Most people believe they can’t travel. That it’s just not a reality for them. Traveling is easier than you think.
We have grown so used to our creature comforts and routines, that uprooting and heading off into new territory can be intimidating. To me, travel is nearly synonymous with personal growth. No matter which direction I’m going, I feel like I’m moving forward.
Money is probably the main reason people give for not seeing more of the world. (See my previous post for why you can afford to travel.)
Besides money, there’s a few other reasons people give for not being able to travel.
Commitments, responsibilities, relationships
I get it, you have a family and a job. But this is a reason, not an excuse. If you really want to travel, you can make it happen. It’s often less about leaving your friends and family, and more about leaving the comforts and predictability of home.
If you are fulfilled and don’t want to travel, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want to see the world, find out what is really holding you back. Talk to the people in your life, more people understand the desire to travel. Life is short. We deny ourselves so many pleasures because of burdens we impose on ourselves.
If something is important to you, you make it a priority. Even if it’s a week in the next state over, getting out there will give you perspective and realizations.
Fear of the unknown
The first time I saw a stressed out backpacker from Australia holding a map of Chicago, I realized that to an Australian, America is a foreign country. What we perceive as far off exotic lands, are comfort zones to the people who live there. When our whole world exists in only a handful of square miles, it’s harder to keep perspective. Start slowly. Take day trips. Start to venture our farther and farther each time. But I’m warning you, once you get the travel bug, it doesn’t go away.
Concern for safety
It’s becoming more clear that everywhere can be dangerous. There are many places I wouldn’t travel alone. Some of those places are in America. Foreigners I meet traveling often ask me about the safety of my own country. America is viewed as a dangerous place by the rest of the world. It feels safe to us, because it’s comfortable. There are safe places in dangerous cities, and vice versa. Take advantage of all the information out there are which places to avoid.
When I lived in New York, I saw a Chinese couple who were clearly tourists. One of them was trying to buy a souvenir from a street vendor, and he stealthily took some cash out of his money belt that he was wearing under his shirt. His wife was looking around suspiciously, trying to shield him from any potential muggers. The way they felt about Midtown, is the way I would feel about Hong Kong. Pay attention to your intuition, be aware of your surroundings and don’t travel at night. There is a plethora of information online about how to keep yourself safe while traveling. Arm yourself with knowledge and have a plan. Use common sense, and let people know where you are going.
The unfamiliar is scary at first. It will take a moment to get acquainted with your surroundings. Learn about the local culture. Meet other travelers. Hostels are filled with people backpacking from all over the world. Learn at least a few phrases, like how to ask for help and if an area if safe. Don’t be scared of people, embrace the differences and learn as much as you can. People will find you different too. I’ve been asked these things about America:
“Are there really metal detectors in schools?” and “Does everyone carry a gun?” Yes. And we sell cigarettes at our pharmacies and fresh produce costs more than junk food. We are odd and confusing too.
Traveling with someone is definitely easier than going alone. It allows you to split costs and planning. There’s safety in numbers, and it’s nice to have a companion.
Going solo will give you the opportunity to get to know yourself. You have the freedom to make your own choices and set your own schedule. You’ll meet people along the way, it’s not hard to find people to travel with for awhile. I’ve made some amazing friends that way. People are generally very helpful and supportive of solo travelers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The more you see of the world, the more you will start to realize your place in it. We have a natural curiosity and desire to explore our planet. Setting off on an adventure, I usually feel equal parts anxious and excited. That’s the atmosphere at the border crossing of my comfort zone. The more I fill my passport, the more I fill my soul.
Photo: Traveling essentials: Guidebook and sunscreen. Floppy hat optional.