idea of travel is always inspiring, sometimes life gets in the way and then suddenly, your eyes are no longer on the prize. I’ve had my share of ups and downs. My trip to Iceland has been years in the making. I always talk about it but it kept getting delayed because “stuff came up.” It wasn’t until I finally said “enough” and booked my ticket right there that the trip became a reality. Years ago, burnt out, I went to Cambodia to recharge my batteries. I stayed in one place, watching movies and reading books. Alone. It was relaxing and one day I woke up and said “I’m ready to go again.”

It’s important to find ways to stay motivated, and today, I wanted to share a few tips on staying motivated:

Hold yourself accountable – The best thing you can do to stay focused is to be held accountable. Being accountable to others will help make sure that you don’t fall off the wagon. They will help keep you focused on your goal and the social pressure to stay on track will provide some extra motivation to follow through. Whether that is betting money, having someone check in on you, keeping track of goals, or having someone help you plan, just being held accountable will force you to stay focused, even on those days you don’t feel like it!

We have a great group of people on the community forums that can help cheer you on towards your goals. Or use an anti-charity like Stickk, which will donate money to your most hated cause if you don’t follow through.

Accountability ensures action and can force you to follow through when a lack of energy would otherwise hold you back.

Research places to goKeep reading about places you want to visit and eventually you’ll get there. It may sound trite, but by always keeping travel on my mind, I always am excited about my future trips. I’m constantly researching destinations online, reading news from overseas, and generally getting to know the world better. The more I learn about different places, the more I think, “There are so many places to see, and no time to waste! Let’s go book a flight!”

Thinking about doing something all the time will make it happen.

Devote time – Stuff always seems to come up, doesn’t it? Sure, I was planning to visit Iceland in May and then, suddenly, May was here and I was busy. Or maybe you decide today’s the day you’re going to plan your trip but then you forget you have laundry to do. My solution? Pick a day and time you are normally not busy (i.e. on Facebook) and devote that time to planning your trip. Make it a consistent part of your schedule and develop a habit so that it doesn’t feel like a task you “have” to do, it becomes just something you do automatically.

Read travel blogs – Reading about other travelers’ adventures can show you that it is easier to travel than you thought, provide 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. Here is a list of blogs I follow.

This, as well as hanging out on travel forums, will also help you tune out the naysayers who don’t believe long-term travel is possible because you’ll see from all these people encouraging you that it really is!

Because an encouraging environment is a better environment!

Read books – I just finished Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams. After reading about his epic adventure through Peru, I am so motivated to see Peru that I’ve already ordered a guidebook to the country. Peru! Peru! Peru! While reading travel blogs is great, travel books are even better because they cut deep into a destination and open it up in a way a short travel story can’t. Every third book I read is about travel, and when I finish each one, I’m ready to go and explore the world.

And in that same vein, be sure to read books about where you are going on future trips so you can get a deeper understanding of the place. You can’t understand a location’s present if you don’t understand its past.

Learn a language – Join a class and pick up a language you might use on the road. Once you’ve started learning the language, you’ll hate to waste your new skill. And the only way to use it is to travel to where they speak it! Here are some blog posts from language experts I know to get you started:

Take a break – If you’ve been on the road for a while, you’ve probably burnt out a bit. Travel isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, and spending a lot of time on the road can lead to burnout. That’s going to sap your motivation and might even have you thinking about home. It did for me once (I got burnt out on my first trip and went home early), and the second I got home I facesmacked myself and said, “What was I thinking!” I learned my lesson and found that a much better way to get your mojo back is to take a break. Instead of moving on to your next destination, stay where you are for as long as you need. Watch TV, volunteer, work at your hostel, start a blog, or sit by the beach everyday — whatever relaxes you.

If you’re like me, you go through bouts of motivation. You get super excited about a trip and then your mind moves on to something else, or the challenge of planning saps some of your motivation and you put it off until later.

But there’s only today, so use these tips to help stay motivated about your next trip.

Because one day, you’ll run out of tomorrows.

  1. I need these! Sometimes I think what’s happening, should I just need a change? Or just change my travel style? I know I still have a lot of places to go to but the motivation to go or the excuses became more powerful than my will to travel.

    Anyway, thank you!

  2. I definitely agree that reading lots of travel blogs is great inspiration. Nothing like good old-fashioned jealousy to keep you motivated!

    I agree with you about burnout as well. Fortunately, I’ve never had this with travel (maybe because I’ve never done a long enough trip), but I’ve had it a fair few times with writing. After all, we’re only human. We can’t keep going at full speed for ever without allowing ourselves a chance to rest!

