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Sunday, 1 September 2013

Why Our Perception of Travel is Flawed

I think one of the most misleading things about travel is the association that it is expensive.   I blame the travel industry and US airlines having a sort of a monopoly on certain flight tracks. We have this flawed perception that to travel long term you need to be a wealthy millionaire. While this may be true for some vacations, the backpacker’s lifestyle is nothing close to luxurious, but it is something I and many others love. I’ve stayed in very nice hostels for $5 a night and couchsurfed for free. I would prefer this method any day over a 5 star hotel due to the fact you meet amazing people in hostels and couchsurfing. My flight from the US to Sydney cost me $50 because of frequent flier miles. (**Open an airline Credit Card for free flight…it is well worth it! Click here forsome great tips). We went homeless for 3 Days for the Running of the Bulls In Korea I’ve eaten VERY well on $5-10 a day. Travel can be cheap if you do it the right way.

(You can even get Free hugs when traveling)

Here are the excuses I hear for not being able to travel…and why they are bad excuses.

#1 Excuse: I don’t have the money to travel.

Let’s start off with why you think it is so expensive to travel?  Think back to your family vacations.  With my experience we would always travel in peak seasons, stay in nice hotels, and eat out every night. All this equals high expenses. But if you are only traveling for 2 weeks out of the year like most Americans, It is okay to have this type of trip. Now, you are thinking back to the time you spent a summer studying abroad. It is still the same lifestyle, eating out every day, going out every night and traveling every weekend. This all leads to high expenses. My 3 month back pack trips have consisted of eating dirt cheap every day, couch surfing and using the majority of my money on drinks, transport and accommodation. Traveling the US by air can also misguide your perception of traveling. For instance I once flew roundtrip in Italy for 6 Euro ($10). Europe is known for cheap flights and a highway of interconnecting trains that give you an easy and cheap way to travel.

What happens if you don’t have the money to support yourself for an extended trip? Well you get a job. Work abroad. It is a lot easier than you think. I just spent 6 months in Australia on a working holiday visa. The visa cost around $300 and was approved in 24 hours. Hostels in Sydney are packed with 90% of the people on this same visa. For some reason there are not too many Americans taking advantage of this great opportunity to work and travel. If Australia doesn’t appeal to you then there are plenty of other countries available on similar visas like New Zealand and Ireland.

#2 Excuse: I don’t have enough time.

Quitting your day job and moving to another country is not for everyone, but there are still a lot of opportunities to travel locally in your own country.  Make those 3 day weekends count. Take a cruise; though they are a bit rushed, it is the best way to see a lot on a short amount of time.
Extended travel is not welcome by the US culture. Society says we must go directly from High School to College and then get a desk job, followed by getting married and buying a house and then come the kids. This path is great for some and I understand why it appeals to most. But what I don’t get is the people who are unhappy with their job and lifestyle. You control your life and if you are unhappy then find a new job and start changing your life. Why must we wait until our 60s to retire and start traveling? In the UK or Australia they have a thing called “Gap Year” where you take a year off to travel (before University or after). If you don’t do this, then most people think you are weird and it is a big opportunity to explore and learn about the world. In the US, I hardly know anyone who has done something similar to taking a year off to just travel. It is not normal for us to travel for an extended period of time, but once you get the travel bug it is impossible to lose.  
#3 Excuse: I’m scared of traveling solo
This is one I personally think is the hardest to overcome, but once you do it will take you places you never could have imagined. Traveling solo takes a bit of courage and a lot of independence. It is definitely not for everyone. Being on the road by yourself you learn to throw “no” out of you vocabulary. Once you learn to do this, things will be a lot easier.

 For example, walk into a hostel, meet a nice group of people and say “YES” to when they ask you to join them for sightseeing or a night out. You need to be very sociable when traveling by yourself, unless you actually want to see and do everything by yourself.  I prefer to meet new people and being alone gives you that extra push.  There are times when it can be hard though, maybe the hostel is empty or people just are not friendly or inviting. Trust me this will happen, but 90% of the time (if you are trying) you will meet some amazing people! One of my biggest tips about traveling alone is to plan as little as possible. This way if you meet a great group of people, you can join them and not have to stick to your predetermined itinerary.

(Some of the awesome people I met while traveling Australia)

There are still a lot of other things I have been asked. Like, “When are you going to start your career?”
I always respond with “My career started sophomore year of college. I am interested in International Business (Student Exchanges) and all of my previous work in some way or another has helped me grow professionally.” Although, the career path maybe different than yours, it doesn't mean it is better or worse. It’s different! 

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