Warning: There is No Such Thing as a Dream Trip

Almost everyone imagines their dream trip. Disney World, Paris, or a cruise around the world, the ultimate trip is the daydream of most people. However, few people ever realize their dream or, for that matter, even try to fulfill their dreams.

I first started thinking about this last fall before a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Friends and relatives began saying things like

Wow, another trip of a lifetime?” or “I wish I had your travel budget!

I didn’t know how to respond to those comments and was frankly a little insulted. They seemed to imply that I was a wealthy jet setter (which I am not) or in same way more privileged, which is also not true. What these comments did reveal was the fact that most people are encumbered to the point of paralysis when it comes to traveling.

Being a thirty-something professional, I have a pretty good grasp of what a 9-5 job and living in suburbia is all about. No one can navigate their way around a Home Depot or Target like I can. I also understand some of the malaise that can at times accompany this lifestyle. That is not to say that people are not happy with their job, family or home. But everyone needs an escape, usually in the form of a vacation.

Sea lion pup, Galapagos

People tend to take very similar vacations every year.  Whatever the choice, it is fairly unusual for the average family to take trips that are completely different from their previous ones. Over time, fantasies of far flung locales, remote beaches and rarely visited corners of the world replace realistic vacation goals.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with daydreaming about a future trip, I do it every day. However, this daydream becomes a roadblock once it becomes too outlandish. It is suddenly not good enough to fly somewhere, it has to be first class. It’s not good enough to spend a week in the Caribbean, it has to be a month long cruise of French Polynesia.

This concept of an ultimate dream trip is crippling to the average person who doesn’t travel very often. According to recent statistics, about 20% of Americans own passports and far fewer travel internationally every year. That means that if these numbers remain constant, then at least four of every five people will NEVER leave the US. In today’s over-connected world and the ease in which you can go just about anywhere, I find it sad that so few will ever leave the country.

Fear and economics are major reasons for this inability to take action – fear of a new country, city, language, food or a multitude of other reasons. The major fear though is that whatever trip a person takes won’t live up to their preconceived notion of the ultimate dream trip. That is why EVERYONE should abandon entirely the notion of a perfect vacation and instead daydream about a REAL trip.

There are three easy steps to accomplish this.

Eiffel Tower

1. Plan. Identify an area to which you would like to travel and research airfare, hotel rates, currency exchange, etc. Get an idea of what you would do, where you would stay and how much it would cost.

2. Budget. Everyone is in a different situation, but budgeting and planning will enable almost anyone to travel. It may take a few months or a few years to reach your goals, but if you are careful and methodical you will get there. I once planned a trip for three years! Three years of scrimping and saving in order to take what turned out to be a fantastic trip. A fellow blogger, Twenty-Something Travel, has a great article on how to save for your trip.

3. Take Action! Once you have reached your savings goal, make the trip a reality. Pull the trigger, book the airfare and get out there. The monetary investment in travel is little compared to the tremendous value you and your loved ones will receive. Experiencing new cultures and expanding your own worldview is a life changing event that will make skipping your daily Starbucks habit entirely worthwhile.

I anticipate some negative feedback about my comments here, but I stand by them. I may be a middle-class American, but there was a time when I barely eked out a living wage and I still found ways to travel. It took sacrifice and patience on my part, but I made it happen. If you really want to see the world, stop wishing and travel on what is not a dream trip, but simply your next adventure.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

10 Responses

  1. Stephanie

    Thanks for including the link! I’ve actually done a whole series on saving for your trip- something I have been doing for almost two years now. It takes a lot of dedication, so it really irks me when people tell me I’m so lucky. No luck involved- just a lot of freaking hard work!

    Reply
  2. Shannon

    I love this. So much truth in it. People will often say to us that they are someday going on their dream trip and I wonder what’s stopping them now. It’s all about priorities. We have arranged our lives to allow for the ability to travel. No debt except a very modest mortgage. Old cars, friends who keep upgrading and spending more money on “stuff” and we just keep traveling.

    Reply
  3. Juno

    You are so true. I work at a horrible big corperation and everyone is so narrow minded. Whenever I mention I plan a short trip to somewhere that always say “I envy you!” or “oh I wish I have a money like that” but you know what? They earn just as same as me!! And it’s nothing to Envy about. Just do it yourself! Right? Sometimes I just never mention my plans.
    Good article! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Eli

    It’s funny that most people will never leave the country their entire lives. All it takes is two or three dollars in a big jug everyday and you have a thousand at the end of the year. People should definitely get out and see more of the world, and stop going to the same destinations year after year. Who wants to vacation at a place that is full of thousands of other vacationers from the same country? I’d take a trip to Laos over a vacation in Cancun anyday.

    Reply
  5. Matt Long

    Wow, thank you for the great comments. I was expecting some negative ones, but it’s great to see some nice feedback. It’s so true – little changes in your daily life can enable anyone to travel. It may not be first class, but you’ll get out and start exploring, which is key.

    Reply
  6. Adam

    It always irked me when friends said we were so lucky to be able to go on our RTW. Sure, things fell into place for us that made it a bit easier, but by and large we were able to go on our year long adventure because we made it our priority. That’s what we wanted to do. We didn’t have fancy cars, our furniture was all still hand me down stuff, some even still from college despite being 30 years old. We don’t have a 52″ HD TV, we stopped going out for dinner and drinks and things like that. We sacrificed a lot to do what we really wanted to do, and that was travel. Some people just don’t get it.

    Reply
  7. Everywhereist

    Matt – I think you are so right about trying to keep vacation day-dreaming down-to-earth. Whenever I expect too much of a trip, I’m inevitably disappointed. Now I just try to “have a time” – whether it’s good or bad, I’ll always have something to write about. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Ellen

    I have been traveling the world since I was 14 (w/o my parents), and at 60+ have no intention of stopping any time soon. I may not live in the most desirable neighborhood, drive a late-model vehicle, or have the most tricked-out kitchen, but I will go anywhere in a flash when my budget allows. A friend accused me of being a reverse snob because I avoid luxury hotels and resorts, but for me a simple guest house with shared bath is as much a preference as it is a necessity. And that way I can travel three or four times a year. A previous poster said it best: all it takes is two or three dollars in a big jug every day.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      That’s so true Ellen, it’s all about priorities. Some people save to go to nice dinners or shows, others save for travel! I’ll stick with travel 🙂

      Reply
  9. Penny

    I guess I can see where you might expect negative comments, but personally I couldn’t agree more. I get so frustrated with people who tell me I’m so ‘lucky’ when luck has nothing to do with it. I work hard, plan hard, and go.

    Reply

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