    Really good tips – thanks, Matt. :-)

    • NomadicMatt

      Someone recently told me how he was going from Argentina to New Zealand via boat and I just thought “Damn, that’s super cool. I need to get with it!”

      • Sonja Groff

        Crazy…I’ve been planning for almost a year, reading about and saving for a one to two month tango intensive and Malbec indulgent trip to Argentina. I also, with equal zest, want to to explore New Z Zealand with my 10 yr old daughter and expose her to the majesty of the world and the importance of hard work by way of a WWOOF organic farm. The past couple weeks I’ve been considering lumping them together. Argentina to New Zealand. That’s crazy! I’ll have to leave my job but I MUST do this…and in 2015, USA’s winter ( Nov+ Dec) will be summer in both places!
        And just now I read this reply of yours,
        “Someone recently told me how he was going from Argentina to New Zealand via boat and I just thought “Damn, that’s super cool. I need to get with it!”
        Argentina to New Zealand> I must get with it!

  3. Thanks for the tips, and we are taking a break from traveling starting tomorrow. We have been on the road nonstop since June 2013, we are headed back home to the USA for 4 weeks. We are burnt out and just need a break!

  4. Reading travel blogs, especially your’s, really motivated me. My dream of moving abroad and traveling was almost dead until I rediscovered travel blogs. I was once again motivated to get out and explore the world.

    In fact, I handed in my two weeks notice at my work today and move to Spain in just over one month! I cannot wait to follow my dreams!

  5. Great list and tips. I find putting your situation into perspective anytime I am feeling down or home sick on the road. ie what would my life be like back in a cubicle? All of a sudden my rainy day doesn’t feel so grey.

  6. The stickK idea is great! Taking a break is very important as well. I traveled for about 6 years, almost nonstop. Had to settle down for a while till I got the motivation to get out there again.

    It’s also good to take whatever money you make and before spending it on going out for a meal, a couple beers, etc., and put it away into a travel fund. When you get time off, you don’t have to make the excuse that you can’t afford to travel.

  7. Great tips Matt! I also regretted going home early when I was travelling through the UK with my Dad a number of years ago. I missed out on Ireland because I was itching to get back to London and my friends. Staying in one place for a while to recharge your batteries definitely helps but I find it hard to sit still most of the time and worry I am missing out on activities and places. i am definitely getting better at going with the flow the more I travel (and the older I get)

  8. I think no matter in which situation are in its important to have the courage inside. This is the single most important point. After traveling to Australia first time in my life now I have this firm believe. On that time I was in a situation where I never even dream to to travel. However that happened and that’s life! Some time you just cat listen to any body, you just have to listen inside.
    Thanks for the nice post Matt

  9. Travel blogs are sooooo inspirational! I was in a travel-less rut a few years ago and reading them really help pull me out of it. I find just booking tickets on a whim helps too. Off to Mexico on Friday! 😉

  10. Awesome tips Matt! I’ve yet to reach the “burnt out” feeling while traveling (does any 19 year old?), but now I know what to do when that day comes! Thanks :)

  11. Scott

    “You can’t understand a location’s present if you don’t understand its past.” Great point, and an often overlooked fact about travel- it’s not all about what you see in front of you, but understanding how what you see came to be!

  12. Reading Travel Blogs inspire people to travel. A motivated person can make a lot of progress when planing a trip. The key is to keep the motivation up. Great tips.

  13. Like any fun (or not so fun) activity or lifestyle, you can burn yourself out on it. When I’m gearing up for a trip, and all the practicing financial discipline, or planning/putting things in order, starts to wear me out, it really helps to take a break. Step back from the stressful activities for a short time, reset yourself mentally, and remind yourself exactly why you love traveling.

  14. Travel blogs are the best! I like searching out a particular cuisine in my city that will be traditionally expected in the country I will be traveling too soon. Even though the meal I am having is great, I can bet my money that the real deal will be that much better.

  15. key

    Hey matt. Great blog, I always come here when I feel I need motivation to travel. Anyways, thank you for sharing your wisdom!

  16. Robert

    Yeah I agree with all this.

    I have being on the road for coming up to 4 years now (albeit last 2 primarily working) and I can’t recommend enough taking breaks within breaks. It’s usually somewhere I have visited before so don’t have to feel guilty about not sightseeing or beach type place and I just read, do puzzles, go out whatever anything that just allows me to relax and eventually re-focus on what I’m doing. Furthermore to allow me to realise again how privileged I am to do travel long term. It’s usually a few days, a week and I’m ready to go again.

  17. THERE ARE UNICORNS ON YOUR TRAVELS?! Where where where?!!


    Awesome advice as always. I found myself getting a little lost lately. Writing for clients and just meandering around just felt…wrong.

