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.
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.
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.