When I talk to people about travel, their response is almost universal: “I love it, I wish I could do more of it, but I can’t.” From there, there’s usually a litany of reasons about how/why they can’t travel, even though they almost always agree it’s one of their most favorite things to do and something they wish they could do more of. In most cases, these people are flat-out lying about why they can’t travel or about how much they love to travel because, with a simple change of perspective or priorities, it’s a very easy thing to do. Let’s take a look at the most common excuses people give for not traveling, and why they’re utter BS.
1. I ‘d love to travel, but I can’t afford it
This is probably the most common reason reason and, to be honest, for most people it’s just garbage. Yes, that sounds harsh, but that kind of excuse just reflects the fact that they prioritize other things over traveling. And there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you’re honest about what you really feel is important in your life. Most people though, would say they love to travel – it’s one of their favorite things in the world – but it’s so expensive that they rarely do it. I was on OKCupid for a time, and basically everyone said in their profiles that they absolutely loved to travel… and then you find out their one travel experience was a trip to Mexico 4 years ago and they haven’t done anything since because it “costs too much”. Most people, assuming they have a job that pays a decent wage, could easily afford to travel if they actually made it a priority in their life.
Here’s an example: I have a co-worker who constantly talks about how much he loves to go abroad. He took a two week trip to Germany a few years ago, caught the travel bug, and simply won’t shut up about it. And good for him — travel is awesome; I love to talk about it myself, and I can totally understand having itchy travel feet. So where does the problem come in? For all his talk about loving travel and wanting desperately to go somewhere abroad again, he hasn’t. And he’s constantly bemoaning that fact. At the same time, he’s got the money to visit Starbucks every day for breakfast and eat out for lunch. That’s $15-$20 each day spent on food. That’s $100 a week, $400 a month, and money that could better be put elsewhere.
Now, I don’t fault the guy for wanting a decent lunch. And every so often I need a burrito or a sushi fix. But the fact remains that, if you even cut your weekly work food spend in half (down to $200 per month), and put the savings in an online savings account each month, you could have enough to take a decent yearly trip. How much could you save, you ask? And how much will that buy you?
Let’s look at the math:
You can find quite a few online savings account with interests rate around .90%. Check out bankrate.com and you’ll find several options there. It’s not a fantastic rate, but if you opened an account with just $200, and committed to putting $200 per month in there per year, after one year you’d have around $2,611.
Let’s assume a round-trip plane ticket to Europe runs you $800. That puts you at $1,800 remaining. Which leaves you with a daily budget of ~$128 for a two week trip. If you’re hosteling, that leaves you with $80-$90 per day to play with after deducting about $30-$40 for a hostel. And even in expensive Europe, that’s more than enough money to get in trouble.
So you can see how making even a tiny adjustment in your lifestyle, by cutting down on the lattes and the lunches out, can have a big impact on your ability to travel. If you have ambitious travel plans beyond a yearly trip, sit down and truly budget out what expenses you make and where you can find savings. This, in and of itself, is an extensive subject and something I’ll get into in a later post.
2. I don’t have the time
Pure, unadulterated BS.
Really, this is “I don’t want to take the time.” For one, most people who work some form of office or desk job will find themselves with around two weeks of vacation per year. That’s if you’re in the US. If you’re abroad, you’ll probably get 4-5 weeks. Two weeks is a woefully small amount of time off, and yet, as a country, we Americans don’t even capitalize on that amount and we leave paid time off sitting on the table. For all of our talk of wanting to work more to get ahead and be productive, studies continue to show that people who take time away from the office are more productive and live longer than those who do not.
However you choose to take your vacations — whether it’s in several short mini-vacations or one long trip — use all of your time. Take full advantage of what you have, because you’re never going to be on your deathbed wishing you had spent more time at your desk. And that extra time off may actually postpone your deathbed-wishing by a significant amount of time.
3. I can’t find anyone to go with me
If you buck up and go it alone, you’ll find quite a few advantages. For one, if you’re not already, you’ll learn to be comfortable by yourself. You won’t have anyone but yourself to rely on, and you’ll find there are going to be long stretches of time where it is just you and your thoughts. It might be uncomfortable at first, but once you learn to be comfortable alone, it really is a freeing experience.
