We all know the girl who spent a summer studying in France, the couple who backpacked across Australia last year, or the group of friends who celebrated New Year’s Eve in New York City. You may hear of these people and think, “LUCKY!”
But in reality, anyone can travel anywhere they want to, even you. It is simply a matter of priorities, preparation and planning. Do you want to drive nice car, or spend a month in Thailand? Would you rather buy cute new clothes every month, or swim with sharks off the coast of Africa? Is eating peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day worth a week in Hawaii? Yes. Yes, yes, yes! Material things do not fulfill us as human beings. Experiences, on the other hand, become part of our identities and contribute to the very fabric of our existence for the rest of our lives. Those stylish clothes will be old news next September, but the fact that you swam with sharks will inspire you forever.
You can make your dream trip happen. Whether you want to explore Europe, go adventuring in New Zealand or sail around the Greek islands, you can send yourself on the trip of your dreams. Here’s how:
- First, decide where to go. You may already know you want to go to Egypt. Good for you. Or, you may just know you want to go to Africa- you need to spend some time thinking things over. Africa…Australia…Europe…these are giant destinations that must be narrowed down. Keep in mind that a month in Asia will cost much less than a month in Europe, but don’t let money be the deciding factor in where you want to go.
- Research your destination. Buy a guidebook, one with pictures if you want. Read it, highlight interesting information and take notes in the back. Watch movies and read stories with your destination as their setting, and check out all the websites you can. The more you know about your destination, the better your trip will be.
- Figure out who you are going with. You might have a travel buddy lined up, or you may want to get a group together. For the latter option, keep in mind that you will probably end up functioning as the group leader and will do much of the planning. This is fine, as long as you expect it. Whoever you travel with, it will change your relationship with them forever, for better or worse. Choose your traveling partners wisely. Or just go by yourself. There is nothing more empowering than romping this world alone, going exactly where you want and doing just as you please. You can do it; single women have spent months in India, years in Asia, lifetimes in Africa- and so can you.
- Consult a travel agent who specializes in budget travel. While websites with user-generated content can be helpful and should definitely be considered, a good travel agent has insight into flight patterns, hotel deals and foreign destinations that “Sally from Minnesota” will not. If you are a student, consult a student agency like STA or the Adventure Travel Company, as students can get special deals. Even if the agent specialist charges a nominal fee for your initial consultation (although most don’t), it will be well worth if for the insider destination information. Make sure the agent you pick is a specialist in your destination or has been there before, and while you are in the agency, grab a stack of free travel brochures to flip through and stir your mind.
- Budget. Figure out how much money you will need for the entire trip: flights, ground transportation, lodging, food, drinks, souvenirs, gear, passports, visas and miscellaneous. A good travel agent can help you with this. Then add about ¼ of the total cost back on top; trips always wind up costing more than you think they will, and the last thing you want to do is run out of money with a week left to get from Switzerland to Spain.
- Prioritize your funds. To save up enough money to take a trip, you will have to reduce some of your extra expenses. Keep track of everything you spend for a month, and see where you can cut back. Eat out less. Buy fewer new clothes. Don’t go out dancing every single Friday. Skip that weekend trip to the city. To speed your savings up even more, take drastic measures: go carless, move to a smaller apartment or find an extra job. Paris is worth it.
- Get a passport. This is a good move to accomplish early on. You will need it, and having one will make you feel more worldly and inspired.
- Speaking of inspiration, cut out photos of your dream destination and plaster them above your desk, on your refrigerator and in the pages of your notebooks. Put up inspirational quotes, and be your own biggest cheerleader.
- Make friends with fellow travelers. If all of your present friends cannot possibly imagine why anyone would want to go to Nepal, then you need to make some new friends! Attend free travel seminars, visit travel bookshops, and join online forums. The travel bug is catching, and others’ enthusiasm and encouragement will help to keep you going when the rest of your buddies want to blow their bucks on earrings at the mall.
- Put your plan into action, and be patient. It may take a year or two or even more to be able to save enough money. Slowly build up your travel gear, buy your plane ticket early, and then add all the pieces of the puzzle together. Most of all, believe in yourself. Travel is daunting, difficult, – and life changing. You can make your dream trip happen; get your priorities in line and trust in yourself and soon you will be walking the Great Wall of China, swimming in the South Pacific, or jumping out of a plane over Morocco. And you will never be the same.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller