The most common reactions I get when people hear about my life path – living to travel and going on multi-month trips– are:
1. How are you doing this? (Which often translates into – how can you afford it? but we’ll get to that later)
2. I’m jealous
And of course because most people are very nice, I receive many wishes to be safe and have fun.
I get these reactions so much that I’m going to dedicate this and several other blog entries to answering this big question and addressing the envy factor. And hopefully this gives you, kind reader, some food for thought if you’ve had the nagging hunger of wanting to explore the world and didn’t think it’s possible. Rest assured, it is possible, I’m doing it, and so can you…
How are you doing this?
It starts with a knowing, a feeling that you want to travel
I always knew I wanted to travel. I did a vision board about seven years ago and the images I chose were all about travel. It’s been in my heart forever, a knowing that traveling is something I love to do, need to do, and am passionate about. My parents were teachers which meant the holy grail of lifestyle – summers off. We packed up the family minivan and set course all over the United States to as many national parks and historic monuments we could fit in during two weeks – the maximum time our family could be on the road in confined spaces together.
I started to travel internationally when I was 15 with a four-week school trip to Germany. At high school, I became close with two lovely foreign exchange students, Maria from Sweden and Anja from Germany. Over the years, I visited them and toured most of Europe one or two weeks at a time with friends or my ex-husband.
Then, in 2003, my ex-husband and I visited China and in 2006, Thailand. Asia had always seemed so exotic, so foreign – like who would go there? But with the help of Intrepid Travel, I found out that who would – me! it’s a whole new kind of wonderful with travel – exotic, but easy. It’s all about learning to take one step at a time, forgoing plans amongst chaos, and learning to find help within oneself, the Lonely Planet and other travelers. But these trips were vacations, organized trips on tight American schedules meant to get in as much on the tourist ‘to do’ list over two weeks.
Fast forward to Spring 2008. I’m sitting in my living room in California. I was newly single and becoming fast friends with a bottle of red wine. While reading a travel magazine, I see an ad for India – the Taj Mahal at sunset glows pink and orange and fills up the page, seeps over and pops me in the heart. I jump. I know – I have to go to India. At that time, I have a good job and I like Los Angeles and India seemed so, well, why the hell would you go to India? But it’s a powerful feeling and I just book another two week trip with Intrepid Travel – Delhi to Katmandu. I don’t book the plane tickets, I got the feeling to wait. So I did and all was revealed.
Over the next few months, I came into my own with the idea of travel and my new single life. I decided to leave my job, move back to the Midwest, heal for a few months at my parent’s house and then do a BIG TRIP. To India. In August I bought my plane ticket for two and a half months – a very serious purchase and commitment. Of course, my India trip was amazing and revealed to me many things, one of which was that there’s a backpacker path around the world that many Brits, Aussies, and Europeans travel for months and sometimes years at a time. It was a shock to learn that there are people in the world who leave the safety and security of home and travel for extended periods of time. This was very comforting, I was neither the first person to take a leap, two months being small in comparison, and found there’s a great support system out there to help me do it.
It’s a Gap Year concept where these Westerners are able to take sabbaticals from their jobs or push college off for a year to buy an around the world plane ticket and planet-hop for six to eleven months. It’s fantastic and a part of a collective young person’s consciousness and ultimately plans. The ethos is: Hey there’s a world out there, go see it and then settle down. You’ll be better off for it. Other than Study Abroad programs, that idea does is very rare in the United States, which I believe accounts for all the “How?” questions I receive.
I returned to the US from India on December 18, 2008 and the cold cold cold (really it was that cold) Chicago air provided little comfort as I eased back into the oddly polite, stressed out American pace. At Christmas, my family asked me two questions, how was the trip and what are you going to do now?I think they hoped my answer would be, “ok, I’m done and now will go find a good job and place to live.” But the answer I gave came only from my hear and was, “All I want to do is travel again.” Where? Egypt. How long? As long as I can. And so my traveling had now become a lifestyle and all signs pointed to making it happen.
Now that I’m on this path I can look back and answer the number one question of “How?” that I get. Here’s an overview that I’ll elaborate on in more blog entries giving you those practical ‘how tos’. Stay tuned.
A. Create your travel vision
B. Make it a priority
Now you’ll notice there’s no section called “How to pay for it?” This topic will be covered in the “Make it a Priority” entries because time and money are the two resources that are means to the end, not the end itself. So don’t worry, I’ll have helpful tips and some surprising lessons on how to make both resources work as a way to achieve your travel dreams.