My New Year’s resolution for the past 8 years has been to get in better shape, work out and eat healthily. Yet, other than the natural loss and gain of 5 pounds, my body hasn’t changed much since high school aka I haven’t lifted a weight or set foot in a gym in… ever. Well, I did yoga in the park, and sometimes I take the stairs instead of the elevator, but does it count if I only do it once a month? Not according to my unchanged body. It’s a New Year’s resolution that I’ve given up on, tossed down the drain with my other hopes and dreams, like learning how to put on makeup, or how to find the perfect matching heels to my dresses. But your New Year’s resolution to travel more should not have the same fate as my beauty ones.
Even though I am a solo traveler, I still wish to inspire others and assist those who don’t particularly want to do solo travel. So this post is for those who haven’t traveled yet and maybe are not sure where to start. Maybe one day you’ll want to be a solo traveler, maybe you prefer family travel, or you have a significant other that you prefer to travel the world with. Whichever you are, you don’t know where to start, something always “comes up” and you are left with another unfulfilled New Year’s resolution to travel more.
You’ve heard of starting a “travel fund”, you’ve heard of volunteer opportunities, you’ve even been told to cancel your gym membership (gasp!), and since everyone has told you these things, I won’t tell you them right now. You’ve heard it all. Here I will discuss how to mentally prepare yourself to travel more and then we will discuss how to get started with finding flights. I know it’s tough to immediately cancel your gym membership, but when you cancel and say deuces to your fellow gym rats and they ask you why, what will your response be? “The internet told me to ‘cause then I can travel more”? Let’s work on that response.
We are going to focus on the steps leading up to canceling your gym memberships, to canceling your Sunday Brunches, saying no to that shot of whiskey, and to starting that travel fund. So if you’re just as lost about where to begin with travel as I am with making my eyebrows “on point”, grab a pen and paper, make a cup of coffee (pour some whiskey in it if you like) and get comfortable, ‘cause this post is for you.
Make travel your priority, not a burden
First and foremost, if you really want “travel more” to be your New Year’s Resolution, you must make it your priority. If you find yourself wanting to impulse buy a new pair of shoes, just remember that a $50 pair of shoes could pay for your one night in an upscale hotel in Thailand, or even 50 meals in Vietnam. Think about it like this: you spend money on a lot of shoes, you spend money on expensive salads, what haven’t you spent your money on? Travel.
If the cheapest time to travel to Costa Rica is also the same time as your favorite festival that you attended last year and the year before that, prioritize traveling to Costa Rica over the festival.
Remember that travel is an experience and shouldn’t be looked at as a burden. Once you start making travel your priority, you will see that you have a little extra money left over.
Change your mindset and stop telling yourself that travel is unattainable
A lot of people take one look at their life and immediately think that they can’t travel. While everyone’s situation is different, by telling yourself that you can’t travel, you’ve already set yourself up for failure. If you have a family, you can travel with your family. If you have no one to travel with, travel solo (a lot of people do and you meet people along the way!) If you have debt, there are ways to pay it off while traveling. If it’s a family situation and it’s something you absolutely desire, have a talk with your family. Communication is key in this aspect.
If it’s not life, it’s money. A lot of people take one look at the price of a flight and immediately think that travel is unaffordable, thus giving up on trying and consequently never travel further than the 7-11 down the street. Travel is unattainable if you constantly tell yourself that you can’t. Don’t give up so easily. If you wait until you hit the lottery jackpot in order to go to your dream destination, you will never leave. Travel can be affordable and attainable if done right and with a little effort put in the research. We will discuss research later.
Be honest with yourself about your travel goals
What is it you want to get out of travel? Are you looking for a vacation, or are you looking to discover a new city? If you’re looking for a vacation, drinks by the pool will be a little more expensive, but discovering a new city can simply mean wandering the streets or taking pictures.
Are you comfortable with being crammed in a bus with no AC, or do you prefer that your champagne comes served with a raspberry in it while sitting in first class? Champagne while miles above earth sounds fantastic, yet it’s also not very realistic unless your Jay-Z.
Think about what it is you truly desire to get out of travel. Is it relaxation? Do you want to rough it? Hey, camping in the woods is usually free! Also, what are you willing to do for your travels? For example, cheap flights are usually longer flights with long layovers. Are you willing to wait in the airport for several hours in favor of a cheaper airline on your way to a tropical island? When you figure out which one you prefer, you will be able to focus your travels and understand where your money will go, i.e. museum exploration, alcoholic beverages, or clothes shopping.
Do the research on your destination of choice
Once you’ve decided what you actually want to do with your travels, search for the places that you can do those things in. Are you looking for cheap beaches to lounge around on or scuba dive? Thailand will be a great option for you! Or are you looking for artsy and rich culture? Try Berlin! What about hiking amongst gorgeous mountains and glaciers? Take a look at Patagonia!
Whatever it is, you can usually find it on the internet. If you want to travel there, someone has probably traveled there already and there will be a lot of information on that place: the safety rating, how to get there, where to stay, and so on. Reading blogs and travel forums are great ways to get your questions answered and are usually filled with up-to-date information. Look for blogs that specialize in your destination of choice, for example, the couple from Along Dusty Roads is an excellent source for travel in all things South America.
If you can’t quite decide on one destination yet, let the prices tell you
I use Skyscanner, a flight search engine, as a starting point to search for flights. It has several great features for the indecisive and the flexible. If you don’t have an exact date in mind, but roughly know the time of year you want to travel, there is a feature that will help you see what the cheapest dates are for that time period.
In addition, if you still don’t know what country you want to travel to, it has another feature that can search for the cheapest destinations. Simply enter your departure airport and enter “Everywhere” for the arrival airport and the website will search for the cheapest flights from your chosen departure airport.
Like I said, though, Skyscanner is my starting point. Even though it’s cheap on their website, it could still be cheaper on the airline’s website, or other search engines so always double check. Some other reputable search engines are Google Flights and Hopper. Remember: finding cheap flights takes some work, so make sure you set apart some time to put into this.
Set up price alert notifications
On your phone, on your computer, through email, whichever you prefer. Flight prices are constantly changing, but you can’t spend every hour of every day on the computer, so alerts are a useful way to always be notified when there is a drop in price. On top of that, it will be a constant reminder for you to start searching for those flights again if you haven’t in a while.
Buy the flight. Now you’re committed.
Whether you have enough money saved up for the trip or not, once you buy the flight you will be committed and have a goal to work for. Every penny you save will now go toward your upcoming trip and of course, you will have something to look forward to. If you are constantly trying to save and yet haven’t bought the flight, it will be harder to commit. The flight will be the most expensive part of the entire trip, so once that part is out of the way, everything else will be easy to plan around your budget.
Ok, you’re ready! You’ve bought your flight and you have a few months to prepare for your trip.
Now you can set up that empty pickle jar labeled “travel fund” and throw your extra cash in there.
Now you have something to be excited about, and staying in watching Netflix instead of taking shots at the bar will not feel as bad because you have a goal to work toward.
Now, when people ask you what’s up with the gym cancellation, you can say “I’m going to (insert desired destination here) and I need to save some money, want to join me for some burpees at the park, instead?”
By switching to an alternative to whatever it is you’re canceling you won’t feel like everything is being stripped away from you in order to go on this trip. It will take some work, but it will all be worth it in the long run. Travel is an experience and always something to write home about, so keep that New Year’s resolution, and don’t give up on it.
Now, can anyone teach me how to do a burpee?