Where Do I Start? How to Stop Dreaming and Get Moving

I got an email from a reader the other day (edited for length/personal details):

I took a year off from college with the intentions to travel.

Well…. I didn’t travel and one year later, I find myself in the same spot I was a year ago. Being twenty, I’m not sure what I want to do with my life, not sure which path I want to take, but I do know I do want to travel. I just want to get out there and experience everything possible. Immerse myself in other cultures, enjoy art & nature, meet new people.

But when it comes down to it, down to making a decision, to figuring it out, I find myself hitting a wall. The usual issues come up- no money, no travel buddies, not knowing where to go, how to even begin.

I was just wondering if you had any advice on how to take the next steps or what are the next steps?

Making the leap from the idea of traveling to actually putting a plan into action can be daunting. There is a lot to consider and a lot of choices to be made.

Uncertain Autumn
photo credit: josemanuelerre

I think a lot of people get stuck in the phase between deciding to travel and actually making it happen, because there is so much to consider when you are trying to turn an abstract concept into a reality. This then morphs into one of the common excuses I was talking about last week, most likely the “I’ll do it later,” syndrome. When something is abstract it’s easy to push off, that’s why you need to turn your potential travel idea into a concrete reality.

So here are three crucial steps to help you transition from thought to action:

Thinking of You
photo credit: Lauren Manning

Think about what you want

The first thing you need to do is ask yourself some key questions:

Why do you want to travel?

What are you hoping to get out of a big trip?

There’s no right answer here. Maybe there’s a language you’ve been dying to learn, or a burning question you’re trying to solve. Perhaps there is a list of places that you’ve always wanted to visit. Maybe you’re really into adventure sports or big city culture.

The world is an enormous place and just setting out to see it is kind of a vague and unobtainable goal. By figuring out what you’re actually looking for you can narrow down your list of options and start to think in realistic terms.

Bryant Park, late Apr 2009 - 21
photo credit: Ed Yourdon

Consider the resources available to you

The second step is a reality check of sorts. You need to evaluate your budget and resources to determine what you can actually pursue.

First think about the restraints of money and time. How much of either are you willing to invest in this project? Are you thinking about a month long experience or a year? Depending on how long and where you are going you will have to budget accordingly.

Secondly, consider all of the programs and other resources available to you. There are a plethora of volunteer organizations, study abroad options and work visas that you can take advantage of.

Also consider friends and family you may have strewn around the world. Having somewhere to stay and some one to show you around is an excellent motivation to go somewhere.

At this point you should have a fairly good sketch of what you actually want your trip to look like. You don’t necessarily need actual dates or itineraries, but a basic outline of what you intend to do (teach English in Korea, backpack through Europe, travel overland through Africa).

photo credit: purpleslog

Lastly, sit down and sketch out a plan of action- then start making it happen!

Once you’ve got a pretty good idea of where you want to go and what you want to do, the last step is creating a to do list (oh how I love to-do lists). This will be your plan of the actual concrete steps you need to take before you can leave. Stuff like: saving money, applying for visas, buying plane tickets and buying equipment. It might also include things like graduating from school, telling your family and looking for a new job.

This list might take awhile to complete- in my case I was seriously planning and saving for about a year and a half before I left. It’s tough work, but actually realizing your dream is a great motivation! 

It really is as simple as this. I’ve always though that making the decision to travel is the most difficult part. Once you’ve really committed, everything else just falls into place. It’s just a matter of figuring out 1. what you want to do and 2. how to do it.



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