People are always telling me they “live vicariously” through me whenever I’m headed out on another journey. They see our pictures on Facebook and read about our adventures on Savored Journeys, and they really wish they could travel someplace like that and see the world like we do. But the reality is, they never actually go anywhere. It’s not because they don’t want to travel. Those same people often tell me how jealous they are that I’m traveling and they aren’t. It’s because they aren’t making travel a priority in their life like I have.
Read about why I think travel is the best gift you can give yourself.
How Travel Became a Priority For Me
I grew up in a small town in Oregon and my family rarely went anywhere for vacation other than the Oregon coast. I’d never been on a plane until I was a Junior in high school. My parents weren’t really the traveling type, so we stayed close to home. That was all fine with me until I was given the chance to go to Europe after I graduated high school.
We went to seven countries in two weeks and it was an incredibly exciting adventure for me. I came back from that trip with a new perspective on everything. It had sparked something in me that I didn’t even know existed before I left the country. It wasn’t that I’d seen anything extraordinary, or done anything crazy while I was there. But I did experience life in someone else’s land, walk down someone else’s street, eat at someone else’s favorite Italian restaurant – IN ITALY! It was like everything I’d known before, that had seemed so important and all encompassing at the time, had suddenly become very tiny. My regular life couldn’t be the same after that.
This is what travelers often refer to as the travel bug. Once you’re bitten with it – and it usually only takes one good trip to do it – you can’t stop. You start to spend inordinate amounts of time looking up vacation destinations online and saving up all of your vacation days, refusing to spend them on anything but travel. You start coloring in the countries you’ve visited on a map and wondering how many years it will take you to travel to every one of them. You create and constantly revise your travel bucket list. In the most extreme cases, you even start your own travel blog and spend hundreds of hours telling people how awesome traveling is.
The Benefits of Travel
If you’ve never traveled and think this all sounds nonsensical, believe me, there’s a good reason for this madness. It’s not some altered state of being or mythical other-worldliness we’re hoping to achieve. There’s actually an endless list of benefits to traveling.
- Traveling expands your appreciation for other people and cultures.
- It helps you learn languages and be able to communicate with people everywhere.
- It allows you to see past your own concerns and troubles and become more compassionate.
- It gives you a greater desire to help people who are less fortunate than you.
- It expands your borders, literally.
- It breaks you out of your comfort zone and chips away at your fears.
- It helps you discover more about yourself and your traveling companions.
- The memories you make and will cherish forever are worth more than anything you could buy.
- It gives you major bragging rights when you can say “I’ve been there,” while watching Anthony Bourdain on TV.
- You will meet some of the friendliest, like-minded people who might turn out to be your friends for life.
- You can live (actually LIVE) through your own travels. No need to do it vicariously through others.
- You will find yourself in hilarious, terrifying, awkward and just downright laughable situations that you will later realize where the times you felt the most alive in your entire life.
Should You Prioritize Travel?
I’m not saying that travel is for everyone, or that you absolutely must prioritize travel. Everyone’s goals in life are different. For instance, I’m not planning to have children, but I know a million people would line up to tell me why I should prioritize having children. I respect their opinion, but I’m still not going to take their advice. My parents are never going to prioritize travel. They just don’t care about it that much. But if you find yourself saying “I want to go there someday,” and you never follow through on it, or you constantly tell your friends that you live vicariously through their travels when you see their jealousy-inducing vacation photos on Facebook, then you may need to readjust your priorities.
Do you really want to go there someday? Why haven’t you? Is it that you’re too busy? You don’t have the money. There’s no one to watch your dog for a week. Your kids are too young. Work is too crazy. You wouldn’t know where to begin planning such a trip. It’s dangerous. You don’t know the language. You don’t have the right wardrobe….
I could go on, but you get the picture.
Your Reasons are Just Excuses
If you put off traveling today, you’ll probably find a way to put off traveling tomorrow, too. And then five, 10 or even 30 years will go by and you still won’t have made it there someday. There’s no time like the present to start making adjustments to your priorities.
Money is often the biggest deterrent to traveling. And it’s true – traveling is not cheap. But there are ways to readjust your financial priorities and free up money for travel. First of all, every trip doesn’t have to be an extravaganza of spending. If you need to save money, go somewhere closer to home, stay in hostels, eat street food. It’s not how far you go, it’s what you get out of it that matters. Everyone has to save up for the big trips. You just have to find what works for you.
Here are some money-saving tips that we find useful:
- Create a direct deposit from your paycheck that funnels money into a dedicated “travel” savings account.
- Cut back on unnecessary things at home like eating out, paying for cable and buying expensive coffee.
- Use a rewards credit card for all purchases to rack up airline miles that can be used to book free flights. (Just be sure to pay off the balance every month.) We’ve saved thousands of dollars by using miles to book flights.
- Earmark your tax refund each year for a trip.
- Sign up on travel websites to receive specials and discounts.
- Book free stopovers.
You’ve probably seen the Mastercard commercial with the cute little kids incredulously stating that over 400 million vacation days go unused every year. According to the U.S. Travel Association, use of vacation days are at their lowest point in the past four decades. U.S. workers, on average, are leaving 23% of their paid vacation days on the table. I agree with the little kid in the commercial. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard”.
Why aren’t we using our vacation days? Is it because… no, I’m not going to go back through the list from above, but I’m sure the same tired excuses are about to come flying out of your mouth. If you can’t find a dog sitter then your fingers must be broken because a Google search I just did pulled up 129,000 results for Seattle area dog sitters.
Travel is one of the best educations you can ever give your kids, so don’t use them as an excuse, either. Yes, it’s hard to travel with kids and the majority of people on a plane would rather you stay home, but who cares about them. You’ll get over the trauma of trekking all that kid gear on and off the plane, and someday your kids will thank you for taking them to Italy when they were young. It will enable them to prioritize travel from the start, rather than wasting countless years trying to figure out how their houseplants would get watered if they were to go on vacation.
Have you made travel a priority in your life or are you content to “live vicariously” through your friend’s travels? Don’t be a waster of vacation days. Just book that trip, already! You’ll thank me for this later.
Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.