Few of us live life free of all restrictions.
Who among us has unlimited funds, unlimited time and no responsibilities. Who can travel anywhere, anytime, for any length of time and as luxuriously as desired. A rare, rare person to be sure.
When it comes to planning for travels, most of us have to be realistic about our limitations while pursuing our travel dreams. To successfully balance life and travel start planning from the point of greatest pain – the point that holds you back the most. Ignoring it will either lead to paralysis and no travel or a trip that causes undue stress.
In my mind there are three possible pain points and therefore, three different approaches to trip planning. One of these may be right for you.
If your pain point is time.
Time is a huge issue for most people. We live in busy times.
With mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter… we are (if we allow it) accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
By nature, most people will fill all the time available. If a responsibility falls off, a child is no longer in a sport program, for example, we’ll replace that commitment with another.
So how can you deal with the issue of time if you want to travel?
It’s all about setting priorities. If your time is limited due to work responsibilities, then perhaps it’s necessary to go offline for a few hours a day to complete work more efficiently. If time is freed up because a program ends, maybe it’s worthwhile giving serious consideration as to whether to replace it. Even if you’re limited in the number of vacation days you have in a year, these strategies could free up hours or present opportunities for long weekends.
When the issue is time, travel will fall into four possible categories.
- Short Getaways
- A week or two to yourself
- Career breaks
You can read about each of these here How to Find More Travel Time – 15 tips.
When planning to travel, start with one of the category that fits your life. Then choose destinations that are appropriate. On a micro-vacation you won’t have time to leave your home town but you can approach your town as a tourist. A short getaway may mean going only a few hours away whether by car or plane. It may not be your first choice but it seems important to know that just about any destination has things of interest if you’re curious. Bottom line, you may have to save your bucket list destinations for when time is less of an issue.
If your pain point is money.
Money is a big issue for many people but unless you are in very serious financial difficulties, it should be one that you can get around. There are three possible ways:
- Save to take your dream trip
- Choose a trip that matches your budget.
- Schedule your trip when the prices are lower.
So let’s talk about saving for your dream trip first. It can take time. I’ve written about saving money for travel here and saving money for travel within the context of a complex life here.
Unfortunately, saving is about delayed gratification – not something that our credit-laden society is particularly good at. But it can be very sweet to reach your dream destination this way. Research shows that the satisfaction of having saved for a trip, the planning time that this allows and the lack of stress from not being financially in debt after the trip all contribute to getting more happiness from your travels. Read about happy money here.
See how sweet delayed gratification is with this version of the marshmallow test – very cute.
Of course, the second way to deal with money issues is to travel to destinations within your budget or at a time that makes a destination within your budget. Consider:
- Places you don’t have to fly to.
- Destinations that are less expensive such as South America or Southeast Asia.
- Traveling on the off or shoulder season.
You can learn about how to budget a trip here. You can learn about how expensive different countries are here. For information on the off or shoulder season read The Sweet Spot for Solo Travel: the question of “when”.
If your pain point is responsibility.
Responsibilities are a more difficult challenge than either time or money. Family or work responsibilities can definitely get in the way of travel. But it’s important to remember that you will live up to those responsibilities better if you are a happy, satisfied person. So set aside any guilt, make yourself a priority and plan the solo trip you want. To make this happen read No Guilt Solo Travel: 6 thoughts on making yourself a priority.
Once you have your head around the balance of your travel desires and your responsibilities, communicate clearly with family, friends, work… to negotiate your personal time and travels. Be confident that taking time for yourself is good for everyone.