I have been on the receiving end of laments from people wishing they could travel but cannot. Why not? Here are some of the common reasons, and – because this is my blog – why I think otherwise:
“I don’t have the money to travel.”
Oddly enough some people who say that to me are single with a steady job and income! True, travelling entails expense. But so does that extra pack of cigarettes, the car, the fancy restaurant dinners, that designer bag or whatever extra bit of luxury that creeps into our daily expenditure. To make things happen, small sacrifices are sometimes needed.
Secondly, I always tell people that I spend as much as I want when I travel. That is not to say I spend as I like. But rather it requires a certain amount of self-awareness by knowing my preferences, limits (e.g. in terms of comfort tolerance) and priorities in expenditure. For instance, on some trips, my only priorities for accommodation are accessibility and cleanliness. Whatever I have saved up by opting for a simple accommodation could be allocated for a great meal or that extra expense for saving time by flying direct (instead of a layover). There is a budget for every type of vacation, even if it is a luxurious one. Being creative about how to maximise one’s limited resources, is pretty much part and parcel of life anyway. The very first question you would have to ask yourself is this: How much do you think you need to have for a trip? I find it easier to start off with a realistic budget and then plan from there.
“Now is not the right time.”
This is supposed to be my rebuttal, but I too agree it is not always the right time for legitimate reasons: e.g saving up – it takes time to save up enough money to go for that big bang of a dream adventure. But the most important thing is to set a goal date and work towards that target, rather than constantly saying “now is not the right time”. I am currently working towards my goal date, and unless something quite life-changing happens, I’ll be sticking to it.
This year, many of my friends became first-time parents, and some lamented that they won’t be travelling for a while. I guess starting a family is a reason why “the time is not right”. But I’ve heard of some amazing trips of parents travelling with small children. I hope to collect some of these stories and share them with my friends – hang in there, not all hope is lost!
But my main rebuttal is this: there will never be the perfect time in life. If you wish to see the world, or do anything for that matter, just do it.
“It is dangerous.” Or something even more irksome to my ears: “It’s dangerous for a woman to travel alone”. I’m not a feminist. Rather, as a I practical person, I find these blanket statements downright unhelpful and I have commented about them before here.
Make no mistake, I’m not trivialising the risks and pitfalls of any adventure. Travel requires a bit of research and planning. Indeed, to this day, I still get butterflies in my stomach before any trip or going to a country I’ve never been to before. But once you begin the journey? Well, that’s the most interesting part: you’ll have to start that journey in order to experience any potential rewards. And from personal experience, once you are on the road, the nerves start to dispel itself and somehow enjoyment just comes naturally.
4. Travelling is idling
There seems to be a stigma attached to travelling, especially for a long period of time (by local standards, that’s anything beyond the requisite number of leave days) a common phenomenon in a work-driven society: where taking time off to travel or see the world or taking that gap year is seen as being idle or not doing anything productive with your time.
I don’t expect employers to be sympathetic – if I were a business owner, I too have to make sure I have a sustainable business operation including manpower. However work-life balance advocacy necessitates that individual aspirations are just as important as work place performance. The sensible way forward is to institutionalise practices of timed sabbaticals to loyal deserving employees, both as an employee incentive and for better human resource planning for the employers. I digress as this is a topic for another day.
Back to the point – is travelling really idling? Ask anyone you know who has travelled an extensive amount of time and you’d be amazed at the effort and self-discipline to get things going: be it booking flight tickets, planning itineraries, learning a new language and culture, organising your days or weeks around the things that you had always wanted to do on that trip. These require time management, coordination, flexibility and negotiation – efforts and skills which would be commonly employed at the work place.
“I can’t give up my career to travel.“
I’m not the kind who’s in the habit of telling people to quit their jobs and travel around the world. I am a practical person foremost, and am mindful of the obligations of a university tuition loan or home mortgage. Which is why planning – especially for finances, see point 1 – should be top priority on the list of any travel plans.
But once that is sorted out with some financial planning, is career then merely an excuse or a valid reason? The present world-wide trend is the ever increasing retirement age: presently, the minimum retirement age in Singapore is 62 years with plans for increase to 65 years.
What does this spell out for, say, a 30 year old? That you have at least another 30-35 years of working life ahead.
So what is 1 or 2 years off to pursue that adventure you’ve always been dreaming of?