One day we’ll meet up at a cafe somewhere in the world and you’ll tell me your story, your story of how you went from the mere idea of wanting to travel to actually making it a reality. And I look forward to hearing all about it.
It will happen, whenever the time is right. That’s the key. When the time is right.
This traveling stuff is tricky. It messes with your head. You want to travel badly and every single day you dream of all the places you’ll visit when you do get started, but that’s the problem…you don’t know when is the ideal time to take the plunge and begin.
Should you start traveling now? After all, travel is the only thing you think about.
Or does it make more sense to wait and travel later? You could use some extra savings and perhaps you should also get some more work experience first.
(If you’re deciding whether or not to attend or finish university before you travel, here’s a post you might want to read, with plenty of useful comments too: “Do You Need a University Degree to Travel Long-Term?“)
The point is…you want to make the right decision but it’s just not easy to figure out.
I know it’s difficult because I went through it myself and I also receive no shortage of emails from readers who are dealing with this very dilemma as well. We all go through it, everyone who wants to travel, especially those who want to travel long-term.
Back in 2000, after just ten days or so into my very first independent backpacking trip, I decided that I wanted to travel for as long as possible. However, I had very, very little money at the time, only enough to last a couple of months in Southeast Asia. As a result, I debated long and hard about what to do next. As far as I saw it, I had two options. I could return to the US, work for at least a year and save up as much money as I could before getting back out there on the road and attempting to achieve my goal. Or I could just continue my current trip and figure it all out as I went along.
In the end, I decided to not go home and to simply trust, as my guide, my increasing determination and excitement about the possibilities of travel, despite my rapidly dwindling funds. Turns out it worked.
But that’s just me.
I wouldn’t dare tell anyone else to just drop everything right this instant and pack your bag. There are too many unique aspects involved for each of us, which is why the debate of when to start our travels is one that we each need to have with ourselves. It’s the only way to reach the most suitable conclusion or to at least make some progress, or at the very least waste some time thinking about travel.
What I would dare tell you is that you should consider several specific factors that might help give you a better idea of your situation and ultimately, help you answer that question of when you should finally start your adventure.
- Confidence – Are you confident in your ability to make anything happen? Will you be able to do whatever it takes to find a way to earn money if you need to? Are you the kind of person that won’t let anything stand in the way of your goals?
- Ideal Savings – Would you be significantly more comfortable with the idea of travel if you had an extra $1000, $2000 or maybe $5000 in your bank account? What is your financial goal? Are you almost there? Is there a chance that you’ll always want more to the point where it stops you from ever leaving?
- Work Opportunities – What kind of work, if necessary, would you be interested in while traveling? Is that work easy to obtain based on your skills, background, connections, etc. or will it take significant effort and creativity to make it happen? Are there opportunities to earn money in the places you’ll be at about the time your money might start to run out?
- Travel Style – Do you plan to be a budget traveler? How much comfort will you want? What kind of travel style will suit you best and how much will it cost to maintain that style? Just because ultra-budget travel costs much less doesn’t mean that you’ll enjoy staying in the cheapest hostel dorm rooms, eating very simply and taking the least expensive modes of transportation everywhere. And it’s perfectly ok if that’s not for you. It’s not for everyone. Figure out what is for you and you’ll have a better understanding of how much money you’ll need to make it happen.
- Sociability – How social are you? Do you need more practice connecting with random people you come across? Or do you already have the ability to start yakking away to those you meet in cafes, in elevators, at the roulette table, on the bus? You don’t have to be a socialite but the more comfortable you are around new people, the easier it will be to interact with other travelers and locals that you encounter during your travels, to make new friends, to discover new opportunities.
- An Endless Wait – Maybe there will never be a perfect time to break away and start traveling. Will something always come up to keep you at home? What if you wait another 2 years and you end up even more entrenched in your current job and lifestyle that it will be almost impossible to leave, even if you have saved more money? Is that a possibility and if so, how do you feel about that?
- Torture – Can you wait 2 or 3 or 5 more years or are you so insanely ready to get out into the world that the thought of spending more time at home is starting to affect your life in a real negative way? If you can’t wait to leave, you need to figure things out more quickly before the frustration takes more of a toll. It just may be time to book a flight and jump into the unknown as soon as you can.
Again, it’s not easy. It’s downright hard to figure this out, I know. But you need to start somewhere because nobody else can tell you what to do. Whether you start traveling now, later or even never, it really is all up to you.
Just gather your thoughts, think about the above and make a plan, a plan that really feels good, or as good as possible, given your particular circumstances and goals. Then do everything in your power to stick to that plan no matter what.
I’ll be waiting to hear your story whenever the time is right. See you when you get here!
Have you faced this dilemma? How did you handle it? Are you still trying to figure out when to start traveling?