Keeping the Dream (and the Traveling) Alive

Nowadays, it seems that traveling is getting harder and harder. Fuel costs are at an all-time high, making travel by air or car prohibitive. The U.S. dollar is taking a beating from the euro and the pound. (Good for you Europeans, bad for us Americans.) And as we get older, more responsibility is thrown at us, resulting in less free time and even less flexibility. In the end, the real world can hinder the best-laid travel plans.

But there are some people who find ways to travel continuously, often reporting from the road with tales of African elephant encounters or wild beach parties in Goa. These people manage to disappear for a month (or six) without a second thought, surfacing in the most enviable locales with just enough time to dash off a quick e-mail saying how much fun they’re having.

I hate these people.

Which is to say, I’m incredibly jealous of them. When I was younger, I traveled to Europe every summer, satisfying my wanderlust until the next big trip. But that was 140 years ago, and now I’m weighed down with debt, a job with incredible benefits (which becomes increasingly appealing as you get older), and roots in a city I’ve lived in for seven years and counting. Toss in limited vacation time and a depressing economy, and the ability to travel seems harder than ever. The opportunity to backpack around the world seems to be fading from sight. And, as they say, out of sight, out of mind.

Perhaps I should hang up my suitcase, look back at the good times I’ve had, and forget about travel?

Nahhhhhh! I know myself better than that. (Besides, who hangs up suitcases?) But even so, it’s often hard to know when the next big trip will be. But I’ve found many ways to keep my globetrotting experiences and dreams from disappearing.

Read!

Nothing gets me fired up more about my travels than reading about someone else’s. I’ve found inspiration from hordes of travel magazines. Is it the glossy photos? The well-crafted articles? The ads for African safaris and new travel gear? How about “all of the above”? When I need more inspiration, I turn to my travel narratives — books by Bryson, Cahill, and dozens of lesser-known authors (Will Ferguson’s hilarious Hitching Rides With Buddha got me interested in visiting Japan one day) all help remind me that a jillion people make travel happen for them.

Set a goal

Rather than think of travel in general, I’ve found it’s better to pick a specific place to shoot for. Whether it be Thailand in the spring, Sydney in the fall, or Brazil any time of year, the point is to commit to a destination and, if possible, a timeframe. From there, the wheels start turning. Soon you’re looking at airfares, calculating your daily costs, and checking out guidebooks from the library. If you can pinpoint a specific time you want to go, you’ve suddenly found more impetus to start saving and planning.

Be flexible and open to possibility

Of course, sometimes fate intervenes, but that’s not a bad thing. Last year my tentative plans to visit Asia gave way to something more concrete and most unexpected: a wedding in Italy. I accepted the invitation and changed my focus to Europe (which then became a set goal — see previous point). After committing to the trip, I was able to add London, Geneva and three cities in Germany to my itinerary. Now Asia is next on my list, but I’m still keeping my options open.

Find an affordable destination

One reason Asia is so appealing for me is because, along with being popular and exotic, it’s still relatively affordable. And often, affordable equals attainable. And attainable helps keep the dream alive. Of course, you shouldn’t just go somewhere affordable simply for the sake of traveling. Unless, of course, you want to.

Find a buddy

Planning a trip with friends is often the best way to keep you working towards a common goal. Not only will your group encourage and inspire each other, but groups traveling together often save on costs. Even traveling with one other person eliminates the single supplement solo travelers are often penalized with. Besides, what’s a better incentive to make a trip happen than the fear of missing out on all the fun?

Nice work if you can get it

Travel implies vacation, but that need not always be the case. Want to see Tokyo? Why not look for work there? Do you work for a company with offices abroad? Look into a transfer. Even short-term options are often available. (Check out some of Craig and Linda’s previous posts to get an idea of how they feed their wanderlust with short-term jobs full-time.)

Keep a map of the world on your wall

What better reminder of what’s out there waiting for you?

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