How to Quit Making Excuses and Travel (before you die)

"Sacred Light" - St. Peter's Basilica, The Vatican.

Whenever I ask people want to do before they die, it always seems that traveling is on top of their list. Yet, so few people travel—why? Sure there are the default answers, “It is too expensive”, “I have no time”, “Isn’t it dangerous?”, “I have ‘responsibilities’ that I have to take care of” and the list goes on. However when it comes down to it, all of these statements are truly nothing but excuses.

For the longest time I have always wanted to go backpacking in Europe. However I faced the problem that many other people faced, regarding money, time, confusion, etc. All I knew was that it was a burning passion and aspiration of mine, and that no matter what—I wanted to go.

I can fortunately say that the last summer I was finally able to make that dream come true and I backpacked through Europe for 30 days. I started off in Paris, flew to Rome, took a train to Florence, took another train to Cinque Terre, continued to Venice, and then Prague, and finally flew out to London where I spent the rest of my time. How was my trip you ask? It was the trip of a lifetime. Words cannot express the breath-taking sights  I had, the cordial people I met, the aroma of the wine I had, the taste of the local cuisine, the awe-inspiring architecture, and oh yeah—the copious amount of photo-opportunities.

Now let’s get back to the issue of “practicality.” I’m sure all of you are thinking, “I would love to go travel to _______” but I don’t have the money for it. Honestly, I believe that to be nothing more than an excuse for most people.

Are you a student in college?—you truly have no excuse. You have the best time of your life to travel, when you have nothing truly “tying you down.” There are tons of study-abroad opportunities, and you still have summer breaks! Can’t afford it? Take out a loan—(that’s what I did). Sure you probably have no to little money right now, but what you don’t have in money—you have time.

Do you have a full-time job? Take a vacation and even travel for a week. Most jobs in the United States give you at least two weeks of vacation time a year. Don’t get any vacation time? Well you should probably quit the job you have right now and get a new one. Don’t have any money and a load of debt to pay off? Stop spending your money on things that you don’t need (cars, clothes, eating out, etc) and invest that money into saving for a trip. You probably have a half-million things lying around that you could probably sell on eBay or Craigslist as well.

Are you married and have kids? Take them with you! The last thing that you want to do is use your kids as an excuse. They will have the time of their life as well.

If you died tomorrow, would you have any regrets on not traveling? Where have you always wanted to go, but always made excuses why NOT to go instead of making excuses WHY to go. Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Korea, Tokyo, Hong-Kong, Africa, the Middle-East, Paris, or India? Or can you see yourself on your death bed, regretting not going because of

Considering that people always make reasons why NOT to go traveling, I will make some reasons WHY you should go traveling:

1. You will die one day:

"Judgement" - St. Marco's Basilica, Venice.

Believe it or not, all of us are going to die one day. Are you going to keep dreaming about traveling, or actually do it? Would you be willing to go $5,000 in debt to go on that backpacking trip you have always wanted to go on, or would rather hope that you could go when you are retired when you are most likely too weak and old to go. Think now, not later.

2. Traveling makes you realize how small you are:

"Row"- Florence, Italy

The world is a big place, and we are just little specks on it. Instead of thinking that we are the most important people in the world, why don’t we break out of our little bubble and truly see all that the world has to offer us? There are billions of people on earth, and several hundred thousand cultures, foods, sights, and sounds that we not yet experienced. However once we travel, we can expand our horizons and not only appreciate what other places have to offer us, but also appreciate our own home as well.

3. You will take some awesome photos:

"Wine by the Seine" - Paris, France.

Although I previously stated in my list “100 Things I Have Learned About Photography” that you don’t have to go to Paris to take amazing photos, you will be inspired nonetheless when traveling. All of your senses will be tingling with different sensations in sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. There is nothing better than going to place you have never been to, and trying to capture all of the beauty around you.

How much would you pay to fulfill your dream of traveling?

It cost me $4,000 to backpack through Europe for 30 days. Not a small sum of money, but a small fortune to pay for fulfilling one’s dream. How much more money have you spent on things that you don’t need? How much did you pay for that new car loan, that mortgage on that house, or on your credit card for shoes and shopping?

Stop making excuses and travel. If you want to go to Europe, you might want to also look at my blog post, “25 Things I Have Learned while Traveling in Europe

The last bit I want to leave you guys with is the best two pieces of travel advice I have gotten. One is from Charlie Shugart, a seasoned traveler, and consistently posts on the B/W Fred Miranda Forum. The other man is Andy Lee, also an experienced traveler and my old Sunday School Teacher:

Travel Advice:

“Looking back on my travels, I’ve realized that my best and most memorable adventures came when I was vulnerable. Oh, I don’t so much mean vulnerable to danger (although sleeping in houses under construction in Yugoslavia might have been a bit dangerous), but vulnerable in that I didn’t really have fixed plans. I usually wandered to wherever impulse guided me, as opposed to having fixed itineraries. And often those meanderings held surprises.

I’ve led tour groups to China (fixed itineraries). Wonderful trips, but nothing compared to my own travels, i.e. hopping on a local bus and crossing to the other side of Crete to a village I knew nothing about. Or hitch-hiking to some Greek ruins (with nobody stopping for hours), and being invited to lunch by three men working inside a beehive kiln where lunch consisted of sitting on the dirt, reaching with our fingers into a community bowl of scrambled eggs, tearing off chunks from a loaf of home-made bread, and washing it all down with local retsina wine poured into tin cups that looked like failed projects in a high school beginning metal shop class.
That’s the kind of vulnerability to which I’m referring. Those memories are forever.”

-Charlie Shugart

“Live the dream one piece at a time”

– Andrew Lee

Travel Resources:

If you are serious about traveling, please check out my resources below:

Cheap Flights:

Great Resources for traveling:

Accomodations:

The best site in the world when trying to find cheap and good hostels. I used this extensively when traveling.

Traveler’s Insurance:

As a precaution, I bought travelers insurance for about $100 when traveling through Europe. Never used it—but better safe than sorry!
http://www.worldnomads.com/purchase/index.aspx

Eurail:

A cheap and convenient way to get all around Europe. Check out their Eurail pass!
http://www.eurail.com/eurail-global-pass?currency=usd

My Itinerary:

  • Aug 18th-Sep 18, 2009
  • 7 days: Paris
  • 4 days: Rome
  • 3 days: Florence
  • 2 days: Cinque Terre
  • 2 days: Venice
  • 5 days: Prague
  • 7 days: London

Packing list:

  • Canon 5D
    • 24mm f/2.8
    • 35mm f/2
    • 16GB CF Card
  • North Face Backpack
  • 6 T-Shirts
  • 6-pairs of underwear
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • 1 Pair of Jeans
  • 1 Pair comfortable shoes
  • 1 Pair of Shorts
  • 5 Pairs of socks
  • Sunglasses
  • Flashlight
  • Water Bottle
  • 1 Bottle of shampoo (small)
  • 1 Small Towel
  • 1 10’’ Acer Aspire One Netbook
  • 500gb External 2.5’’ passport
  • Bungee chord (for drying clothes)
  • Multi-vitamins
  • Messenger bag
  • 40oz Kleen Kanteen Water Bottle

Breakdown of Costs:

  • Airline ticket: $1000 (round-trip)
  • Costs per day: $70
  • (Broken down cost-per-month): $2000
  • Eurrail/Ryanair flights: $500
  • Misc costs: $500
  • Total: $4000
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