Author: Jason Thiessen

Making the Decision to Go – The Hardest Part of Long-Term Travel

“Most success in life is an internal game. It’s usually more about how you think, feel, and behave than the tools or resources you have at hand. Your psychology is more important than anything.”

—Brendan Burchard, Best-Selling Author and Speaker

For many, the idea of long-term, round the world travel is a pipe dream. It’s something that we romanticize and talk about in a starry-eyed kind of way with anyone who will listen. We talk about quitting our jobs, all the amazing places we would go, the people we would meet, and the personal growth we would experience. Then all the specifics of how to do it start to enter our minds. Very quickly we are overwhelmed with details. Our dream begins to get clouded over. It fades away as quickly as it came. “I’ll get to it another day,” we say. The how just trampled our dream.

Round the world (RTW) travel, career breaks, sabbaticals, gap years, or any extended travel for that matter, is, at the core, not about logistics. It’s not about getting the time off work, saving enough money, or the perfect itinerary either. These are important things to work out, of course, but something critical has to happen before any of this. You have to decide to go. It sounds obvious, but most people never have this experience because they quite simply can’t or won’t decide. They may procrastinate on making the actual decision, leaving it hang out there for months, years, or even decades. They may start thinking about it and then get hung up on the details long before they actually make the commitment to do it. Regardless, their inability to decide takes them out of the game, sometimes for a very, very, long time.

It sounds obvious, but most people never have this experience because they quite simply can’t or won’t decide.

Forget the specifics of how you’re going to do it…

There is no point in getting bogged down in how to do something until you actually decide you are going to do it. This is what takes most people out. Details, details, details. Think about it for a minute. Would you plan a wedding before deciding to get engaged? The cart seems to be just a little ahead of the horse on that one. Deciding is often the hard part. Once you’ve decided—really decided—the details generally fall into place. There are some incredible tools and resources out there to help with the how. But before getting to the how, you have to decide, and before you decide, you have to cross a point of no return and connect to it emotionally.

Extended travel is a major commitment; it’s right up there with buying a house, moving to a new city, taking (or leaving) a job, and yes, getting married. It’s a commitment of time and money beyond what you may have ever considered before. If you’re reading this you’re probably debating the pros and cons of doing so right now. You’re sitting down with pen and paper and scratching out your lists. You’re doing the math on how much money it may cost. You’re worrying about how long you’ll go for (and who you may upset in the process). You’re worrying about safety and security. You’re trying to figure out how you’ll get from place to place and navigate borders and bus stations and airports.


Let’s decide first if it’s something you really want. You’re going to ask yourself all those other questions anyway, so why not really decide first if you want to go?

But before getting to the how, you have to decide, and before you decide, you have to cross a point of no return and connect to it emotionally.

Consider this: most people who buy an expensive sports car do so not for the vehicle itself, but for what it represents, what it means to them. For most people that car means success, and that makes them feel good about themselves. The same can be said for many of the large purchases we make in our lives – including houses, boats, cottages, and the like. We buy these things because they make us feel something (secure, proud, or safe). We want to feel a certain way or satisfy some under-the-covers emotional need. (By the way, we all have these needs; we are human, after all.) Once we connect to that feeling, or that need, the ability to make a decision becomes much easier.

Tap into your emotions

I’ve spoken to hundreds of people about long-term travel, and I would be hard-pressed to recall someone who did it that could not express a strong emotional connection to the experience. The idea of round the world travel, career breaks, and sabbaticals resonated with each of them on an emotional level, and they were able to identify with the feeling they wanted. With that, the decision to go was a much easier one, and they stuck to it. They felt it, thought about it, and then simply decided. I’ve also spoken to many people who have dabbled in the idea and thought it might be cool but had never gone because they could not connect to it emotionally. They didn’t feel it. As a result they never made the decision.

As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t—you’re right.” In order to move forward with your plans, you must think that you can; you must decide that you can. From that point forward things will fall into place. Your logistics will work themselves out. You’ll find the time and money (these may seem like insurmountable obstacles right now, but if this is your priority, just like buying a house, you will find what you need). Someone will rent your house or look after your cat while you’re gone. You’ll get the time off work or school and get the support you need from friends and family. The stars will indeed align.

In order to move forward with your plans, you must think that you can; you must decide that you can. From that point forward things will fall into place.

Being truly committed to a decision means that you are unwavering. Once you’ve made it you will undoubtedly question it many times (I did this often during the two-and-a-half years between deciding to go and actually going on my big trip), but you will have confidence because you know that it will happen. One way to maintain this confidence is to practice using language in your everyday conversations that suggests to anyone listening (even if you don’t know they are listening) that you are going, guaranteed. For example, you don’t say “if” and you don’t say “maybe.” You may even want to affirm it to yourself and to the world. Say something like, “I’m grateful and excited to be traveling the world.” Bring the future back to the present and speak about it as though it is already happening. As with any affirmation be sure to focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. For example, saying something like, “I’m enjoying traveling the world because I’m away from a job I hate and a roommate that drives me nuts,” is not really sending the right message to the universe.

Plenty of friends, family, and even fellow travelers have looked at me as though I was somehow special for traveling around the world. I’m not special at all (ask anyone). All I did was connect to the idea of this kind of travel emotionally and then made a decision. You can, too.

Read What is Your Why to dig into the emotional reasons for taking a trip like this.

It’s decision time

In order to help you connect to what you really want, and ultimately help you in your decision-making regarding a career break, a round the world trip, or a sabbatical, answer the following questions in order. Be honest. There are no right or wrong answers, just listen to your gut. Actually write out the answers, don’t just answer them in your head. Put your answers in a safe place and come back to them periodically over the next few weeks and see how you feel.

  1. What are my top-5 personal values?
  2. Who are the 3 most important/influential people in my life (past or present) and for each of them describe, in detail, why they have (or had) such an impact on me.
  3. What sparked my first thought or interest in extended travel and why?
  4. What are the top-5 reasons why I am really considering taking extensive, round the world travel?
  5. What does long-term travel represent to me (not anyone else)?
  6. What are the top-3 fears I have in life?
  7. What are the top-3 fears I have about taking a trip like this?
  8. Extended travel has as many budget possibilities as there are destinations. Pick a number that you may be considering as your potential budget. It could be $10,000 or $50,000, it doesn’t really matter. Now, consider that the actual expense would be 10% more. So, for a $10,000 budget it would actually be $11,000. Would this new knowledge make you change your mind and stay at home?

“It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.”

– Jim Rohn, Best-Selling Author, Speaker, and Philosopher

Check out the following articles and resources to help you make that decision to hit the road:

All photos courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.