    So something I’ve done is focus on fundraising while I roam around. There are 30 million people living in slavery today. Can you believe that? I’ve started fundraising for Free the Slaves so we can end modern slavery in our lifetime. My goal is to walk around the world in stints and raise awareness and funds along the way.

    Another great idea – which you’ve said – is to just stop. Pens down. Guidebook away. Chill and recharge.

  18. This came at the perfect time, Matt! I’m feeling super burnt out – and it’s only been 1.5 months of travel…12 to go! Yikes! I’ve learned a lot of lessons so far, namely, limit time in cities with kids…the constant noise, public transport issues, and crowds are really wearing on the kids…which becomes exhausting to me….so we’re headed to Slovenia in a few days to chill by a lake, partake in some water activities and some running around in nature and lots of catching up on our blog! Hopefully we can find a hostel or farm stay that will fit the bill! Thanks for the reminders that it’s normal to need a break (even if I perhaps need one more often than others)!

  19. Hi Matt – Mark Adam’s book is great – we met up in Cusco when he was researching it. I’m a doc filmmaker who made the movie Soy Andina (about a New York dancer who journeys to Peru to find her roots and explore the amazing world of Peruvian culture), who splits time between New York City and Peru, and if you are really thinking of coming to Peru, am happy to connect! I’m in NYC at the moment….great blog you have by the way, been following for about 6 months.

  20. Great points. Taking a break is so important! Every time I feel burnt out from traveling, I ended up not enjoying the places and just secretly hope to go home (and then regretting it after going home) so now I’ve learned that we should probably take as many breaks as we like.

  21. Great tips Matt.

    First of all, I’m so sorry that even though I’m The British Berliner; I wasn’t able to join you in Berlin as I’m in Asia right now travelling around Thailand, Indonesia, & Qatar! Please come back again and let me know. Thanks. :)

    Right. That’s out of the way! Being motivated to travel is so important. I travelled a lot when I was younger. Ahem! After India, I slowed it right down and did “exotic / long-term travel every 3 years, and European travel, 4 times every year. One destination per season: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter.

    I like your point about reading travel books. I have a shelf full of Lonely Planet books (I like reading ’em), other guide-books, and maps. I’ve been to all of them except for New Zealand and Nepal!

    I’m going to add Morocco and the Trans-Siberian train for 2015 LOL!

  22. Great list and I couldn’t agree more with learning a new language. Living in China the more Chinese I learn the more I enjoy daily life and the more opportunities I get. People really open up to you and respect you more for embracing their culture.

  23. Good advice Matt. I am currently recharging my batteries in Cartagena. I have been on the road for quite a while now and initially I felt guilty about pausing but now know how important it is if I want to continue and not burn out.
    I am in a smal family run hostel and so far nobody else has booked into the other beds in my dorm so for as long as I am sleeping well at night and have the personal space for very little money I shall stay here for a few more days

  24. I found that starting a travel blog was the biggest rush of motivation. It’s a focus to keep your eye on the travel path. It’s your baby to nurture and grow. Since I’ve started documenting the priceless sights and frights of each country it’s fuelled my love for travel even more.

    Thanks, Heather. UK.

  25. Max Kane

    Great motivation and tips for sure man! Headed to Costa Rica for 3 months in January 2015 (hopefully more!) I was inspired all over again from reading about your first trip abroad. Thanks dude

  26. Gordon

    Thanks, I do feel washed out before I travel or even during. Your advice helps.
    I have been to France Bastille day Carcassonne , France Lot Dordoign area and am off to Portugal, rip curl surf fest, peniche. Then Berlin November (never been) and last Marrakech (never been).
    The power of cheap flights, not one cost me over a hundred pounds. If you wish more info let me know.
    How did you like Iceland.

  27. Bianca

    I’ve recently started planning a trip to Southeast Asia and my main concern is keeping the motivation to follow through. I have a terrible habit of coming up with great life changing ideas that just go away after a few weeks. Well, I want to stick with this one. I have a year until the date I chose to leave and I’m starting my journey in South Korea so I can visit my family first and then going to Thailand. My question is, do you think it would be a good idea to book a plane ticket now, 11 months out where prices are half of what they are, to keep myself motivated to stick with my plan?

  28. I love these tips and the links are great. I think taking a break is huge. Sometimes the go-go life is tiring and taking sometime to just go somewhere and work for a bit is a great way to gather your sanity. I also love the tips about learning a language. It’s really important to learn a few key phrases. It makes a huge difference in staying motivated and getting to know the culture.

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