Do you constantly fantasize about faraway places? Are you dreaming of dropping everything, quitting your job, and blowin’ this popsicle stand on the next flight out? Do you want to start traveling but have no clue how to make the leap? This article is for you.
I feel ya. I’ve been there. I’ve gawked over and gobbled up everything you can about travel during brief breaks between shifts. I’ve heard about people going all over the world and living this too-fantastical-to-believe life of adventure and thought it just wasn’t a possibility for myself. Now, after 7 years on the road, traveling the world has changed my life forever. And now I’m want to bestow some radical knowledge to you that helped me to start traveling.
What holds you back from being able to travel is what holds a lot of people back. Don’t feel discouraged.
Jobs. Bills. Money. Fear. What-ifs. Excuses. Possessions. Family.
Let me guess, you’re probably part of the “someday” club; sipping cocktails after a long day at a mundane job with co-workers, desperately trying to slip this topic of travel into the never-ending group bickering about the job.
Once you do finally force the, “I kinda feel like taking a lot of time off to go backpacking” line in, you’re met first by silence, followed by chuckling, then about how crazy it seems. You take a big swig, in your head you think “fuckers…but maybe this dream is a joke” and head home.
At home, you spend the night scrolling through Pinterest boards of inspirational posters. SEIZE THE DAY! Or TRAVEL DON’T WISH! You re-pin them thinking “someday” again. Maybe you YouTube videos of other travelers and imagine yourself in those exotic locales.
Or, if you are like I once was, I spent my nights watching hours of Travel Channel reruns wishing it was me out there in Myanmar trekking with Anthony Bourdain, then I’d get depressed, watch infomercials until sunrise, and drink myself to sleep.
This doesn’t have to be all there is to life.
I promise that wasn’t a jab at your lifestyle because I lived just like that as well. But clearly you are here for a reason, so I’m going to kick down some doors in order to get you on the road.
Hey look, it’s me in Middle Earth aka New Zealand wondering why didn’t I travel sooner!
I’ll present a couple of questions to you:
Do you want to go from dreamer to full-blown globetrotter/supertamp/nomad/backpacker/adventure or whatever the hell else people refer to it as now?
Are you so damn tired of seeing those candy-coated Instagram travel photos wishing you were out in the world on some exotic beach or moody forest or ancient city?
If you answered yes, keep reading. If you answered no, turn back, there’s too much epic potential past this point.
Nothing happens to those who stay idle, so it’s time to take action.
I was in the same place as you when I was in my early twenties, sans iPhones social media and the days where you could see the world via Google Earth. Hey, that was only 5 years ago!
Before I was “the lost boy“, and before I could consider myself a traveler, I was simply lost in life. Once upon a time I worked jobs I hated, I was completely miserable with life, and I was perpetually unhappy.
I was just an adult who dreamed as a boy of seeing the world. Instead, I was doing squat with my life. In elementary school, I scanned those giant picture books with cross-section cutouts of castles in the school library and told my teachers I’d be an archeologist someday. Or an explorer.
Instead, I was a high school dropout working in window repair – anything outside of a normal 9-5 seemed like a foolish childhood fantasy. And I was constantly told that doing something outside of this was stupid.
(Psst! This is me at a castle in Serbia! Silly dream eh?)
So how did I finally make the moves to become a traveler, and how can you start traveling?
In my own story, it took years to take the leap of faith, years of depression and drinking, and years of trudging through each day to start questioning that existence. Years of feeling like something was wrong in my life and not knowing why. Years feeling that there had to be more.
There is more to life and more to the world, and you can travel if you want to. You just have to know how to start traveling.
That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?
If you follow these 5 simple steps on how to start traveling, steps that I followed myself, you can become a world traveler in no time!
When I say simple, I don’t mean easy. It’ll take some work, but your dream is worth it, right?
5 Steps to Start Traveling
Step 1: GET YOUR PASSPORT!
First and foremost, if you don’t have a passport (like 80% of Americans) get one!
Not having a passport everywhere else in the world is a strange concept, but in the United States, it’s the norm.
For myself, I was the first person in my immediate family to EVER have a passport, and most of my friends don’t even have one. Of course, that isn’t counting the hundreds of people I’ve met while traveling that I can call friends now. That get passports right out of the womb pretty much.
Before I was a traveler, I thought a passport was some mystical object only certain people could have. I thought that getting a passport and traveling the world would be the hardest thing ever — near impossible for the likes of me.
