Your job. Your relationship. Your home. Money.
These 4 things can be summed up in 1 word: COMFORTS.
You’re comfortable, and it feels good. Easy, even. Why on earth would you ever want to ditch these creature comforts?
Because comfortable is boring. Comfortable is unfulfilling. Comfortable is what keeps us from growing.
Without growth, we will never become who we’re meant to be. We’ll never be as happy as we can be. And to deny ourselves of these experiences means that we’re not doing life right.
I’m not saying you necessarily have to turn your life completely upside-down. If you are kicking ass in your pursuit of the American Dream and are genuinely happy and fulfilled in these 4 areas, maybe now is not the right time to make a major move.
But if one or more of these things are out of whack… you might consider hitting the reset button and pursuing your own dreams.
For me, that reset button is TRAVEL. If you’re thinking about doing some extended travelling alone but have concerns about giving up your comforts, let me show you how it’s way more feasible than you might think:
1. Your Job
I am always amazed at how many of my American compadres let their vacation days go to waste. It’s like they feel bad for taking time off of work, or are concerned that it’ll make them look like a lesser worker.
Listen to me, folks: You don’t owe your employer anything. You owe it to YOURSELF to do what’s best for YOU. You’re entitled to your vacation days – USE THEM! You’re also allowed to leave your job at will. Your company will survive without you, whether you’re taking a few weeks of vacation time, a leave of absence, or are quitting. The latter two are the options you must consider when planning long term travel:
1. Take a leave of absence
If you enjoy your job and would like to come back to it, it’s worth seeing if you can take a leave of absence or sabbatical. Many employers will limit the amount of time you’re allowed to be on leave, but if it fits with your travel plans, this option will give you peace of mind and job security.
If you’re not in love with your job and were contemplating a career move anyway, it makes sense to quit. Long term travel fits perfectly between two jobs, since you don’t have to return by a certain date to resume work.
Yes, it’s a scary thought to come back and have no job lined up, but BE CONFIDENT. Everything will work out. You’re making your seemingly impossible epic travel adventure happen, so what’s stopping you from making a new job opportunity happen?
2. Your Relationship
If you’re currently single, this is a non-issue. In fact – if you’ve recently gone through a break-up, it’s more of an impetus to make some moves!
If you’re currently in a relationship, well – far be it from me to tell you to break up with someone so that you can travel the world (there ARE other options!). But if you want to embark on a long-term travel adventure, your relationship is going to change in some way. You can handle it a few different ways:
1. Travel together
Possibly difficult to coordinate, but nevertheless it’s an option. Instead of travelling alone, you’d maintain some level of comfort by travelling with someone you know and love. They say travelling is a true test to any relationship – are you up for the challenge?
2. Do the long-distance thing
In an ideal world, you would leave for awhile and do your thing (i.e. travel alone), keep in touch with your significant other, and pledge to stay faithful and committed. Then once you return, you resume your relationship as it was before you left.
I hear it’s more difficult than it sounds, though admittedly, I have no firsthand experience here. The thing is, you don’t know how travel is going to affect you before you leave. You could change so much that it’s simply not possible to jump back into things as they were, pre-travels.
3. Break up
The least ideal option, but sometimes it’s what makes the most sense. Only you can really feel this one out.
Like I said, I can’t tell you when breaking up is the right choice to make – but if you’re having relationship issues before you leave, ending things may make it easier in the long run.
However, I WILL say this: If your significant other does not support your plan of travelling alone, then my vote is for the break up. This is a person who should ALWAYS support you and encourage you to follow your dreams. If they don’t, there’s definitely someone out there who will.
3. Your Home
Your home is the ultimate symbol of comfort. Plus, it contains all of your material possessions, some of which you might be rather attached to. It’s understandable that you’d be reluctant to leave it all behind.
You essentially have 2 options when you’re planning on traveling for an extended period of time and do not want to throw money away on rent for a place you won’t be living in:
1. Move out
You can wait for your lease to end, move out, and keep your belongings in storage while you travel. This is a good solution if you aren’t set on returning to the same apartment when you eventually come back. It’s also ideal if you don’t want to be tied to a return date or location.
A better option if you don’t want to break your lease or wait for it to end, or if you don’t want to give up your awesome apartment. You can leave your belongings where they are and have a home to return to when your travels are over. And bonus! – if you have roommates, they can take care of your pets, mail, etc while you’re gone :)
Subletting is probably easier and less stressful than moving out, assuming that the process of finding a subletter isn’t too heinous. This was the option I went with when I was planning for my 5-month backpacking trip in Asia. The one major negative, though, is that you’re committing to returning around a certain time. Unless you’re cool with leaving all your stuff back home and paying rent on an empty apartment indefinitely, but that’s not being very frugal, now is it?
There’s no way around it: you must consider your financial situation before travelling alone long term.
Money is a scary and powerful thing. The trick is to not take it too seriously – don’t let it define you, don’t let it limit you, don’t let it consume you. Money is just means to an end – in this case, the end being travel.
Before automatically dismissing travel by insisting that you can’t afford it, give some thought to these 3 determinants. By carefully adjusting each one, I’ll bet you that your travel plans seem much more doable!
If you leave your job to travel, your income supply will be kaput. You might consider picking up some freelancing gigs while abroad to help balance out your spending (e.g. teaching English is always in demand, youth hostels are often willing to let you stay for free if you do some odd work for them).
You should be saving your ass off before you leave. Figure out how much you think you’ll need for your trip and add about 25% onto that. Once you have this figure in mind, make it a concrete goal. Put away $X each month into a separate savings account and don’t touch it. Stop spending money on frivolous things and instead, put it into your savings.
CURB IT – both before and during your trip. Just think: the more you save, the longer you can extend your travel adventure!
Along with your daily spending allowance, you must also factor in any payments to be made back home, e.g.:
- Student loans
- Car payments
- Credit card bills