travel bargains

I’ve been running this Cheapest Destinations blog since 2003 and the 4th edition of my international travel book will come out soon, so I’ve heard more than my share of excuses on why people can’t or don’t travel.

In all fairness, some of the reasons are really legit. “I’m a convicted felon” is one that may give you some visa trouble. “I can’t leave the country until the custody case is settled” is reasonable. “I don’t really enjoy packing up and leaving home” was a response from a friend that I really didn’t have an answer to. Fair enough. We can’t assume everyone likes to travel.  And some people really can’t. There are not many travel agencies in Cuba or North Korea.

If you live in a free country and want to travel but don’t, however, the excuses you give are probably the same ones I’ve heard 100 times. Apparently these 71 other travel bloggers have heard the same ones too as their sample excuses and responses are amazingly consistent.

The b.s. travel excuses

1) I can’t afford it.

2) I don’t have the time.

3) I’m (scared about) not good at foreign languages

4) My family wouldn’t approve (I’m scared to leave my family).

Why these travel excuses are usually b.s.

1) Unless you’re in such poverty that you can barely afford groceries, you can afford to travel. Because if you choose the right places, it’s cheaper than being home. Try shopping less, buying fewer gadgets, brewing your own coffee—in other words, prioritizing. Do some basic research and you’ll find ways to couchsurf, get free flights, work abroad, and in general get by for far less than you’re getting by now. If you have a job you can do from anywhere, you’re just plain nuts to live out all your years in an expensive country anyway.

cheaper than home

This view is $10 per night in the right destination

2) If you’ve been in your job a year at least and don’t have a couple weeks to travel, something is seriously wrong. If you’re self-employed, even worse. That’s called not taking the time; it’s not a lack of time. Nobody is so important in their position that they can’t take a couple weeks to travel unless they have “president” or “prime minister” next to their name. If you’re worried nobody will miss you if you leave and you’ll be easily replaced with another warm body, then you’re not making much of an impact when you’re there are you?

3) Based on my 20-odd years of travel, you can get by with English alone in about 90% of the places you’ll go on this planet as a tourist, with Spanish taking care of another 5 or 6%. So unless you’re going to visit rural China or some undiscovered tribal region, I think you’ll survive. If you’ll be somewhere more than a couple weeks, you can pick up some basics with minimal effort and a phrase book. Heck, these days you can even take a real-time translator on a smart phone, Star Trek style.

travel solo4) I’ve heard so many iterations of this sequence now it’s become a short story I could write in my sleep. Daughter (it’s usually a woman) announces to her family that’s she’s going backpacking for a month, for the summer, maybe even for a year. A family member (usually the mother) responds that it’s a horrible idea, that she’ll be raped or killed, that she’s abandoning the family. She forges on and goes anyway, sending them photos along the way about her fantastic time and telling them all the things she’s seen and learned. She returns home looking fit and radiant, she’s worldly-wise, and she’s exhibiting a new self-reliant streak that’s going to help her create success on her own terms in the future. Her parents can’t stop telling their friends about her wonderful adventure and they share her photos with everyone they know.

Of all the 71 responses on that long blog post, which admittedly get a bit redundant, I like this one from Benny at Fluentin3Months the best:

Usually people will latch on to what seems like a totally logical reason to not travel, such as lack of money, no time, unable to get off work, family responsibilities and so on. At times these are legitimate, but many times the true reason they are not following this passion is fear, and the reason they give you when you ask is founded in nothing but this fear.

They can repeat the mantra of “I have no money” all they like, ignoring stark evidence about how they should embrace minimalism and stop buying so much crap, or perhaps they think that learning a language is a rare genetic gift even though over half the population of the planet is multilingual. It’s time they stepped outside of their self-fulfilling prophecies.

Like most things in life, finding the time or money to travel is just like finding the time or money to do anything else worthwhile: buy a house, reach a sales goal, raise a child, get good at a sport, get in shape, learn a language, write a book, finish a painting, dance the tango, or build a fence. Make it a priority and it’ll probably happen. Put it no higher on your list than the latest slightly better gadget Apple is feeding you, then it probably won’t.

Do you want to travel this year or are you just saying it would be nice? Like winning the lottery would be nice?

If you’re not just fantasizing, stop dreaming and start finding ways to make it work. See all the excuses and answers here.