A few things happened recently to inspire this week's blog post:
- I read this Skift survey showing that 41% of Americans did not take any vacation in 2015. As in not one single day off.
- I received an amazing follow up from a woman who messaged me months ago saying my Travel Noire article on Montreal inspired her to visit Quebec this past Christmas.
- Someone on Facebook commented on one of my photos saying she wished she could travel more
- A close friend of mine asked if I had any tips on how to put money aside for travel while still saving for the long term.
All of these occurrences circled around in my head as I thought about how they're related and how I can address them in a blog post.
Which brings me to now.
I am sharing eight steps I've taken that have helped me travel more and will help you as well. I can't guarantee how much more you will travel, but I guarantee you it will be more. The amount is up to you.
1. Assess Your Financial Situation
Alas, travel isn't free, though I wish it were. To travel, it takes money in some shape or form, so before you decide anything, take a look at your finances. Do you have a lot of "bad debt" (e.g., credit card debt)? If so, you may want to hold off on your travel plans and funnel your money toward paying down that debt first. If you have no debt but feel as though your money is always going toward all of your bills each month, look into ways to make additional money through freelancing and side gigs (start with this great list). I know talking about finances and freelance jobs is a bit of a buzzkill and not exciting at all, but I promise you it will make your future travels — and life in general — less stressful.
2. Look at Your Spending Habits
This is something I have to make myself do regularly — looking at what I'm spending money on in any given week. For me, my weaknesses aren't the big purchases but rather the small ones that add up. I'll buy a Kind bar for $2 in one place, a bag of PopCorners chips for $1 in another place, $4.40 on a chai latte somewhere else... Before I know it I'm spending at least $10 a day on little things, which becomes $70 a week, $280 a month, and so on. Take some time to track your spending over the course of a week or two and see where you can cut back. If you buy coffee every morning, consider bringing your coffee in a travel mug. Or, if you're like me and love snacks, buy them in bulk instead of paying the individual price. Just as small purchases add up, so do small savings.
3. Identify Your Mental Blocks
Sometimes people don't travel more, not because they have debt or lack the finances but because there's something holding them back. It may be a fear of the unknown, or the overwhelming idea of planning a trip, or they don't want to go by themselves. Whatever that mental block is, in order to get through it you first have to identify what's holding you back. Once you know, you can think of solutions to help you push through. For example, if you have a fear of the unknown and the idea of going somewhere new scares the bejesus out of you, start small and go somewhere that's not too different. Overwhelmed at the idea of planning a trip? Consult with a travel agent or a well-traveled friend who can help you break down the process into manageable steps.
4. Write Down Some S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Oh, S.M.A.R.T. goals. I have very mixed feelings about S.M.A.R.T. goals. On one hand, they're so specific and create accountability. On the other hand, they're so specific and create accountability. A goal that is S.M.A.R.T. means that the goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. So, if you were to create a non-S.M.A.R.T. goal in relation to saving up for travel, you may say something along the lines of "I will save more money for travel." But where is the accountability? There is none. A S.M.A.R.T. revision of that same goal would be "I will transfer $100 from each paycheck into a travel savings account for the next 12 paychecks." If you stick to that goal, you'll have a guaranteed $1,200 to use for travel.
5. Create a Travel Vision Board
Yes, you read this correctly — a travel vision board. What is that, you may be wondering? Well, a vision board is a collage of images, quotes and affirmations that showcase your dreams and goals. It's a way to help you visualize the things you want to achieve in life. A travel vision board is all of that, except focused on travel. Where are the places you want to go? What are the adventures you want to take? What are the sights you want to see? You can create a physical travel vision board in which you cut out images and words from magazines and paste them onto a poster, or you can create a digital vision board in Pinterest or vision board apps. The idea is that if you can visually see these goals on a regular basis, you're more likely to achieve them. At least that's what the experts say.
6. Talk to Friends Who Travel
You probably have some friends who always seem to be traveling somewhere, am I right? Every time you look on Facebook or Instagram, they're in a different city or country. How are they doing that? My suggestion: ask them. Sometimes it may be work related and there's not much you can take away from the situation (except maybe to get a job that allows you to travel), but other times you may get some valuable advice from that friend on how they're able to travel more (assuming they're not blowing through a trust fund). The point is, don't silently wish you could travel more, be proactive and reach out to those who are traveling more to see how they do it. Sooner or later, friends will be coming to you asking for travel advice.
7. Look for Travel Inspiration
Similar to fashion inspiration or fitness inspiration, I completely believe in travel inspiration. For me, I get most of my travel inspiration from my favorite brands including AFAR, Travel + Leisure, National Geographic, Conde Nast Travel and The New York Times Travel section. I follow all of these brands on Instagram and feel inspired by something they post at least twice a day. But if large travel brands aren't your thing, there are so many other places to look for travel inspiration (cough cough like here cough cough). Similar to travel vision boards, the idea is to actually see the places you long to visit. It's not enough to read about a place, you want to see that place come to life in an image and then work to make that image a reality.
8. Follow Travel Bloggers (Like Me!)
This may be a self-serving suggestion, but I truly believe there's value in following travel bloggers. Why? Because not only do we also serve as a form of travel inspiration but we often have great, practical tips on how to travel more (at least I would like to think so). For example, on my blog, I feel it's important to have a resources page so that people are equipped with the same tools as me when it comes to the best travel sites. In truth, being a travel blogger doesn't make me any different from you. It just means I've chosen to share my travel experiences and how I'm able to travel with the public. It also means I've done the research on how to travel more and am more than happy to share what I've learned.
So, are you ready to get going? As I said earlier, these steps will help you travel more but you have to want it in order for it to happen. The only other thing I'll add that will hopefully motivate you to take the above eight steps is to look ahead 20, 30, 40 years from now. Do you think you'll regret traveling? Maybe you will, but I doubt it.
Do you have any other tips on how to travel more?