First, let me acknowledge that while I may travel more than some, I certainly don’t travel as much as many others. My travel is very personal (even when I travel for my work) and this travel thing is by no means any kind of competition. Second, that being said, it is clear for anyone close enough to observe that I have made travel a priority for my life. But Instagram-ready pictures drinking champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris; doing yoga poses on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa; riding a camel on desert safari in Dubai, UAE; windsurfing in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea off the coast of St. Lucia; enjoying a raucous celebration of the Festival of Santa Barbara through the streets of Pelourinho in Bahia, Brazil; or strolling through the winding, narrow streets of Nerja’s old quarter on Spain’s Costa del Sol don’t even begin to tell the story of ‘how’ when it comes to my travel life.
The story of my ‘how’ is really a story about choices – life choices, financial/economic choices, job/career choices, buying choices, relationship choices, etc., – that I make on a daily basis, which in turn allow me to make travel a realistic and actionable priority for my life. Quite simply, my travel life is a life of choices that began long before I ever bought my first plane ticket for a trip abroad. Below are 6 ways I began my travel life before stepping one foot out of the U.S. Maybe these can give you both perspective and inspiration for creating the ‘how’ of your travel life.
BUDGET, SPEND & SAVE LIKE TRAVEL IS YOUR PRIORITY
While the need to budget, spend and save for travel may seem obvious, what I’m talking about is a daily commitment to a regular lifestyle of managing your financial resources like travel is your priority. While most people think of doing these things in the context of planning for a specific trip, what I’m talking about is doing these things regularly whether or not any trip is being planned. The more you intentionally work your resources like travel is your priority, as a regular way of living your daily life, you will put yourself in a better position to take whatever trip you like whenever you’re ready to do so. For example, back in 2006 I was considering purchasing a new home. Not that I needed one but I got caught up (not for long thankfully!) in the uniquely American practice of leveling-up: if you have a condo, then you must get a townhouse; if you have a townhouse, then you must get a single-family home. Well, I went on the market and looking at property with my realtor, all I could think was, “There is no way I would ever spend this much money just to live somewhere. I have other things I want to do with my money.” And at the top of that list of other things was travel. I was clear: no way would I purchase a property that would put me in a position to not be able to budget, spend and save the way I wanted to in order to ensure and grow the travel life I wanted to have. So I turned my back on that uniquely American practice of leveling-up in favor of prioritizing my travel life.
LIVE YOUR LIFE AT HOME LIKE TRAVEL IS YOUR LIFESTYLE
What are the TV shows you watch? What are the movies you see? What are the music/art/cultural events you go to? How is your home decorated? What are the ways in which all these things provide you with motivation and inspiration for your travel life? You see, a travel life is not just about where you’re off to next; it’s about how you live every day. It’s about how you allow what you do when you’re at home to keep the fires of motivation and inspiration for your travel life burning to help light your way to your next travel adventure. If you surround yourself daily with nothing that inspires your travel life, it is very difficult to both begin and sustain one. Consider adding PBS shows to your viewing repertoire that highlight travel and/or stories based on different cultures/countries; explore Netflix or Hulu or AmazonPrime for foreign films that may interest you; go to museum exhibits/embassy events/musical performances featuring art, workshops/discussions, and/or performers from other countries; and, whether items from travels you have taken or from travels you hope to take, decorate your home so that it stands as a testament to your travel life – inspiring you from the time you get up to the time you go to bed.
On the whole, we’re not the reading culture that we used to be. But that should never stop you from getting your read on – especially where it concerns learning about different countries, cultures, languages, lifestyles, etc. And I’m not talking about reading travel books for an upcoming trip. What I am talking about is reading real books: novels, fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, etc., about the people, places and cultures you’re interested in that will allow you to learn, and deepen your understanding of, the very world in which you want to live your travel life; and in so doing continue motivating and inspiring you on your travel life journey. Aside from being physically present to directly experience a new country or culture, there’s no better way to learn about the history and culture of the French Caribbean than to read a Maryse Conde book; or that of Latin America than by reading a Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende book; or that of Haiti than by reading an Edwidge Danticat book. So please read! It will inform, deepen, wisen, and enliven your travel life.
DO THINGS ON YOUR OWN
Most people in the United States do not travel outside of the United States. There are many reasons for this; the reason most go to first is economic. But, even among those with the financial means to travel, relatively few do. Only 36% of Americans hold a passport (compared to 60% of Canadians and 75% of British and Australians). Furthermore, Americans are only half as likely to travel to more than one country, as compared to their European counterparts. Given the statistics, having that travel life almost requires a willingness to travel solo … because only 36% of Americans even have a passport! But if you’re skittish about doing things on your own at home, any reticence about the idea of traveling solo will be a difficult barrier to overcome. Therefore, practice is necessary. Go to the movies. Take yourself out to dinner. Attend social/cultural/museum/musical events and performances. Go for walks. Go hiking. Do all of these things and more. Being willing to do things on your own at home, and enjoying yourself while doing so, prepares you for your travel life that, at times, will find you traveling solo (and loving it!).
TRY NEW THINGS
Everything about starting and maintaining a travel life involves a desire and appreciation for experiencing new things – new food, music, languages, celebrations, cultures, religions/spiritual expressions, sports, ways of serving others, etc. If your initial reaction to the idea of trying new things is, “Ummmmm….Nah! I’m good.” then maybe the travel life is not for you. Then again, maybe, like with doing things on your own, you just need some practice to find and connect with your inner “Yaaaasssss!” when it comes to trying new things. Don’t wait until you find yourself on 14-day journey through southeast Asia to see how you do with trying new things! Whether it’s a new restaurant you’d like to try; a sporting event you’ve never attended before; or a music concert from a performer you’ve never seen live before, making a habit of trying new things at home will help prepare you for enjoying the experience of new things that is ubiquitous with travel (when you do it right!) and that is a fundamental part of the travel life.
HAVE REAL FRIENDSHIPS WITH PEOPLE WHO DIFFER FROM YOU LINGUISTICALLY/CULTURALLY/NATIONALLY
Take a look at your circle of friends. How many of them differ from you linguistically, culturally and/or nationally? Like anything in life, your network of friends has an important role in supporting you in the dreams and desires you have for your life. If you find yourself surrounded by people who don’t travel, aren’t interested in traveling and/or who are linguistically/culturally/nationally the same as you, that doesn’t bode well for their ability to support you in your travel life. Maybe it’s time you consider adding to your circle of friends those whose differences may inform, complement and support your travel life. Having friends who speak multiple languages (where English is not their first language), who come from different countries, who exercise different cultural traditions and norms not only reflect, support and inspire my travel life but also reinforces for me why I travel and the world I most want to see and be a part of – a world of beautiful, dynamic, wondrous difference where we love each other, support each other’s dreams and are stronger together. This may well be the most important of the ‘hows’ of my travel life!
It’s a New Year!
What are the ways you will make travel your lifestyle, at home and abroad, in 2017 and beyond?
(NOTE: This post was originally published at Las Morenas de Espana)