I’ve had a terrible case of wanderlust for as long as I can remember. But I did not grow up in a family of travelers, and without anyone ever explicitly saying anything, I thought that travel was for other kind of people. People with more financial resources. People who lived a different kind of life. It became this lottery fantasy of what I would do if I could do anything, but it was so far removed from my reality that I didn’t even realize it was possible.
Then something changed. I grew older, and I began to get a little more clever with money. I could make a dollar stretch until it cried, not because I was cheap but because I had figured out some life hacks to get the things I wanted even on a budget. And I began to look at the average cost of a family vacation. Just going a few hours away to the beach for a week could cost hundreds of dollars. I began to look at the cost of overseas travel and compare. What had once seemed impossible now seemed a matter of priorities. It’s not that it couldn’t be done. It would just involve prioritizing and committing to it.
So there’s this Couch to 5K program that takes us from being sedentary to running 3 miles. If we take that same approach to travel, we could see our travel dreams become reality.
It’s all a matter of taking small, practical steps to get where we want to go. Take a deep breath if it seems overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. We can enjoy the planning aspect of our journeys if we’re realistic with ourselves. So here are a few steps to get to Destination Everywhere:
- Do some general research of all the places on your bucket list. Where do you want to go?
- Prioritize what you want to see first and which places could wait until later. What makes #1 on your list?
- Do more specific research on your top 3 destinations. What are the points of interest? How much will it cost? Are there tips and tricks to save money? What are the best times to go?
- Choose the first destination. Make a vision board to go along with your travel plans. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It could be a picture of Venice that you put on your fridge with a magnet. It could be a Pinterest board on Provence. Simply choose where and hang up a visual aid to keep you motivated.
- Apply for a passport if you don’t already have one.
- Pick up a travel book on your dream destination or watch travel videos.
- If traveling to a country that speaks a different language, begin learning some basics of that language. Download a language learning app or sign up for a course.
- Begin a savings plan for your dream vacation. Have a large jar to collect all spare change. Set up a direct deposit into your savings account of a specific amount each month. Determine how much you can afford to save and begin immediately. Put any “extras” (work bonuses, birthday money, tax return) into the savings.
- Commit to one small sacrifice each week to get to your goal Examples: forego fancy coffee for $5; put that $5 in the savings. Instead of buying ready-made cookies, use ingredients at home to make them. Take the $3 you would have spent on cookies (a non-necessity) and put that in savings. Clip coupons and put what you saved into your dream vacation savings.
- Consider doing a staycation for a year or two in order to invest your regular vacation money into the dream vacation fund. Yes, it’s a sacrifice now, but staycations can be fun, too, and it’s all in service of that larger goal.
- Research travel accessories and travel hacks to make travel easier. What luggage is best? What shoes are the most comfortable for a trip with lots of walking? Start planning what to get and work that into the budget. Include it on your wish list for birthdays and holidays.
- As you approach the goal date, book your trip. Some travel agencies will allow you to make payments. Groupon often offers affordable travel deals; watch for sales.
Getting started is sometimes the hardest part. It can seem overwhelming. But it’s absolutely doable. I booked my first trip last year. I found a great deal for a cruise to an exotic destination. I put down my deposit and started planning away. Within a few months, I was setting sail with two kids on my own. It turned out to be the best vacation we’ve ever had. When I got back, I began to take steps to get my passport, which I’ve since obtained. Everything starts with that first step, and it’s important to stay focused and motivated to reach our goals.
Wanderlust is a wonderful thing! We can enjoy the process of planning and get ready to start living out our dreams. The sky’s the limit!