So you want to travel the world and have NO FREAKING CLUE how to make that happen… perhaps you are knee deep in a “good job” and feel like you should be building your career… or perhaps you are drowning in debt and expenses and don’t know how to save money… or maybe you are questioning if you have the guts to “pack a bag and go”.
Just about two years ago I had a “good job” (Director of a Brain Training Center), tons of debt (nearly $20,000 of credit card debt as a result of quitting my other job the year before), I was overloaded with expenses, and had no clue how to make my travel dreams come true. I took a hiatus from my career (which I’m 100% ok with), I’ve reduced my debt to $2,000 (currently – and this is also my ONLY bill), and I educated myself about traveling by reading books, blogs, watching Youtube videos, and chatting with other travelers.
So where am I NOW? I’m writing this from Madrid, Spain, where I am staying for five weeks teaching a lovely couple English… and I’ve spent the last four months exploring England, Netherlands, Tenerife (an island in the Canary Islands), and Madrid!
I am here to report that traveling the world is possible if you truly want it. It may not happen tomorrow. It may not happen in a year, but here are FIVE ACTIONS TO TAKE NOW TO MAKE YOUR TRAVEL DREAMS COME TRUE.
1. Get Connected & make new friends – Join an online international community and start meeting people! My top two are counchsurfing.com (FREE) and workaway.info ($30 for two years). It’s a great way to meet people from all over the world. Couchsurfing has various meetups where you can meet and chat with people…. furthermore… you can host someone in your home and get a chance to learn about their life and culture. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere there should be SOME people from different parts of the world — get to talking! You never know if they have a relative or friend in a place you want to visit. Just like you network for business contacts… you can network for travel contacts! Plus it is beneficial to get comfortable talking to loads of different people and asking for help/a place to stay/contacts/travel advice etc… WORD OF ADVICE – you many have to message many many people to get responses… don’t take it personally. Just keep at it and someone will eventually message you back (this is especially true of workaway.info).
2. Take a close look at your expenses – It is 100% necessary to get a grip on your financial situation. I recommend doing a simple income vs. expenses vs. debt analysis. Grab a sheet of paper and make three columns (income, expenses, and debt). Income is all money that comes INTO your life via your job/businesses. Your expenses are all money that goes OUT of your life (i.e. your bills (rent, utilities, car payment, cell phones, food, entertainment, etc..)). Your debt is any money you OWE (credit cards, loans, mortgage). Once you have these numbers your ULTIMATE TASK is to: 1. Reduce your expenses (spend less!), 2. Pay down your debt with every cent you save from reducing your expenses, 3. Increase your income if at all possible (side jobs, ask for a raise, pick up pennies on the street <– joking). Next, track your EVERY expense. This can be done by carrying around a little notebook and writing down when you spend money. This can be a major wake up call as to how much money you are spending on stupid crap. The first month I did this I UNDERESTIMATED my expenses by nearly $1,000! It may be tedious… but JUST DO IT. The main reason for doing all these financial shenanigans is so that you can start (or continue) saving money for your travels! There is no magic number as to how much to save… but at least get a few thousand in the bank.
3. Exercise your WANTS vs. NEEDS – This goes hand in hand with your financial house. Do you really NEED that $4 Starbuck’s chai latte? Do you really NEED another black/white/blue shirt just because it is cute and on sale? One thing travel has made me seriously evaluate is how much unnecessary things I used to want in my pre-travel life! I still indulge now and then but at least it’s not an everyday occurrence anymore! It truly is possible to majorly simplify your purchases. Tracking your expenses will help with this task!
4. Make a plan… OR don’t – I am a recovering Type-A super list maker and planner. If you are the type that likes a plan – GO FOR IT. Make one. Research your travel destination, take notes, etc. OR DON’T. I’m here to report that aside from booking my one way ticket to London and knowing that I would spend my first three weeks with my friends band… I had no idea where the hell I was going or what I was going to do after – AND I’m ok with that! Read as many travel blogs as you want and collect advice… but ultimately trust your gut and do what is best for you! I didn’t save nearly as much money as the blogs I read told me to or research my destinations… but here I am four months into my journey having a blast and enjoying myself.
5. Adventure locally –Nothing will test your readiness for the road than to get out there and take a mini-adventure! Find a host on couchsurfing, travel a few hours away, and get to exploring. If you feel weird or uncomfortable crashing someone’s couch in the next town over… then you will most likely feel even more uncomfortable crashing someone’s couch in a different country. This is the same for hostels. If you plan on traveling long term these lodging options are inevitable (unless you have loads of money… then this article is not written for you). Many of these online communities have awesome fellow travelers that are more than willing to help you out. However, just be wary if you are a female staying with a male host. I had a fellow female traveler (who is a much more experienced couchsurfer than I) tell me that some of the male hosts she stayed with tried to put some moves on her. I stayed with a guy in London for two nights and all was fine. Use your judgement and always meet them in a public place first!
As always I can’t say enough how important it is to do what is best for you. I used to get so frustrated and discouraged reading travel advice and thinking I had to do EXACTLY what that person did in order to be successful. Hearing of other people’s travel stories would sometimes get me excited… but sometimes leave me feeling like crap that I haven’t “figured it out yet”. One thing I did not allow myself to do though was make EXCUSES. Excuses won’t get you anywhere! For example, “I don’t have enough money”… “I have rent/mortgage etc.” … “I don’t know how to __ fill in the blank___.” I always believed it was possible for me to travel the world. ALWAYS. Just like any dream you may have… it takes dedication and effort to make that dream a reality. Now get out there and start exploring this beautiful world!