How to Stop Making Excuses When it Comes to Travel (or Anything in Life)

Matt hiking in Madagascar
Note: Six months ago, I read Ramit’s “Manifesto for 2018” and got inspired. I ended up cranking this out.

Remember New Year’s? When you were going to lose weight, drink less, read more, save more, cook more, and maybe ride a unicorn (hey, anything is possible!)?

But deep down you — and I — knew you probably wouldn’t.

Time would pass, your excitement would fade, and you’d come up with a plethora of excuses for why you couldn’t stick to your goal:

“It’s too cold to walk to the gym.”

“It’s John’s birthday so I have to drink.”

“I had to binge-watch Netflix so I didn’t have time to read.”

“I can’t save extra this month because I have to buy (insert some commercial object you just need).”

“It’s too hard to cook.”

“Unicorns don’t exist so I can’t ride them.”

Inaction is the easiest action. Doing nothing takes less work than doing something. Then, when we start to feel guilty, we tell ourselves a story that justifies our inaction.

I do it all the time. I mean I pay for a gym membership and I’ve only been once this year. (And a gym membership in New York City is not cheap!) There are so many other things I want to do too, but when I don’t do them, I can always find an excuse as to why.

No one likes to wake up and look themselves in the mirror and go, “Well, I failed again.”

So we create our own myths as to why we couldn’t live up to our own expectations — and why it wasn’t our fault. We all have elaborate tales we tell ourselves to make us feel better and not like a disappointment.

I know mine. “I didn’t do X because I had to go to an event and there was good wine.” Or “I didn’t do Y because I got carried away with work.”

I know all the other stories people tell themselves about travel:

“I don’t have enough money.”

“I can’t save enough.”

“I don’t earn enough.”

“Flights are too expensive.”

“My credit isn’t good enough to get a points card.”

“My currency is too weak.”

“I don’t have anyone to travel with.”

I’ve heard every excuse there is. It’s not to say these aren’t valid excuses. They are. We all have barriers to success. We all have problems. We all have things that get in the way. Not everyone is going to be able to travel.

But we’re now half-way through the year.

What if instead of letting those limits define you, you were the hero that defeats the dragon and saves Princess Travel? What if you became the person who travels and has amazing adventures?

It’s time to say to yourself, “OK, I want to travel, and maybe it is expensive, but if all these people I see online are doing it, maybe it’s not so hard. Let me look into it. Let me Google some information.”

Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Admit to yourself maybe – just maybe – there is a way to travel but you just don’t know what it is and your preconceived notions are demons holding you back!

Turn your excuses upside down – and into action plans:

“I don’t have enough money…so I will look to cut my expenses as best I can and change my spending habits.”

“I can’t save enough…so I will create a savings plan and take proactive steps to make it happen.”

“I don’t earn enough…so I will look for a second job or something in the sharing economy. Maybe I’ll become an Uber driver.”

“Flights are too expensive…so I will go someplace cheaper or start collecting points for a free flight.”

“My credit isn’t good enough to get a points card…so I’ll start with an easier card to build my credit up.”

“My currency is too bad…so I’ll go somewhere cheaper.”

“I don’t have anyone to travel with…so I’ll go on a tour or alone.”

Yes, travel can be expensive. Yes, it costs money. And yes, not everyone can travel.

But when you start with a negative internal mindset, you’ve already lost the game. I’m not saying that magical thinking is the solution. No, magical thinking doesn’t work. The Secret is BS. Wishing for something won’t make it happen.

Actions make something happen.

Americans trade time for money, and although we all complain about it, it’s an arrangement we’ve kept in place for decades. Taking extended time off is not in our culture. Although we say we envy Europeans and their long vacations, in the US, we still, on the whole, follow the “work, retire, travel” model. It’s a system that isn’t going to change soon.

I was a victim of this arrangement until I met some backpackers in Chiang Mai, Thailand. As we discussed travel, time off, and doing what you loved, I kept thinking about how unhappy I was with the American bargain. I had never really thought about it before.

The more the backpackers I met told me about their lifestyle — meeting people around the world, living in bungalows on the beach, eating delicious and cheap food, taking local transportation, and just having fun — the more envious I became.

I went home and changed my mindset.

I created spreadsheets, bought guidebooks, researched online, and cut my expenses as much as I could. I was merciless.

I know people are going to read this post, roll their eyes, talk about my privilege middle-class upbringing, wonder if my parents paid for everything, tell me how they are in debt, and yada, yada, yada.

And there is no doubt I’ve been blessed. There’s no doubt I had a head start.

And there is no doubt not everyone is going to be able to travel.

But I still had to save, plan, and find ways to make that trip (or future trips) happen. My parents never gave me anything for my trip. They actively tried to discourage it.

If I asked you to turn the mirror inward and be completely honest, could you really say to me you’ve exhausted all your options? Could you really say you looked at your expenses to the penny? That you looked at working overseas as a way to fund your trip or pay off your debt? That you couldn’t have a piggy bank where you put at least penny a day? That you tried and tried but could never get travel hacking to work? That it’s truly 100% impossible for you to save for trip?

I’ve seen people in wheelchairs, seniors on pensions find ways to travel, and others take on work to pay off debts.

I think — nay, I know — from experience that most of us haven’t really done that kind of inner searching or planning. I know people don’t know where every penny goes, got into travel hacking, tried to work overseas, or change their habits to make that trip possible. T

The ones that have? Well, they’re traveling right now.

Most of us haven’t done anything more than come up with an excuse as to why our situation is special and unique.

But it’s not.

Our stories are not that unique.

Lots and lots of people have been in your shoes before.

And lots of people have found a way to travel.

Which is good because that means it is possible for you to travel too.

A few years ago, I helped a number of readers plan their trips and was a sounding board for their fears. One of them was Diane, a senior from Canada living on a strict pension. She had dreamed her entire life of visiting Australia but never believed it could happen.

We talked extensively about how she could cut her expenses. She created a list of wants and needs — then stopped buying the wants. Changed her phone plan. Monitored her bills. Got her husband to cut back on smoking and her grandkids to stop asking for things. She got them all on board by explaining why this trip was important. It took close to two years, but eventually, she saved enough to go with her sister.

The world gives you nothing. You have to work for what you want – even if it takes years to get to where you want to go.

Too often we think about the million steps we need to take to get to where we want to go, get overwhelmed by it all, and simply give up.

But, remember, you can only take one step at the time.

Think about the ONE step in front of you and nothing else.

It doesn’t matter if it takes ten years to save for your vacation. All that matters is the first step in front of you. That’s the only thing you need to focus on.

Tomorrow, wake up and ask yourself, “What is the one thing I can do today that will make traveling easier?”

Not sure you can come up with the money? Track all your expenses and figure out where you can cut and put that money automatically each month into a savings account.

Not sure you can take three weeks off work to fly to Australia? Think of destinations closer to you. Or take multiple shorter trips.

Not sure you can get the visa? Find a new place to go.

For every negative excuse, there’s a positive solution.

Don’t let your excuses win.

Start thinking about your first step, plan your trip, ride that unicorn, and become the traveler you were born to be.

And, when you get to your dream destination, send me a postcard!




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