I can’t tell you the number of people that have told me “I’d love to travel but I just can’t afford it.” And then they proceed to buy a $50K truck or binge shop on black Friday. BTW, why is it called “black” Friday? That sounds a little dark for the day after Thanksgiving, doesn’t it? Maybe, it’s because that’s how you’ll feel when the credit card bill shows up in your inbox and you have all this crap you don’t really need. Enough about that though, let’s talk about how you can make your travel dreams a reality. I know the price of fuel right now is scaring the you know what out of people but don’t worry, we can still make a plan.
Article: Life Skills Learned by Traveling
1. Decide Where You Want to Go.
I know it seems I shouldn’t have to list that you need to decide where you want to go. Here’s the thing, we think the only place we can go is the next state over. Or if we’re feeling really ambitious, maybe a national park a couple of states away. While that’s a great start, it’s a little limiting don’t you think?
Related: How Limited Beliefs Affect Behavior
Don’t limit yourself to what you think you can afford now or ever. Go ahead and dream big. There’s no harm in that. You might have hundreds of destinations in mind. Write them all down. Don’t limit yourself to your current state or country. Think bigger.
Related Article: How to Visualize Success
The next step will be to narrow your focus and take it one step at a time. Of all those places you’d like to visit, where would you like to go first? If you could only pick one place, where would it be? Why do you want to go there? What is it about this place that makes it worthy of your time, energy, and money? Take some time to really think about this as it will become the foundation you will come back to again and again.
This sounds like an easy step but it may just be the most difficult step in the entire process. For this to be effective, you’ll need to narrow your focus and hone in on just one destination. When our minds are scattered, it’s difficult to bring our dreams to life. After dreaming big, narrowing the focus is extremely helpful.
Let me provide an example. Maybe there are lots of places you want to see in the United States so you write them all down on your list. By the way, this is a great activity to do with your partner (if applicable). Once you start feeling very expansive and like there are no limits, maybe you include places like New Zealand, Italy, France, Spain, etc. Once you have this long list of places you’d like to visit, begin to narrow down the list based on which ones are most important. You might even rank order the list.
As is the case with anything, if you are focused on all the things, it’s difficult to plan on how to accomplish one of the things.
Related: How to Create Life Goals
2. Focus Your Energy on Your Top Destination
I’m a huge believer in positive thinking and bringing dreams to life with focus. I can provide you with so many examples of this that you would be reading all day. For now, I’ll just give you two personal examples.
Related Article: How to ReWire the Brain for Positive Thinking
Example #1 Hawaii – I was at a pretty dark place in my life, divorced, broke, not only broke but going more and more into debt every day. It was during the recession in the 2008-2010 time period. I didn’t even know there was a recession at the time (because I don’t watch television). I just knew I was barely putting food on the table and for work, I was teaching public seminars for a seminar companies. It didn’t pay well unless you were great at selling all their products. I was much better at teaching than selling so there ya go. I was certainly too damn broke to even think about traveling.
My youngest child was still in high school but I was traveling quite a bit for this company. I decided I needed something good to look forward to so I started focusing on going to Hawaii. At this point in my life, I had never traveled outside the continental US, didn’t own a passport (not that you need one to go to Hawaii), and had never left the mainland. Every morning, after reviewing the list of what I was thankful for in life (unfortunately, it was a short list at this point), I’d shift my energy to dreaming about Hawaii. I would imagine how beautiful it would be and I’d see my kids there with me. I’d research images to help me visualize. And I’d try to think of ways to bring it to fruition.
About four months into this process, I received a phone call from the seminar company asking if I would teach a class in, you guessed it, Hawaii. Of course, they paid all my expenses and I was able to use frequent flyer miles to get really cheap tickets for my kids. I didn’t even consider teaching a seminar there as an option when I started focusing on Hawaii. When you focus on something (be it positive or negative), things start moving in that direction.
Let me caveat this experience with a reality check. We didn’t stay in a 5-star resort and we didn’t spend thousands of dollars on activities once we got there. But I did have a rental car (paid for by the company), there were plenty of beaches, the kids did learn to surf, and for people that live in the mid-west, all of this was enough for us.
Example #2 Rome: The second time I used this approach was my first international trip to Rome, Italy. This time, my youngest was finishing high school and preparing to leave for college . . . in New York. I was about to be an empty nester and was horrified. I had secured employment and the company wanted me to relocate to Atlanta to help with an acquisition. I got them to agree to allow me to handle both locations and travel back and forth until my son graduated. This was such a painful time as I was away from both of my kids two weeks out of each month. And the idea of being completely alone in a few months felt like an elephant sitting on my chest. I knew I needed something to look forward to if I was going to survive this next life transition. A trip to Rome became my focal point.
Although I wasn’t quite as broke as before, there was a child entering college and more debt than I could ever imagine digging myself out of (from the aforementioned financial crisis). I began to laser my focus on Rome like I previously did with Hawaii. This time a vision board was created to assist in that focus. And I purchased a passport to inspire me. I didn’t know how I was going to make it happen. All I knew is I wasn’t going to put it on a credit card.
