“You’re so lucky! You don’t have to work and you get to see all those amazing places. I wish I could do the same…”!
You have no idea how many times I heard this when I was on my 20-month long trip. My answer was always the same – what I do has absolutely nothing to do with luck. This trip didn’t just happen to me. I had to earn this life. I had to put effort into this trip becoming a reality. I had to make some choices and stick to them.
I guess you need lots of luck to win a lottery, and perhaps a bit of luck to avoid close encounter with motorcycles when crossing a street in Saigon, but you do not need any luck to travel. What you need is the right mindset . And you need to take some actions.
I know. It sounds cliché. But it’s true.
I have been dreaming about big, extended trip for as long as I can remember. For years I’ve been reading blogs of people who have done it and secretly hated them for living my dream. At the same time I admired them and wished I had the guts to do the same. But it all seemed so out of this world. At first I thought it was too expensive for me. When I realized it wasn’t true I came up with a number of other excuses – leaving my job would be irresponsible; coming back and starting from scratch would be scary; backpacking is something that only free spirits with dreadlocks and tattoos do. I became really good at making sure my dream would always be just that – a dream.
But then I became really angry with myself for being so undecided and frightened of things I couldn’t even name. If all those people blogging from Thailand, Argentina and India were able to do it, than surely there must be a way for me to achieve the same. So after months of contemplating and procrastinating I decided it was my turn to make the dream come true.
So what exactly does a person do about finding the courage and making the decision? I don’t have a step by step plan that will work for everyone, but this is what has worked for me:
Face your fears
Lots of things will scare you and what they are will depend on your circumstances. What if I get robbed? How will I keep paying off my mortgage? What will I do if my savings run off in the middle of my trip? What will my life be after I return? Will I be able to get a job? I know how it is to be scared and uncertain of the future – I’ve been there. But think about it for a moment – you are probably a smart, intelligent person, who has been doing quite ok in life so far, and more then likely you can achieve lots of other things in your post-trip life. If it helps, make the list of your fears and work out what can be done to mitigate them. But no matter what you do stay positive and concentrate on the trip and not on what will happen when it finishes. Because no matter how much you stress about the future, it won’t change a thing.
Network with people who have done it
Find a few round the world/sabbatical/career break travel blogs that inspire you most and read them regularly. You will quickly discover that most of those who write them are average folks who used to have 9 to 5 job and used to have the same doubts as you have now. But somehow they’ve made it. And if they’ve made it, than you can too. Ask them about their early doubts and how they coped with them. There is nothing better then knowing that someone else went through the same.
Set the date and start working on the itinerary
This will keep you motivated and excited. The date shouldn’t be too early, because you need time to prepare financially (unless you already have good savings) but not too late either, so you can see the end of the tunnel. I gave myself a year and a half for the preparations. Once you now when you will leave and start taking about it, it’s more likely you’ll stick to your decision. Make the list of all the places you always wanted to see and try to map your trip. I am not suggesting you create a day-by-day plan for your adventure, but outlining your route doesn’t hurt. When you start reading about all those places, thinking how you will get there and what you will do there, you start to visualize your trip. And once you do that it is much easier to stay focused on your plan.
Don’t let other discourage you
Whether you like it or not there always will be people who will think you are a complete idiot. And they will make sure you know what they think. This kind of negativity is usually based on their fears and insecurity, so I strongly recommend you ignore them. Don’t try to explain your reasons or convince them that you know what you are doing. They will still think you lost your mind. Let them be.
Never stop dreaming
There surely will be some moments of doubt. Don’t let them last too long. Dream about your trip. Talk about your trip. Live your life around the trip. Don’t let yourself forget what a great adventure lays ahead you.