Time. There just never seems to be enough of it. I mean, it’s already October. Didn’t we just celebrate the start of 2010? I feel like I was just ringing in the year in Thailand weeks ago! Time moves too fast (and every year it seems to just move faster).
And time is something people always tell me is one of the reasons why they don’t travel as much as they would like (money is also an issue).
Now, I won’t pretend that people with 9-to-5 jobs can travel like I do or even want to. My travel lifestyle suits my needs. It’s not for everybody. I’m lucky enough to have found a way to make a living while being my own boss and to have turned something I love into a career.
However, just because extended travel is out of your reach or your company only gives you one week off per year doesn’t mean you can’t still travel. I know it seems like you just don’t have the time, but you do.
There are many ways to travel when you’re “time starved.”
Let’s say you work 50 weeks a year and get two weeks of vacation. (Not American? Then you probably get a lot more and you should consider yourself lucky!) Counting your vacation time and every weekend brings the total number of days per year you can travel to 114 (104 weekend days plus the 10 working days in your two-week vacation). That’s a lot of time to travel. Throw in three-day weekends and holidays, and we can add even more days to our total. While they’re not all continuous, that’s still a lot of days to play with. With some clever ninja skills, they can be used to get on the road quite often.
Let’s think about that for a second: 114+ days of free time per year. That’s close to four months of potential travel time per year! Four months! You could break up areas in sections, sit by the beach, or see so much of your region that you literally could write the guidebook on it!
When you say you don’t have the time to travel, maybe it’s because you haven’t made it a priority. It’s like when I say I don’t have the time to go to the gym. I have plenty of time to go the gym; I’m just spending it elsewhere. When looking at it this way, our busy schedule becomes a lot more open.
Flip the script and switch the frame.
I find that most people associate “travel” with a long-term, big, expensive trip and thus discount all the short-term methods of travel. When people think “I want to travel,” they envision a two-week vacation, a cruise, or some long, multi-month journey.
I used to think the same way too. It’s just how the travel industry tells us we need to travel. The industry’s marketing machine tells us that travel often means a trip where we spend lots of money. And if you hear something enough, you believe it. We internalize that idea and never consider other options.
It’s why Jessica is never going to Ireland and Bob will always be a hater. They don’t think about all the small ways one can satiate the travel bug when time is not on your side. But there are plenty. Here are some ways to travel when “time isn’t on your side”:
Weekend getaways – Spend a weekend somewhere you have never been. Two days isn’t a lot of time, but it’s still enough to explore a city, town, or camp in a national park close to you. From my home in NYC, I have a lot of weekend options: Atlantic City, Fire Island, the Hamptons, the Berkshires, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC! I bet you have plenty of options too! Try to incorporate more weekend trips away. A couple of days somewhere is still better than no days anywhere.
Go somewhere close – Only have a week? Don’t travel halfway around the world, wasting tons of time getting to your destination. Go somewhere a short distance away. Live in Miami so Fiji’s too far? Head to Central America! Are you in Sydney, so America’s too far? Go halfway and stop in Hawaii, or visit New Zealand or a Pacific island nation! Do you reside in Europe? Well, hell, 90% of the continent is a three-hour flight away! Stay close and you’ll need less time to do what you want. Additionally, the best flight deals you can find are often for destinations close to you.
Be a local tourist – I don’t think people are tourists in their own city often enough. How often do you visit the museums, explore new areas in your town, or see the major attractions of your city? I know New Yorkers who have never been to the Met, Bostonians who have never walked the Freedom Trail, and Amsterdamers who have never wandered through the Red Light District. Take the weekend, move out of the house and into a cheap place to stay, and be a tourist. I love playing a tourist in my own city because it helps you learn and understand where you come from.
Important: If you are going to do this, leave your house and stay elsewhere. Otherwise, it will be too tempting to wake up, run some errands, and then “run out of time.” For this to really work, you need to break your routine — and not staying in your house is an important way to do that.
Feel awkward exploring your own city? Go over one or two towns. Wander around a place where you won’t bump into people you know! Use the sharing economy to fit right into the local culture.
Maximize your time – Don’t try to see everything under the sun. You’ll never be able to see it all. You’ll run around too much. I field a lot of emails from people who want to see half of Europe in two weeks or want to conquer all of South America in a month. When you think that is how you have to travel and try to cram everything in, it’s easy to get burdened by your itinerary. You look at all those destinations, get overwhelmed, realize there is not enough time, give up, and hold off until you do “have the time.” I get that you don’t have a lot of vacation time and want to see as much as you can, but don’t! Sticking to just one or two places suddenly opens up a lot of time and opportunity! Even with my open schedule, I still can’t see everything I want. I stopped trying long ago. In travel, less is more.
You may not have months to travel, but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel at all. There are a plethora of ways to get out and see the world without having to be a nomad like me. Telling yourself you don’t have time is just an excuse. You do have the time; the problem is you probably aren’t thinking of how to spend that time beyond the typical “two-week vacation.”
So the next time you think “I don’t have the time,” think instead of all the places nearby you could explore. Yes, you’ll have errands to run and things that require your attention. But by using your time productively, prioritizing travel, and thinking outside the box, you’ll find you do have time to explore the world. Travel is about exploration, and that exploration can happen anywhere for any length of time.