After a stop to the post office, I had my passport in 2 weeks, and it has been my most prized possession since.
Even though I was disowned for leaving the United States for a couple of years by a big brother, who thought it was an immature life move, it was still worth it to chase that dream.
(Don’t worry, we’ve since come to an understanding…)
Your passport is like a freakin’ golden ticket for Willy Wonka — this shining and glorious pass that opens a world of possibility only seen on TV…or on Instagram hashtags.
Without the passport, you can travel some, but not the way you want.
The real self-revolution of wannabe traveler to bona fide adventurer comes after you leave your home country to see what life is like away from the confines, comforts, and options of home.
An added bonus, just looking at your stamps add up is as addicting as those travel tattoos you might start collecting.
The first step to becoming a world traveler is to get your damn passport already!
Step 2: Stop Thinking Travel is Expensive!
Some people think travel is super expensive, and that’s one reason most don’t do it.
Hell, I thought the same thing.
Usually people will use the tired excuse of, “I would but it’s so expensive and I have a lot of bills and…”
Blah blah blah.
The excuse that travel is too expensive is rubbish. (Like that? That’s the funny way Aussies, Kiwis, and Brits say trash 😛)
Travel might seem expensive upfront with flight costs, backpacks, hostels or hotels, and everything else you can think of. But it isn’t.
Compared to living in the United States, United Kingdom, or Australia, traveling the world is vastly less expensive. It just matters HOW you travel.
Cheap (free) hammock camping in New Zealand anyone? Comes with a view.
How many times have you gone out with friends on a weekend (or most weekends) and discovered you spent over $100 on drinks? Not including dinner and cab costs.
Been there, done that. Blew a lot of money that way each week. Once you’ve left your home country, the cost of living drops enormously.
No more $100 phone bill, no more car payments or car insurance, no more rent. All of those monthly stresses fall away, and already your life has become less expensive without those.
Depending on where you go, travel can be REALLY inexpensive.
Head over to Southeast Asia and you can live on $20 a day comfortable. At home, that’s like a Starbucks coffee and lunch.
In Thailand, $20 can get you a room, 3 meals a day, and drinks. Of course that depends on how many Chang beers you decide to chug and if you choose an air-conditioned suite over a bungalow with a rickety fan.
When I traveled to Thailand back in 2012, I made $3,500 last 7 months, including heaps of adventures and a flight to Italy.
Stop using the excuse that travel is expensive.
Life at home is expensive, and that’s without the adventures. Now you’re one step closer to seeing the world.
Step 3: Save Money Like a Crazy!
Okay, why am I now telling you to save money like crazy after saying travel isn’t expensive?
So you can keep traveling.
And so you can afford to do super rad things!
On my first trip out of the United States to New Zealand, I had this lofty idea I’d end up traveling the world for years. Somehow, I would become a famous adventurer, and I would get paid to see the world.
That didn’t happen of course.
When I ran completely out of money and had to go home, that was a big whopping slap in the face by reality. I got super depressed, made some terrible mistakes, and spent a year trying to get the mojo back to travel again.
In part, I ran out of money because I didn’t budget good enough while traveling, and in part I didn’t save enough.
Not saving enough also prevented me from doing things I really wanted to do, like skydiving and other awesome excursions. The more you save, the more you play.
Like it so far? Pin it and share the inspiration!
What’s enough to save for travel?
That depends on where you’re going and what you’re planning.
When trying to figure out a budget, take into account flight costs, hostel costs, a daily spending limit for food and booze, and some extra cheddar for activities. Add that up over the tie frame you plan to travel, and pad it by a few hundred more.
Want to know how to save all this moolah for traveling the world?
Cut out all the bullshit from your life that you don’t need.
Pardon the harsh words, but really, most of the stuff we spend money on is BS.
Here are just a handful of ways you can save for travel quick:
- Stop buying Starbucks and make coffee at home ya’ lazy bum! It was hard for me to give up pumpkin spice lattes, but I did. You can too.
- Only go out to eat at a restaurant once a week. And pack lunch for work.
- Limit nights out for drinks to one night a week…or pregame and take only $20 out.
- Do you smoke? Quit that shit. I know, it’s sooooo hard, right? Well, if you’re serious about travel, you can give up a habit for the sake of your damn dream! You’ll save hundreds with that alone.
- Cancel all of your memberships to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and whatever else you use. Need entertainment? Read a book.
