How I Overcame Obstacles to Travel the World
At 21, almost ten years before I finally set off for a year to travel the world alone, I spent two and a half months backpacking through Europe. It was my first trip abroad. 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 6-12 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.
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.
Ten years, and I had yet to do anything about turning that dream into a reality.
What Stops Us From Living Our Dreams?
Sometimes, that space between where we are in life presently and our ideal situation appears to be a long, arduous road with many challenges along the way.
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. 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?
How do we bridge the gap?
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 was my fear of traveling the world alone, which was actually scarier to me than leaving a career where I was making the most money I had in my life as a top paid pharmaceutical sales rep.
Over the ten years I had 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 – who also shared my dream and wanted to travel the world, but didn’t want to do it alone.
Ten years later, I finally got tired of waiting.
The shift for me came when I decided to stop waiting and just do it. So, on my 29th birthday in July 2007, I bit the bullet.
I decided that regardless of whether or not I had to travel alone, whether I loved or hated my job, or how much money I was making, I would 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
Struggling to take the leap? Let’s face it, there will simply never be a perfect time.
Making the decision to finally stop waiting was the best choice I’ve ever made. 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.
When I committed myself to finally taking that trip in 2007, I had a comfortable salary, a company car, and a little money to spare. I had an apartment and bills to pay. I also had $35K in credit card debt and student loans I had yet to figure out how 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
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.
Finally, we have to share what we’re doing with others. 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 is like 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 long-term is still seen as unreasonable to many.
Ultimately, it’s all about preparation, having a plan, and sticking to that plan.
I made the decision in July 2007 to leave my career on January 1, 2009. That left me 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.
Eighteen months may seem like a long time to wait; however, I had one enormous challenge to overcome: my financial situation. I needed to seriously get my finances under control, and I had no idea how I was going to pay off 35,000 USD in debt while saving up enough money to travel for a year.
The good thing was that 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 was how to prepare for traveling the world alone. The thought of traveling solo frightened me and made me feel lonely.
Why would I want to experience something I thought was so amazing, like traveling the world, alone? I would need to prep my mind for that challenge.
Create a Plan of Action & Consistently Move Forward
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 was making more money than I ever had, I also spent more as well. However, equipped with a specific goal, a savings plan, and the determination to make it happen, it’s possible to make a trip fund happen.
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 mapping out my route. I initially decided on South America, Australia, and New Zealand (I ultimately ended up staying in South America the entire time). From there, I needed to estimate how much I would need on a monthly basis to travel comfortably.
For me, “comfortably” means hostels and low to mid-priced dining, with the flexibility to do more expensive things on occasion, such as kite surfing. I also researched the costs of each of the major flights I had to take, visas, immunizations, and any other large expenses.
After calculating everything, I divided the costs up into an eighteen-month savings plan, which left me with an aggressive plan of needing to save 1,000 USD 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 1,000 USD per month, I took a friend’s advice and immediately cut back on any smaller trips I had planned to take throughout the year, as well as identified other expenses I could cut back on – goodbye, Starbucks.
Once we can pinpoint where we are spending our money, it’s a lot easier to control our finances and see where adjustments can be made. All those smaller expenses add up over time.
With consistency and determination, I was eventually able to save up over 40,000 USD (twice my initial goal) and pay off 30,000 USD in debt (I left $5,000 of my student loan on monthly payments).
Emotional Preparation & Overcoming the Fear of Traveling 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 waited and waited to meet someone who wanted to do the same thing. Unfortunately, that person never showed up.
When I finally committed myself to going on the trip, alone if necessary, I was honestly still hopeful 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. This was my test run!
Go For It!
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 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.
It’s what helps us get lucky sometimes and to continue to find the courage, resilience, and persistence to make our dreams a reality, whether they be traveling the world, starting a business, or writing a bestselling book.
For many of us, it is possible to 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