The moment I returned home from that trip, I suggested to my boyfriend at the time that we save up as much money as we possibly could within the following six or twelve months and take a year off to travel the world together. He wasn’t nearly as excited about the idea as I was, and even thought I was a little crazy for wanting to spend a year traveling the world.
Dreams are something our soul wants to realize, and ten years later, I still had that same dream of spending a year abroad, traveling the world.
And I had yet to do anything about turning that dream into a reality.
What Stops Us From Living Our Dreams?
So how do we bridge the gap?
For some of us it’s overcoming our fear of learning a new language, while for others it’s leaving a comfortable corporate job to travel the world. So what stops us from pursing our dreams? What holds us back from getting one step closer to achieving it, from taking that leap of faith so that we can turn our dreams into a reality?
Actually, in the ten years I waited to set off to travel the world, the idea of traveling alone never crossed my mind. I always assumed I would eventually meet someone–friend, boyfriend, cousin, colleague, whomever – that also shared my dream and wanted to travel the world, but didn’t want to do it alone.
Ten years later, I finally go tired of waiting.
I decided that regardless of whether or not I had to travel alone, and regardless of whether I loved or hated my job or how much money I was making, I set a goal. I was going to quit on January 1, 2009, and finally make my dream of taking a year off to travel the world a reality.
That one decision changed everything.
Facing & Overcoming Fears by Taking Action
“But you have a job.”
“You have an apartment.”
“What about your bills?”
“How will you afford it?”
What it really comes down to, though, is identifying what we want and wanting it more than our excuses, fears, and challenges.
And again, I was worried about traveling alone. But ultimately, I wanted to travel more than I wanted to stick to my excuses.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” –Goethe
Because when we commit ourselves in our thoughts, our words and our actions, we become unstoppable.
Preparing to Leave Security Behind & Getting Out of Our Comfort Zones
Leaving the comforts of any job to travel the world isn’t any different than preparing for any big life change – like getting married, buying a house, or having a kid. The only real difference is that society has deemed preparing for these other life events as normal, while traveling the world is seen as the opposite to many.
Ultimately, it’s all about preparation, having a plan, and sticking to that plan.
After the decision was made in July 2007 to leave my career on January 1, 2009, that left me an eighteen-months to bridge the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be. From there on out, every decision I made had to be in alignment with what I wanted. And in order to make it happen, preparation was key.
The good thing was I had eighteen long months ahead of me to figure it out.
For me, the financial challenge was just half the battle. The other challenge I had yet to figure out was how to prepare for traveling the world alone. The thought of traveling solo not only frightened me, but made me feel lonely.
Why would I want to experience something I thought was so amazing, like traveling the world, alone? Preparing to travel alone during those eighteen-months leading up to my trip was just as important to me as getting my massive debt under control and saving up money.
Create a Plan of Action & Consistently Move Forward
Immediately, my mind began coming up with ideas that would help me bridge the gap from where I was to where I wanted to be.
These ideas soon evolved into a plan of action.
The obvious obstacles were finances and preparing to travel alone. Eventually other details – like studying Spanish (once I identified I was going to travel throughout South America), visas, immunizations, travel guides, where to go and what to bring – all became important as well.
Saving up money has always been a challenge for me. Up until that point, I had never saved up a significant amount of money in my life. Although I made more money than I ever had in my life, I also spent more money as well. However, equipped with a specific goal, a savings plan, and the determination to make it happen, I can tell you from experience, it can be done.
Not only did I have to pay off my debt, I also needed to create a budget for the trip, so I spent some time identifying where I was going to travel to. I initially decided on South America, Australia and New Zealand (I ultimately ended up staying in South America the entire time), so I needed research and estimate how much I would need on a monthly basis to travel comfortably.
Comfortably for me meaning hostels and low to mid-priced dining, with flexibility to still do more expensive things like kite surfing. I also researched the costs of each of the major flights I had to take, visas, immunizations, and any other large expenses.
Once I calculated everything I divided it up into an eighteen-month savings plan, which left me with an aggressive plan of having to save $1,000US per month. And that was just to finance the trip!
I had to create another plan entirely to pay off my debt. Fortunately, I had always worked hard and was in a good position in my company, so if I continued to do well, I could use the bonus money I received to pay off the debt before I left.
In order to set aside $1,000US, I took a friend’s advice and immediately cut back on smaller trips I took throughout the year, as well as identified other expenses I could cutback on–like Starbucks. Once we can pinpoint where we are spending our money and realize all those smaller expenses add up over time (like $5 coffees every day), it’s a lot easier to control our finances and see where adjustments can be made.
With consistency and determination I was eventually able to save up over $40,000US (twice my initial goal) and pay off $30,000US in debt (I left $5,000US of my student loan on monthly payments).
Emotional Preparation & Overcoming the Fear of Traveling Alone
During the time between that first summer backpacking through Europe in 2001 and the trip I finally took solo during 2009 and 2010, I waited and waited to meet someone who wanted to do the same thing.
Unfortunately, that person never showed up.
I challenged myself to find things that I could do within the eighteen months leading up to my trip that would help me overcome my fear of traveling alone.
Initially, I did small things like going out to lunch alone. I then gradually progressed into going out to dinner alone. Then the movies.
Then the big challenge came along!
Just seven months before the day I was scheduled to quit my job, while on a trip to Costa Rica with some friends, I unexpectedly extended my trip by one additional week while everyone else went home. I was finally able to travel alone!
Go For It!
Life helps us do the unimaginable and create the life we were truly meant to live.
So please, don’t wait ten years to make your dream a reality. Start planning today. I challenge you to do just one thing today that will move you one step closer to living your dream.
Remember, there is no time like the present to just go for it!
Check out the following articles to inspire you to live your dream of traveling the world:
- Giving Up Everything Gained Me the World
- Challenge Yourself and Do Hard Things
- Sometimes You Just Need to Go
- Why You Should Forgo the American Dream and Let Travel Transform Your Life