- Drop your phone plan to a lower tier. Do you really need 5gb per month? Well, if you do, lay off the YouTube and Instagram until you’re in wifi and lose the $100 phone bill.
- Make a savings goal, and stick to it. Each pay check, commit to putting a large chunk of it in a savings account toward the trip. If what you’re saving isn’t amounting to at least half, figure out what else you can cut out to save more.
Once you get in the groove of saving like crazy to travel, it’ll get fun and you’ll want to save more.
One step closer to world traveler baby!
Step 4: Lose All of the Crap (Possessions)
Using a little Scottish lingo to drive this one in, if you want to start traveling, you’ve got to get rid of all those things.
The more you own, the more you’re weighed down by possessions. In essence, possession own you.
Do you really need 20 different outfits, 10 pairs of shoes, 2 TVs, an Xbox and PlayStation, a sword collection, and 400+ DVDs? Oh wait, that was me. If this does apply to you, or if you have more things than I did, it has to go before the adventure.
In reality, I didn’t need any of that stuff. You don’t need it either.
Possessions are a temporary cure for unhappiness.
I owned so many things because they made me temporarily happy and distracted me from the life I was living and hating.
I was addicted to buying new and expensive things that would distract me just a little while. All it does is end up holding you back and making you want more. And pushing you further from that dream of travel.
Just let the things go.
It’ll be hard at first, but trust me, you’ll feel much lighter and freer and happier.
Nowadays, everything I own fits in my trusty backpack and a tech bag. All of my other belongings, like family photos or my collection of plane tickets — it ALL fits in an old trunk. That’s it. And I’ve never felt better.
Now, if I want to go somewhere, I don’t have to worry about what to do with all of my stuff…I just go.
I’ll give you a task young Travel Padawan…
Make a 10ft X 10ft space in a room.
Pick out your favorite 10 shirts and pants or shorts (that you actually wear) and place them inside.
Donate or gift everything else. Or, put it in a box and have a family member keep it if you have important seasonal clothes.
If it can’t fit in one box, get rid of it.
After, cut the amount you’ve chosen in half. I know, I know, it hurts. But it has to be done!
Now add socks, underwear, and toiletries to the space.
Pick one pair of shoes for walking, one nice pair for nights out, and some flip-flops for those days on the white sand beaches sipping mojitos.
Get rid of the rest or store them away.
After this, you now have an idea of the most important things you own and the most important to a traveler. This is what you can fit in a backpack.
This is life of a traveler.
This is your goal.
Cut out the rest.
If you can’t let go, turn back now.
The moment you lighten your life, you’re almost ready to start living that crazy travel dream of yours. Your friends might ask “how do you live with so little?!” and eventually you’ll think to yourself, “how did I live with so much useless stuff…”
Step 5: Book that ticket, NOW!
Is there any better motivation than a deadline?
If you really want to become a traveler, the only way to do it is to travel. A lot of these steps are important in the journey you have to undertake before traveling, but until you book your ticket, it’s still just a dream.
Make travel a reality. Book your flight.
There have been many times where I’ve returned home and told myself I’ll start traveling again in a few months, only to let it go more than half a year and almost losing my mind before I book my flight.
By having your plane ticket, you have proof you are going.
You have bragging rights that build confidence.
You can tell all your friends and family about this exciting adventure.
I know plenty of people who tell me they will travel soon, but never do because they don’t book the ticket and have something to look forward to.
It’s a commitment, your dream and the goals to get you there.
And if you don’t shell out the money for a flight, most likely, you’ll let a bunch of random things in life continue to get in the way of your dream to travel.
When I first told my brother that I was leaving the United States to chase this dream, he disowned me. We grew up in a super conservative family and the normal path in life was to get a stable labor job and that’s that. I was breaking the mold, and it wasn’t taken well. It left me in tears after I told him I was leaving and he said that.
Had I not booked a ticket prior to telling him, I may have let that event stop me from ever leaving.
Here was the first time I ever saw foreign soil, which was New Zealand, and to this day it is one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever experience.
This final step can also be the first and most important step to becoming a traveler.
Booking a ticket to another country shifts something in your mind, it changes you. It inspires you. It commits you. It turns your dream into reality. And then, that first adventure will change your life.
Now you have 5 steps to make to become a world traveler.
Go on dreamer, follow that wanderlust and that calling of faraway places. You’ve got it in you, and only you can do it. I never believed I could have a life outside of the small town I grew up in, but 7 years and 25+ countries later, buying that ticket to New Zealand was the single most important moment of my life.