How to Overcome Obstacles and Travel More
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What are the obstacles that keep you from traveling more? For a lot of us, the answer is time or money. With work, family obligations, bills and more, it just never seems to be the right time to book that plane ticket.
When you’re a somewhat frequent traveler, like I am, you start hearing the same sorts of questions and comments regularly.
“How do you get to travel so much?”
“Must be nice!”
“I’d love to travel but…”
I don’t know too many people who wouldn’t drool over the thought of lying under the sun on the soft, warm sand of a tropical beach, or chasing waterfalls around an island. We all dream of vacationing, and while the life I lead as a freelance writer that allows me to travel might seem super lucky, it didn’t just fall into my lap.
In fact, many of you reading this can travel more, too. The big fat secret is … you have to make it a priority. I’ve gone so far down this road that I’ve actually crafted a career out of traveling and writing about it, and while that certainly won’t work for everyone, there are ways that you can make travel fit into your current circumstances with just a few shifts in priority.
Are you ready to face down the two biggest excuses and barriers that keep you from traveling and learn how to travel more? Keep reading?
How to find more TIME to travel
Time was my No. 1 roadblock before I started working freelance. In the U.S., many full-time workers are limited to just a couple weeks of vacation, if that, which makes it hard to schedule a lot of travel. In my case, I had to stretch my two weeks to include trips to see family in different states as well, and some of you might have to use your days off for similar things, too.
If you want to make travel a priority in your life, you really only have a few of options here, since we, unfortunately, can’t add more hours to the day or days to the year. And we definitely need to work. So what can you do?
1. Make changes at your current job. Have you ever considered negotiating more vacation time like you would a raise? How about asking to work remotely? Or taking a sabbatical? Are you even using all of your vacation time? Many employees are fearful of asking for what they’ve actually earned. If your company culture is so threatening that you’re afraid to use your vacation days, maybe it’s time to reconsider your priorities. If work is your No. 1 and you’re OK with that, I’m not here to judge. But if seeing the world pulls rank, you might have to make some changes.
2. Find a job that allows flexibility. One of the biggest mistakes I made at my previous job was thinking that if I devoted enough time and effort, I’d eventually be able to work into a more flexible position when I'd earned it. In reality, I could tell early on that the company culture would never allow that, and sure enough, despite stellar performance reviews and promotions over a few years, the option to work remotely (even partly) was NEVER on the table. My company was very old school, but there are many businesses nowadays that realize people want and need to have lives outside of work, and that happy employees are better employees. Work for them! I’d never advocate quitting your job without another lined up or some serious savings and a plan, but there’s no harm in seeking out positions with better flexibility while you continue bringing home a steady paycheck.
3. Create your own job. I chose this path, and you can too if you have the drive and skills. Whether it’s starting an online business, freelancing, consulting, nannying or teaching abroad, there are all sorts of creative ways to work outside of a traditional office, no matter where you are in your career. There’s more information about this below in the section about money.
4. Plan your vacation time carefully. Maybe leaving your career and solid 401k and healthcare benefits is NOT an option, and you’re stuck with that measly two weeks. No need to give up! You can still do some major traveling if you use your time effectively. This starts with making a plan for your time off, so you don’t let any days slip away from you. Look at any long weekends or holidays you get off and tack on a day or two to travel somewhere a shorter plane ride away (like the Caribbean or Mexico if you’re in the U.S.). Save four or five days to place between two weekends for one long stretch to travel internationally. Nine days off is plenty of time to hop across the Atlantic, and booking a red-eye flight will allow you to get a jump start.
5. Use your weekends wisely. How many of us get into the habit of wasting the weekend away on the couch or doing chores? (Who needs a clean house?) Sure, we deserve a couple of days to recover sometimes, but those two days are also prime travel nuggets! With just a weekend, you could drive somewhere 5 hours away, or even catch a cheap flight to a neighboring state. If you can wrangle some flex time to leave early Friday or come in late Monday, you might even be able to stretch it to three days occassionally.
How to find more MONEY to travel
Ah yes, the second-most used excuse not to travel. First, I’d like to acknowledge that some people legitimately do not have money to travel, and I don’t want to trivialize that. If you are in debt, if you rely on someone else to foot your bills or if you struggle to pay for basic necessities, spending money on travel should not be a priority.
But, if you have any disposable income at all, you probably can afford to travel more than you think you can. So, how do you stretch your travel dollars?
6. Track and cut your spending. Prioritizing travel sometimes means sacrificing in other areas. Start by adding up your bills every month to see exactly where your money is going. You may be surprised. If you get coffee on your way to work every day, you could be putting $100 extra away every month. That’s $1,200 a year, or a roundtrip flight to Europe plus a couple nights in a hotel. If you spend $10 on lunch daily, that’s upwards of $2,500 a year. Pack a sandwich or grab one from the grocery store for half the price. Do you really need that monthly subscription box that adds up to a trip to Jamaica? Or that designer bag that literally is a domestic flight. I’ve flown as cheaply as $50 round trip to Florida before … that’s far less than one Target run for things I’ve already forgotten I own.
Cutting back on expenses can go beyond eliminated pricey haircuts and shoes, you can think outside the box a little here, too. Could you spend $300 a month less on your rent if you downsized a little or moved a few blocks away? Maybe you could shave $50 off your cable bill if you call and threaten to cancel (we do this all the time) or even quit cable altogether and just Netflix it. Take a hard look at each one of your bills and see where you can cut the fat and feed the hungry travel piggy bank.
7. Make some money on the side. Once you’ve already trimmed that budget down as far as it will go, it’s time to think about ways to make more money. How about a part-time temp job or a seasonal gig to ramp up your travel budget? Even just walking the neighbor’s dog or babysitting from time to time can add some flight cash. It’s easier than ever these days to make money online, so take a look at your skills and see if there are any services you can offer as a side gig (social media management, web design, translating, tutoring, data entry). If you don’t think you have any skills, learn some. Lynda has all sorts of online courses you can take to pick up a new, marketable skill. You can also make extra money by getting rid of clothes and other things cluttering up your house at a yard sale or on sites like Poshmark, Craigslist, Letgo and eBay.
8. Rent your home out. If you’re legally allowed to list your home or apartment on Airbnb, why not rent it out from time to time? Listing your home while you’re going to be out of town anyways could cover the cost of accommodations while you’re traveling. If you want to rent it out while you’re in town, have a fun local camping vacay while your apartment is earning you money, or a sleepover at the home of a kind friend or relative (just don’t overstay your welcome).
9. Save on travel. If your budget can’t grow enough to accommodate your dream vacation in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, that doesn’t mean you can’t travel, you just need to travel more cheaply. Track airfare deals using Scott’s Cheap Flights, Google Flights and Skyscanner. If you’re willing to use budget carriers like Spirit and Frontier in the U.S. or Ryanair in Europe, you can snag some amazing deals. From my home airport in Houston, I frequently can fly to Orlando for around $75 round trip, Los Angeles for $100 and New York for $125 or less.
10. Stick to your budget. Once you’re on vacation, blowing your budget is a surefire way to make sure you don’t get to travel again for a very long time. Sure, you want to relax and have fun, but don’t go crazy. If you stay somewhere with a kitchen (or even just a microwave), consider cooking a couple of meals in to slash your food budget. Eating out for breakfast or lunch instead of dinner can help you save on food, too. Check if any of the attractions or museums you want to visit have free or discounted days, or deals for students (or seniors, teachers, service members, etc). Pay for everything you can ahead of time to ensure that you don’t spend beyond what you can afford or rack up credit card bills that will cost you interest.