Finding the Travel-Life Balance

 (This is part one of Life-Travel Balance week. Check back for more tips all week long.)

Growing up has caused me to come to terms with the fact that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Usually around 1 or 2 AM you’ll find me sitting in my dorm room bed, energy drink in hand, organizing my schedule and all of the things I have going on. After a night of homework or exam studying, I always enjoy taking a little bit of time to figure out what the coming days have in store.

Looking at my calendar, all I see is red, blue, green, and yellow marking appointments, assignments, and deadlines. Work and extracurricular activities are scattered between hours of classes, tests, and study groups. Tack on birthday parties, Skype dates, and coffee chats, and there’s barely enough time to catch my breath. Most days, college is like being in a circus act, with added sleep deprivation and the occasional dance party. But of course, as a person constantly longing for new places to see, travel is always in the back of my mind.

I look back to my calendar again and sigh. How will I find time to travel in this mess?

What comes along with being young is finding a balance between your commitments and desires. Sometimes the line between the two is extremely fine, and it can be daunting to add travel into the already overwhelming mixture of demands of work or school. In fact, most people don’t even try.

However, despite the demands of life, travel is possible and can actually help give you a break from everything else going on. Here are a few of the ways that I have found time to travel, despite my hectic school schedule:

Prioritize It

Doing a handstand on a cliff in Ouro Preto, Brazil.

One of the grievances I have heard time and time again is, “I wish I could find the time to travel.” It’s usually posed as a passive statement made by friends or coworkers who haven’t actually considered making time to travel. Here’s where prioritization comes in: if travel is a priority, along with work or school, then it is so much easier to find time to do it.

Sometimes it takes a little bit of sacrifice. I missed my best friend’s 21st birthday party while traveling in Turkey. I gave up being home for Christmas last year to spend New Years Eve in Brazil. Just like any priority in life, there exists an opportunity cost of travel. But, if travel is a high enough priority, the rewards greatly outweigh these costs.

Act Quickly

Inside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

Once you’ve looked at your calendar and found a good time to travel, you need to act quickly. After all, once the travel is booked, it’s set in stone. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that you’ll actually go through with your decision to travel, and instead you’ll fill your free time with other things.

Decide where you want to go. Keep your eye out for cheap flights (I’m a huge fan of flight aggregators for this) and accommodation deals. Get excited about planning and promise yourself you won’t be preoccupied by stressful thoughts during your trip. At the very least, mark your calendar with the dates you plan to travel. After all, this is supposed to be a getaway from that crazy life of yours!

Incorporate Travel Into Other Activities

With the volunteer group I led to Guatemala on our last night.

As you may know, I spent 6 months in Brazil last year studying abroad. Because junior year of college is an extremely busy time, I incorporated my studies with my love for travel by participating in a university program abroad. And, as an added bonus, my program abroad actually cost a few thousand dollars less than my college tuition here in Houston.

Even if you are not a student, there are ways to incorporate travel into your life’s activities. Maybe a group you’re involved with is organizing a volunteer trip, or there’s a conference somewhere else that deals with your line of work. Yoga retreats, art tours, and alumni trips are also options for travel that could draw in pieces of your everyday life. At the very least, you can coordinate a weekend out with friends to celebrate a birthday or accomplishment.

Keep Dreaming

During your down time at home, you might feel as if you’re in a little bit of a slump. If travel is far off, or your schedule is too packed, or even if you’re busy saving up for the next trip, the best way to incorporate travel in your life is to think about it as often as you can. Hang posters of places you’ve been dreaming to visit in your home or office. Change your computer background every so often to a world map or a beautiful landscape. Check flight sales and trip packages to look for good deals, and subscribe to emails from travel websites to get the latest news. Surround yourself with travel, and it will serve as a constant reminder of what’s in store.

Immerse yourself in the world of travel even when you’re not physically traveling. Imagine what you would be doing and where you would be. Keep dreaming of visiting far-off places. And most importantly, keep learning about the world around you. If you try to incorporate travel into your routine, it will come. And the fleeting opportunity to pick up and go might just hit you unexpectedly.

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