Here’s what happened. While covering two locations, I used the same airline and was able to rack up frequent flyer miles. And as luck would have it, a good number of the employees for the Atlanta location were actually scattered throughout the Middle East. As it turned out, they wanted me to go to Dubai to conduct training for all their leaders and they were willing to pay for me to fly first class, multiple times. Good thing I went ahead and got that passport because I was like “hell, yeah!”
Related Article: 6 Ways to Bring Your Travel Dreams to Reality
It didn’t take long before one day I started looking at my frequent flyer miles and realized there were more than enough points for a round trip ticket to Rome . . . if I traveled during the off-season, October/November. With a little more digging it appeared there were also enough hotel points to cover lodging. My entire trip would be free except for food and extras. So, instead of wallowing in my sadness over being an empty nester, I went to Rome. It truly was the experience of a lifetime.
Here’s the thing – I had no idea how I was going to pay for a trip to Rome. I had never traveled internationally and the idea of traveling alone was pretty daunting. I also had no idea the leadership team would request me to go to Dubai – I wasn’t advocating for myself, it was completely their idea. But I was focused on getting to Rome. I didn’t know how or when. It’s important for you to know this because you don’t have to think about the details at this point. Just focus on where you want to go, take steps in that direction (like I did by getting a passport), and let the Universe work things out for you.
Just think of how effective this could be if two of you were focused on the same location?! I’m a little jealous just thinking about it.
As a side note: Once I had the passport (good for 10 years) and got a taste of traveling internationally I found myself looking for opportunities to use that passport as much as possible. It became a mission to take jobs that required travel so I could save up points for my personal travel. This resulted in trips all over the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, London, Paris, Austria, and Spain.
3. Take Action in the Direction You Want to Go.
Here’s the deal. It’s no good to focus on a destination and think you can just wish it into existence. You also have to take action. Even if it’s sub-conscious action, movement is required. For example, when focused on the Rome adventure, I purchased my passport even though I had no idea how I was going to make that international trip happen.
Purchasing the passport was an act of faith for the trip to Rome. It was an action that was necessary for the travel plans to come to fruition. And by taking that action, it enabled me to be prepared to accept the trips to Dubai.
I also started planning my trip to Rome. I researched hotels, places I wanted to visit, the people, the language, and money conversion. I got excited about the trip because I was planning it.
If you dream without taking action, it will always remain a dream. There are lots of ways to take action. Here are some examples:
- Put your loose change in a jar to save for the trip or start a separate travel fund. Even $5 a paycheck is more than you had saved before and a step in the right direction.
- Instead of saying “I wish I could” start telling people you ARE going.
- Buy a passport (if it’s an international trip).
- Create a plan for your trip. Set a by-this-date plan. But don’t get so hung up on missing a date that you chuck the entire dream. Plans change. Just have enough faith in your goal to create a plan and adjust as necessary.
- Start researching the cost of your dream destination.
- If you want to accomplish some physical feat (ex: hiking a mountain) on this vacation, start training.
You get the idea. Just start taking action and believe it will come to fruition.
4. Be Realistic About Your Travel
While I’m a huge fan of positive thinking, I’m also a realist. If you can dream up a trip that includes a five-star resort, good for you! You go with your bad self! Maybe it’s my midwestern values but I’m a bit more conservative. I don’t have to fly first class (although it would certainly be my preference) and I’m perfectly okay with shopping at a grocery store for meals/drinks instead of eating out. Entertainment is not a huge part of my travel either as I prefer scenic destinations and cultural sights. Food, travel, lodging, and entertainment are categories that will increase your travel budget astronomically.
On the other hand, I’d say don’t make it miserable for yourself. For example, I have friends that are totally cool with car camping while traveling within the US. I’m not a fan. I’ve watched videos on people that live in their vehicles and travel full-time. I actually want to be able to enjoy car camping. But I don’t. It’s miserable and exhausting for me. For that reason, I always plan on getting a room when I travel. If sleeping in your vehicle is going to be miserable, plan for that. If fixing your own meals is going to be miserable, plan for that. If entertainment is high on your priority list, plan for that. Just be realistic in the planning process. What’s your nice-to-have vs. your must-have?
But also don’t underestimate yourself. You can do hard things.
If you are preparing for a trip, here are a few of My Favorite Travel Items.
5. Just Do It
Quit making excuses. Quit telling people “I wish I could” or “It must be nice.” The only thing preventing you from traveling is you. You evidently don’t want to do it as badly as you want to spend money on other things. Or you’re scared to travel. Or it’s change and change is just too hard.
If you really want to bring this dream to fruition, start making plans and taking action toward those plans. It’s like wishing to lose weight but continuing to eat burgers and fries on a daily basis. Believe me, I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work very well. There is literally no destination outside your reach and there are ways to get there. The question is whether or not you really want to go.
I’d love to hear your stories or thoughts in this regard. I know some of you have had some amazing adventures! Or if you have other tips to bring these dreams to life, please comment below!