It's hard to deny the joys of travel; it's a pretty universally loved experience. Of course, it's also expensive and it's not always easy to make time for it. If you're itching to travel but it's not in the cards in your foreseeable future, here's how to make do in the meantime.
Come Up With a Plan, Even a Long-Term One
Even frugal travel be pretty expensive. So expensive, in fact, that we're quick to brush it off and say we can't afford it. That may be painfully true, but it's also true that many of us give up easily when it comes to our finances. A great question to ask when you feel defeated is "what if?"
For example, when I was in student loan debt, there seemed to be no way in hell I could afford to take a holiday. Just for kicks, though, I asked myself, what if I cut back on all my other spending and supercharged my debt payments? What if I picked up a side job and used that cash to pay the debt, too? What if I got a roommate to split the cost of rent? Everyone has different answers, and yours may still leave you at a dead end, or they may just be of the question.
Personally, though, I was surprised at the possibilities those answers offered, and it made me feel less stuck. Yeah, it took a couple of years of paying off debt and saving, but hey, at least I knew it wasn't impossible. And waiting two years for a trip was better than spending two years frustrated and restless.
Once you get an idea of what you can do — and what you're willing to do — to save for travel, you can come up with a solid plan for getting there.
You can do the same thing with your time. If you're too busy this year to take a trip, schedule some time to come up with a plan for next year. Settle on some dates and figure out a timeline for booking flights, hotels and so on. There's a lot of power even in simply establishing a time frame. You go from thinking, "I'm so exhausted I could really use a holiday" to "I'm so exhausted I can't wait for my holiday." Even if it's next year, at least it's on the horizon.
Make the Most of the Wait
Oddly enough, we might be happier planning and anticipating a trip more than we are actually taking it. Research published in the Journal Applied Research in Quality of Life studied 1530 adults planning a holiday and found:
Possibly, anticipation played an important role in explaining the observed differences in pre-trip happiness between vacationers and non-vacationers. Holiday trips are experiences which people look forward to (Miller et al. 2007). For most, the enjoyment starts weeks, even months before the holiday actually begins.
Remarkably, post-trip happiness is generally not different for vacationers and non-vacationers. While you're saving or waiting for the time, learn the language, read about it. Set time to actually plan your trip. From picking a location to figuring out the financial part to setting certain milestones to help you get excited. Make a list of a few books you want to read on the topic. Reminisce on your old trip. Make albums with your old photos. Put up pictures.
This is good news for those of us who can't afford to spend the time or money on travel any time soon — in the meantime we can plan, and if this research is any indication, planning is a big part of the enjoyment we get from travel, anyway. You might even consider setting a few planning goals every month to keep your excitement up. For example, here are some fun, actionable things you can do while you're waiting for your next trip:
- Research destinations. Pick one.
- Learn the language.
- Make a list of the things you want to do and sights you want to see.
- Set a goal for your holiday.
- Research Airbnb options (or other lodging).
When I was waiting to pay off debt and save up for my trip, for example, I spent a year just researching all the cool places I could visit. Then, once I narrowed them down, I spent the next year researching the hell out of my destination choices. When I got there, it was a great feeling to see in person the places I'd spent so long learning about — and I had a great time learning about them that year.
Break Out of Your Everyday Routine
Travel is fun for a lot of reasons, but when you get down to it, it's really about novelty. We get to see somewhere new. We get to learn new things and experience new cultures. Overall, we get to break out of our rut and reconnect with ourselves.
There are ways to achieve this novelty in your normal, everyday life, though. Our routines and systems might make us super productive, but it's easy to get stuck in them, too. After a while, a routine can make you feel robotic and mindless, and you start to crave something different. Here are a few ways to combat this problem.
Take Better Breaks
If you have a habit of working through lunch or not taking real, regular breaks during the day, keep in mind: breaks keep you motivated because they're restorative. Go outside when you take your breaks, too. Research published in Psychological Science found that people perform cognitively better after spending time in a natural setting. Regular breaks may not be as restorative as a two week trip to Hawaii, but still, they keep burnout at bay.
Trendy as it may be, mindfulness serves a great, practical purpose. Namely, it keeps you motivated and focused. I'm not saying it takes the place of travel, but a lot of the things we enjoy about travel we could also get from a little mindfulness. Our own Melanie Pinola offered a helpful suggestion for incorporating mindfulness into your everyday life:
...set up triggers or cues to pull you back into the present when your mind inevitably starts to wander throughout that day. For example, while eating, remember to savour each bite every time you put your fork down. At work, you can set an hourly chime or other reminder to pause in the moment. Pausing before you respond to children — or adults — can also help you become more mindful in your relationships. More (deceptively simple) practices include practicing appreciation and letting go of control.
Meditation is another way to practice being more mindful, and you can think of it as exercise for your brain.
Tour Your Town
Maybe you wouldn't exactly describe your town as a cultural epicentre. That's fine — you don't have to live in London to get some nearby novelty. Visit local museums, parks, have dinner in a different part of town. We often glorify travel as being some long, exotic journey, but chances are, there's a lot of new stuff you can learn and see in your own neighbourhood, town or city. Or, you can plan a fun weekend road trip to a town or city nearby.
Say Yes More Often
One easy way to break out of your comfort zone is to embrace saying yes.
When I got back from a trip last year, I vowed to make my every day life feel more like holiday, and part of that meant saying yes to stuff more often. I get so caught up in my routine that when someone asks me to do something I normally don't do, my knee-jerk reaction is usually: Go to a show on a Tuesday night? What are you, nuts? I decline, then spend my Tuesday night the same way I spend every other Tuesday night: watching TV and browsing Instagram.
The point is, saying yes to stuff like that more often means I leave my routine more often. For a few months, I did a good job of following that advice. No, it wasn't as awesome as taking a long, overseas trip, but life was more adventurous, and that did a lot for my travel craving.
Breaking out of your everyday routine might also be as simple as mixing up your environment. When I was saving up to travel, I actually moved to a different part of my city just to shake things up a bit. It's not a possibility for everyone, but you can probably at least rearrange your living space, ask if you can move offices, or change your route to work. It's not exactly momentous, but the goal is to break up your routine, and small actions can make that possible.
Again, none of this is to say travel isn't worthwhile and fun for many other reasons (and worth saving up and waiting for). However, the travel itch often comes around when we feel stuck or we're craving something new. Beyond saving up and coming up with a plan, you can feed some of the craving by making the most of the wait and making your everyday life a little more adventurous.