You’ll meet some great friends when you’re traveling by yourself– hostels can facilitate some lasting friendships. And when you’re traveling solo, it presents you with the perfect excuse to mingle. Some of the most interesting people and best friends I’ve ever met have come about because I was traveling by myself and I took that step in the hostel bar or lounge to walk up to a group of strangers and say “Hey, mind if I join you?”. It’s simple; it’s easy; and it’s rewarding.
Another advantage is you get to be entirely selfish. Because it’s just you out on this trip, you have total control over everything. Getting to set your own itinerary, going where you want, eating where you want, staying out as late as you want, are all some of the greatest advantages about traveling alone. At no point will you have to put off seeing that museum, going to that club, or eating at that restaurant, because your travel partner wants to go do something else instead and they compromised and did what you wanted yesterday so now it’s your turn to compromise. When you’re traveling solo, it is all you, all the time. And that can be marvelous. When I’m by myself in Brussels (which happens pretty much any time I find myself in Europe at all, because I love Belgium so much), there are a few kebab stands, bars, beer shops, and other places that I absolutely need to check out. Because I’m by myself, I can hit up these places any time I want, as much as I want -which happens quite a lot where kebabs are concerned.
Most of the world is safe. And most people are good, or at the least indifferent. As long as you take some basic travel precautions, like not leaving your valuables out in the open, not showing off like you’re wealthy, not walking down or lingering in dark alleys alone, or doing other things to show that you’re a moronic and easy target, you should be fine. Ladies should be a little more cautious, as it’s a sad fact of the world that they’re seen as easier targets, but there are many women who solo-travel and do just fine. Most of these are precautions you’d take in any city in the US. I live in Seattle, which is one of the safer, more open-minded cities in the country, and even here there are neighborhoods where I wouldn’t go wandering through at 2AM by myself. Just practice common sense and be aware of your surroundings and you’ll be fine for most of the places people travel to.
Oh, and stay abreast of the State Department’s travel alerts when planning a trip to an area that’s off the beaten track. Most of it is basic knowledge like: “You probably shouldn’t be going to Iraq, Afghanistan, or Somalia” right now, but it’s still a good idea to keep abreast of potential pitfalls or inconveniences you could face on the road.
5. Cultural Ignorance – “There’s nothing there to see”
When you bring up traveling to an out-of-the way destination, this is one of the arguments against traveling that you’ll hear the most. If you were to tell someone you were going to Paris, they’d instantly think of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, or the Louvre. Now, Paris is an OK place in my opinion (it’s overpriced, over-traveled, Parisians can be obnoxious and sexist, but you can find some good bread and cheese there — and I love bread and cheese), but if you were to tell someone “Hey, I’m going to Uzbekistan this spring”, you’d get a blank stare or you’d get asked “Why the hell are you going there?”. Oh, only because it full of amazing examples of Islamic Architecture, it’s fairly cheap, and was for centuries a center of poetry, learning, and world trade (ever hear of that little thing called the “Silk Road”?).
What most people don’t realize is that the world is full of more wonders than you can even imagine; it could be that the little out-of-the-way country you’re going to has amazing historical architecture, or the people are really friendly, or they have amazing food (or beer), or once a year they throw an incredible festival. Whether you’re in Ethiopia checking out the churches of Lalibela, eating curry in Sri Lanka, or watching the Kirkpinar in Turkey, you can find amazing things in unexpected places. And by exploring these unusual places, you’re getting an experience that not many people have had.
Travel for the short and medium term is easier than you’d expect, and people who are self-professed “travel lovers” need to realize that many of the “reasons” they give for not being able to travel are simply excuses. And if you actually make travel a priority in your life (and this doesn’t mean you have to completely cut out your lattes), it really is something that you can do at least on a yearly basis.
So, what are some of the other excuses you’ve heard from people who love to travel, but never quite manage to do it? And what are some tips you have to enable more traveling in your life?