How I Overcame Obstacles to Travel the World

Almost ten years before I finally set off for a year to travel the world alone, when I was twenty-one, I spent two and a half months backpacking through Europe. It was my first trip abroad.

Want financial tips<br />
for planning your trip?
Want financial tips
for planning your trip?

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 turning our dreams into a reality?

Travel the World

Sometimes, that space between where we are in our life presently and the place where our dreams would be a reality appears to be a really long, arduous road with lots of challenges along the way.

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?

One of the challenges I faced, like many other “adults” with corporate careers or a steady job, was leaving the comforts of a steady paycheck.

One of the challenges I faced, like many other “adults” with corporate careers or a steady job, was leaving the comforts of a steady paycheck. The second challenge I faced was my fear of traveling the world alone, which was scarier to me than leaving a career where I was not only making the most money I had in my life, but was also one of the top paid pharmaceutical sales reps with my company.

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.

The shift for me finally came when I made the decision to stop waiting and decided to just do it. So, on my last birthday in my twenties in July 2007, I finally bit the bullet.

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 and overcoming our fears by taking action

Overcoming fears

Making the decision to finally stop waiting was the best decision I ever made. Because, let’s face it, there will simply never be a perfect time. All of us have excuses, fears, and challenges in life. Believe me, while I was planning my trip I heard plenty of them.

“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.

Making the decision to finally stop waiting was the best decision I ever made. Because, let’s face it, there will simply never be a perfect time.

When I committed myself to finally taking that trip in 2007, I had a comfortable salary, company car, and a nice expense account. I had an apartment and bills to pay. I even had $35K in credit card debt and student loans I had yet to figure out how I was going to pay off.

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

But ultimately, I wanted to travel more than I wanted to stick to my excuses.

When we really want something in life, we have to go after it. We have to decide that we want it more than our excuses, fears, and challenges. Once we do that, we have to make a plan. We have to commit ourselves to taking action and working hard to overcome any obstacle that stands in our way. And we have to share what we’re doing with others.

Because when we commit ourselves in our thoughts, our words and our actions, we become unstoppable. 

Preparing to leave security behind and getting out of our comfort zones

Taking action

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.

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.

Eighteen-months may seem like a long time to wait; however, I had one very large challenge to overcome, my financial situation. I needed to seriously get my finances under control, and I hadn’t had the slightest clue as to how I was going to pay off $35,000US in debt while saving up enough money to travel for a year.

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.

How to create a plan of action and consistently move forward

Beach

When we commit to a goal or establish a clear objective in our mind, life sort of helps us uncover ways to achieve it. As Paulo Coelho says in The Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

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 and overcoming the fear of traveling alone

4 Sit alone

In addition to major financial restructuring and planning, I had to work towards overcoming my fear of traveling alone. During the ten years I dreamt of traveling the world, it wasn’t the money that was holding me back, what was really holding me back was the fear of traveling alone. I just didn’t want to travel alone, end of story.

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.

During the ten years I dreamt of traveling the world, it wasn’t the money that was holding me back, what was really holding me back was the fear of traveling alone.

When I finally committed myself to going on the trip, alone if necessary, I was honestly still hopeful during those eighteen months of planning that I would meet someone to go with me. I realized that part of making this dream trip a success was preparing to travel alone if it came down to that. But because the idea made me uncomfortable, I had to mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare myself to overcome it.

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!

Solo jumping

All of us have our excuses, fears, and challenges in life. It’s part of what makes us human. But once we realize that what we want in life is more important to us than any excuse we may make or any fear we may have or any challenge we may face, we will do anything we have to do in order to bridge that gap between dreaming our dreams and living our dreams.

Once we are fully committed to our dreams, life has it’s own sort of magic that can help us bridge the gap. And this magic is what makes the seemingly impossible, possible.

Once we are fully committed to our dreams, life has it’s own sort of magic that can help us bridge the gap. And this magic is what makes the seemingly impossible, possible. It’s what helps us get lucky sometimes and continue finding the courage, resilience, and persistence to make our dreams – whether they be traveling the world, starting a business, or writing a bestselling book – a reality.

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:

Manifesto - replace broad expectations with nuanced realities

Featured


Leave a Comment

  • Alison Swihart said at 2014-05-27T16:09:04+0000: I assume if you saved $70000 in 18 months, that you make more than $70000 in 18 months.
  • Bobo and Chichi said at 2014-05-27T14:41:06+0000: This is an awesome post and we are inspired, but it seems like a brag post. You went over so many things in so much detail, but failed to mention the purpose of the post identified in the title. Saving 70,000 for RTW travel. Hats off to you and all that awesome work, but this post is not about how you saved 70K.It seems more about your journey to making these things happen. Which there is absolutely nothing wrong with, I just suggest seriously the title be different. IE Letting go of the things stopping us from RTW travel....idkThere are only 2-4 sentences highlighting actionable steps people could do, which was a great suggestion IE cutting out starbucks and small trips, but that falls a bit short of the title, "How I saved 70k in 18 Months."
  • Megan Cooley said at 2014-05-27T17:56:57+0000: I agree, a different title would be better for this article. It barely addressed actual ways to save and tools to help you save. The fear to travel alone seemed to take over the article that I thought would be about saving money. But, congrats on accomplishing your goal! Long term travel is a life changing thing!
  • Tony Chan said at 2014-05-27T14:39:12+0000: Thank you so much for sharing this! Your story parallels my own plan to travel the world. I'm giving myself 2 years and 4 months to save up for my RTW trip starting next March. Stories like yours inspire me to keep my head and solider on. One day I'll get there. One my dream will become a reality.
  • Igho Best Abilogu said at 2014-05-28T03:04:43+0000: Once we are fully committed to our dreams, life has it’s own sort of magic that can help us bridge the gap. I love this cos is really true about life
  • Sol Vibrations said at 2014-05-28T02:26:36+0000: So happy to read this post, resonates so deeply! I feel like that is the exact same boat I am in. Thank you for sharing.