Traveling is not a superpower. It is not an innate talent. It is a skill and as with any skill, it takes practice to achieve mastery.
The real skill lies not in doing, but in deciding to do. Veteran travelers habitualize the choice to travel. On the other end of the spectrum, wannabe travelers hear about their friends’ exciting travel plans and say, “I wish I could do that!”
Therein lies the problem…wishing you could implies that you can’t.
Whenever anyone says they wish they could, what they really mean is they wish they would. The real problem is not that they can’t, but that they don’t. They aren’t.
Changing your attitude and mentality about travel, and about what is possible in your life, could be the difference between the adventure of a lifetime and another bout of couch-locked boredom, envy or regret. These mind shifts will help you hit the road more often and effectively:
1. Work Backward from the Goal.
“I want to go on a safari! How will I ever be able to plan it, or afford it, and carve out the time? Who am I kidding? I can’t go on a safari.”
Dream = dead.
Instead of the above expression of false hope, try a declarative statement: “I’m going on safari in Kenya by the end of 2017.”
It might sound ridiculous at first utterance, but look what you’ve just done! Before that declaration, “safari” was an imaginary entity, a vague notion in your mind. Yet, through the act of declaring, you’ve turned “safari” into a real entity that certainly exists; even if you don’t know exactly when it exists.
2. Destroy Doubt and Fear.
There are hundreds of reason why not to travel. Many of them are valid on the surface: concerns about job security, responsibility to one’s dependents, financial obligations, etc. If these concerns plague you, dig a little deeper, and you’ll probably find a lump of fear weighing on your heart like a pile of lead.
When it comes to eradicating that fear, I invoke Newton’s first law. Travelers adhere to the law of inertia. Those in motion remain in motion. Those at rest remain at rest. Unless acted upon by an external force. Fear and doubt cripple would-be travelers and bring their dreams to a halt. They wait for an external force to move them back into action, but to no avail.
No more waiting! The external force that spurs travelers into motion is self-created. It comes from within. To destroy fear about traveling (or about anything else), one must first locate its source and name it. Then begin dissecting its true nature. Is it an irreversible truth? Doubtful. Is it a story you invented, that doesn’t have to be true if you don’t want it to be? Likely.
3. Be Intentional.
Intention makes all the difference before and during a trip. You get exactly as much from a trip as you put into it.
My favorite example of the power of intention in action is a trip I took to the Brazil World Cup in the Summer of 2014. Charting a course through Brazil, including booking five flights within the country to catch games I didn’t even have tickets to, was overwhelming. But because I was clear and intentional about actualizing my vision for the trip (pouring over maps, deciphering FIFA’s fine print, becoming an expert on how to avoid dengue fever), I actualized it. I created my dream trip with focused effort and determination, rather than just crossing my fingers that it would turn out perfectly. That’s how every trip should be.
4. Be Unreasonable.
The beauty of travel lies in suspending normalcy. It’s easy to forget that there are really no rules about how to live life. Travel reminds us of this.
Being unreasonable means asking for exactly what you want (flight and hotel upgrades, free food, private access, rate discounts, etc.). Remember: you almost certainly won’t get what you don’t ask for. At least, it’s foolish to expect that you will.
Being unreasonable means allowing yourself to be spontaneous and to say, “Actually, I think I’ll take a microlight flight over Victoria Falls instead!” It means walking into your boss’s office and asking for extra vacation days, or maybe quitting. Don’t quote me on that. Point is: Take a chance on yourself!
5. Take Small, Actionable Steps.
Think of travel as a kind of mental fitness. Just like with physical fitness, gradual, repeated progress adds up over time and produces positive results.
With so much inspiration blasting us from all angles, it’s almost impossible to evade tingles of wanderlust. Actually acting on the impulse to travel is another story.
At any given time, I have a handful of dates (not the kind with pits, nor the dinner-and-a-movie kind; I mean dates on my calendar) on which I could potentially get away. I also have a bucket list for every budget and mood to match those dates.
Hypothetically speaking, I say to myself, “How much would it cost me to go to Bolivia for a week next October?” I poke around at flights, learn a little about Bolivia and save a little money. Just like that, Bolivia has not moved, yet it has gotten closer.
Traveling regularly means taking little steps now–every day–rather than waiting for the perfect time and missing the window of opportunity because your passport expired, blah blah.