How to realise your travel dreams and freely roam the world
Let's face it. You could be on a beach right now. You could be exploring the backstreets of Bangkok, eating sushi in Tokyo, exploring the jungle in Hawaii – or any other of your travel dreams.
You could be watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu. Or watch it set over Angkor Wat. You could be swimming with wild dolphins, or learning how to surf. You could be learning about the local daily life on a guided tour through the buzzing residential areas of Yogyakarta. Or marvelling over the exceptional silence and serenity of Ha Long Bay.
Right now, you could be wandering the streets of Paris. Shopping at the hipster markets in Sydney. Or sipping on wine in the 32nd floor of a five-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
It sounds amazing, right? I know, because I have done all those things. Before I'm 30. On a budget. Without giving up on real life obligations such as a a job, a business, a masters degree and a mortgage. Yes, I'm privileged. I'll be the first to say that. But that doesn't mean I haven't faced a lot of challenges. As you may know I have also been very seriously ill and completely depending on disability.
Achieving travel dreams is doable for anyone, and it costs less than you think. More than anything, it's a matter of mindset. I'll show you how. Where do you want to go?
How to realise your travel dreams and freely roam the world
Be open about where to go
Because you are reading this post, you probably have an idea of what places or countries you want to visit. Or maybe, like me, you want to go everywhere? Either way, I recommend writing it down whenever you hear about a new place. The more places you want to go – the more flexible you'll be. I keep a list of places, sights and experiences in a notebook, and whenever I feel the itch I use it as a starting point to plan a trip. When I go, I usually end up visiting at least one new place on the list, but where I go depends on seasons, flights, costs, company and a range of other factors.
Focus on regions, not countries or cities
Start to think about your dream destinations by region, not by country or city. Travel becomes a lot more cost-efficient when you can realise more than one dream in one go. For example, in my mind I think about Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and parts of Indonesia as one region. That way, when I want to visit that general corner of the world, I plan to visit several countries in one go – and fly in to the cheapest airport within the region. From there, I travel overland or by low-cost-carrier to the other places I want to explore.
Aim for the shoulder season
The only time a cold shoulder is a good thing, is when you plan to visit a place in those weeks right before – or right after – the main tourist season, also called the shoulder season. At this time, the weather is usually good, but the hordes of tourists have either not invaded yet, or they have already left. The hotel prices are usually lower, and flight costs too. Usually it is even cheaper during low season, but there's usually a (weather-related) reason why no one else is going. That being said, low seasons are amazing for having cheap and unique travel experiences.
This part of the process is where a list of dream destinations comes in handy. When I plan a trip, I usually don't start by asking myself where I want to go, I figure out in what region the season is good. This list is a great starting point. Because there are so many great places I want to go, I always know I'll have amazing experiences no matter where I end up going.
Everybody likes a comfy bed. But chances are you already have one... at home. You probably also have a lot of other luxuries, such as hot water, privacy, and ... travel channel. So do you do you really need all those things when you can have them any other day of the year? In my opinion, travelling is about experiences. And most of the time, you won't find them in your hotel room! That being said, I love my five star hotels as much as you do. But I treat accommodation as a part of the travel experience, and I find that the cheaper the place (over a certain limit!), the more interesting experiences you'll have. Like that time I stayed with a local family in Chiang Mai, or when I woke up to the sound of a cow outside my window in India. Fun times!
Bring your normal
Some people I know live the most boring lives ever, and then when they travel they splurge on ... everything. For two weeks. While it may work for them, that's not my style at all. Of course travelling is expensive when you're eating all meals in restaurants and cramming in every possible activity! Feel free to do that, if you want to travel for just a very short amount of time each year. However, if you are yearning to travel for longer, and to more places – take your amazing normal life with you when you go. If you create a life you love, you won't need a break from it. For example, I promise that your home-cooked breakfast tastes even more amazing at your AirBnB apartment (use this link to get a discount) in Rome, than it does at home. And for a fraction of the price of a all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.
An additional bonus is that if you live in an expensive part of the world, the cost of a normal lifestyle is usually considerably less in most other places, so in that way you'll actually save money compared to staying at home. Go!
Nothing comes without sacrifices. For example, I chose not to own a TV – as I'd rather spend that money travelling. I also give up my privacy in order to rent out my extra room on AirBnB for most nights of the year. I also make other sacrifices, for example, I rarely buy new clothes and I only own a few pairs of shoes. Travelling is just more important to me than a lot of other things. Go through your life and think about what you are willing to give up – if not for forever, just for a period of time. Chances are, you'll save up for the price of the flight in just a month or two.
It's going to be more expensive and harder to try if you go when everyone else is going. To start with, it might be an idea to check with your boss if you can go on vacation a bit earlier or later than everyone else. It also comes down to the day of the week, as some days are statistically considerably cheaper to travel on than others. How long you stay is also something to consider. In my opinion, I prefer to stay 3 weeks or longer once I go somewhere, as the plane tickets are always the most expensive cost.
Be creative with finding the time to travel. Utilise time in-between two jobs, work from home, get some unpaid leave, take a gap year, or if you're a student – work it out so you can take some text books with you if you travel in the middle of the year. It's only possible if you make it possible.
Find a travel buddy
It's usually both easier, cheaper and safer to travel with a buddy. You'll save on hotel rooms and transportation – and you'll have someone to share the fun with. However, you don't have to find someone before you go. Make sure you're open and talk to people (hostels are great for this!) when you get there and team up from there.
Just do it
This is the most important piece of advice that I'll ever give you. Dive in with your eyes closed. Just do it. Stop making excuses – if you really want to travel, you need to find a way. Just go! Life is short, and the world is big. You don't want to miss out on the great magnificence of this little planet called earth.
Keep in mind that all these tips are subjective and based on my own experience. If this doesn't work for you, do something else that works! The important part is to stop dreaming and start doing. The world is at your feet.
Where would you like to go? Comment with your favourite places and dream destinations, so we all get some new places to add to our lists!