No More Excuses – Your Travel Resolution Starts Now

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.


  1. Anthony

    Tim, I enjoy your blog and have been following it for a few years. I visited Europe in 2007. I was only able to do it because my father passed away and had life insurance.

    I 100% agree I could have done it on my $10.05 an hour service sector job if I just prioritized. I already lived at home, didn’t date much and didn’t pay for much beyond a car payment, insurance and cell phone (no rent).

    This time around armed with plenty of information and powered by another desire I will share with you (and others) in the near future, I am going to travel again in early 2013 either returning to Europe (unfinished business) or trying out my original first choice, Brazil.

    People can travel, its just an excuse. You can travel with children as well. I am officially broke/unemployed. I said officially…. That does not match reality however. So no job means I can do whatever I want with my time. I earn just enough money that I can travel.

    I’ll have to check out the 4th edition of your book. Happy New Year!

    • Wade K.

      In all fairness though most people who make a low rate of pay do have to pay rent, take care of kids, pay for a car, etc. I’m on vacation in two weeks and will be spending that week at home. If I’m not working to pay the bills then I’m sitting at home spending as little as possible. On the bright side I will cash in my cash balance plan pension in 2 years and head for South America at 53. My reduced traditional pension kicks in at 55 and I will live there fulltime. My travels then will be to plan different routes to return home for the Holidays every year. I’ll eventually get Social Security and will head to Southeast Asia to check that out but I believe my future home will be in Bolivia or Ecuador.

      • Tim Leffel

        True Wade, but you can “pay rent, take care of the kids, pay for a car” anywhere cheaper as well. I did it for a year in Mexico (minus the car part—didn’t need one) and before I had a kid I lived in Istanbul and Seoul teaching English. Traveled before, during, and after–always for less than I was spending before just getting by in the USA.

        • Wade K.

          Well, no, you can’t. You said yourself you did it before you had kids. I realize there are things you can do when you are young enough without major obligations, but a young couple with a kid or two who want to buy a home aren’t going to be able to find legal employment in most places. That’s unfortunately the conundrum of living in the States. We are supposed to be free, supposed to have it so great and yet for most it’s a grind just to have anything. And with the demise of traditional pensions at most companies relatively few will have the opportunity to travel later in life if they are paying on a mortgage, paying for kid’s college, setting aside as much as possible for retirement. Most aren’t as creative or clever as you Tim. It’s why most posts on LPTT are by college age kids with generous parents or older people with means.

          • Tim Leffel

            Gotta disagree with you there Wade. It’s very easy for a family to get residency in most of Latin America. And since you can travel/live for six months in a lot of them just on a tourist visa, leave once and re-enter and there’s a year. If you’re staying longer, some will allow you to work legally or run a business. Witness all the real estate agents, English teachers, tour guides, hotel managers, symphony musicians, college professors, etc. that are not natives. I’ve met loads of expat families living abroad on five continents. Some have a check coming from home, some are teachers, some are just good at finding a way to earn a living from anywhere. Read International Living and every month there are families profiled that are making it work. Not every country, of course, but enough of them to offer a wide spectrum of lower-priced alternatives.

          • Wade K.

            But we aren’t talking about average Joe’s making $12.00hr in the States. Show me a person who is teaching English in most of Latin America and I’ll show someone who’s got the TESL certification most likely if they have any hope to get a reasonable paying position. Most countries have an income requirement to get residency, and some, like Ecuador or Bolivia(in their case Americans)won’t let you stay for more than 90 days in a year without getting a residency visa and showing enough financial means to support yourself. Outside of timeshare sales in Mexico or working on a special permit for a multinational corporation where are the jobs that pay anything? I do know of some call centers in Guatemala that need English speakers…$600 or so a month for 45 hrs a week. Their best bet is to start a business or bring a job done over the Internet with them but then how many $12hr guys have the wherewithal to do that?

          • Tim Leffel

            Based on my experience, less than half the ESL teachers in Latin America have a formal certification. That’s not where you go to make the big bucks. But yes, there are plenty of blue collar people who weren’t rich at home either. I have partied with American home builders living in Korea, American factory foremen in Turkey, American carpenters in Mexico, and bartenders who grew up elsewhere in almost every country I’ve visited. No, a country is not going to give you residency to let you take a no-skill job that a local can do—not legally anyway—but anyone with the drive to make it happen can move and work abroad. But of course if you pick the right place, you don’t need anything close to $12 an hour anyway…

            Check out this post for more: The Cheapest Places to Live in the World

            And keep in mind the income threshold in a place like Ecuador is quite low to get residency. And in Belize you’re considered of retirement age at 45.

          • Jerry B.

            Sounds like somebody is making excuses. I read last month that there are more than 6 million Americans now living abroad. The highest number ever. 6 million is more than a lot of states’ whole population.

          • Eric

            Tim has it right. Traveling is cheap, and if you want to work abroad you can live well, even better then the USA. Last year I was 27 and my last job paid me 24,000 per year. Not much money right? I think in the USA I could have gotten by, but it wouldn’t have been so nice. But I made 24K while living in Cambodia. I earned $2000 per month, tax free then spent $400 per month on my 7 bed/7bath house that I rented, $150 on eating all the best food I could find, sent my Cambodian girlfriend to the two best universities in the country, brought my cousin over to live with me, and hosted 250 couch surfers. After all of that, I saved more then $10,000.
            I did all of this because it is easy and fun, there were no difficulties.

        • Anthony

          Right, Tim; I know a few people that live in Northern Mexico where its horribly cheap. You can get a nice apartment with views of the Pacific Ocean and 5 min walking distance to the beach for under $300 a month unfurnished. Try that in Southern California, it won’t happen, you can’t even rent a room in Venice for under $500 (okay maybe $400).

          Apart of my plan like I said which I will disclosed at another time, is to live just south of San Diego for a few years while I build up my online businesses and travel South and Central America extensively.

          With utilities you can live in MX for less than $700 in most cases and you would be living better than the average local, that includes high speed internet and Direct TV…

    • Tim Leffel

      Anthony, keep in mind you are picking two quite expensive destinations to visit, so that does have a huge impact on how much you have to save. But even in Europe I’ve met plenty of people who had scraped up enough to take off and travel on what were rather low-paying jobs. And of course many found ways to work abroad instead, sometimes making far more than they did at home.

      • Anthony

        Yeah but I’m a single guy, actively trying to change that, if you know what I mean. I have several friends in Europe, even in places like Ukraine.

        I don’t quite have the same connections in South America but even with the Real being about 4:1 now and bargains drying up due to Europeans moving to Brazil to take advantage of low real estate prices (Gentrification).

        I was offered a free single room at a hostel (Sao Paulo) in return for looking after its network and its internet terminals. Its through another friend so I don’t have all the details but I have been in contact with the owner for a few months.

        Problem is I earn money sort of unconventionally and need to be at home in order to generate income. I am developing content for the internet not much different than your site actually but with a different focus.

        In Europe, I have been investigating finding work even if you don’t speak the local language. I can even work in the motor pool at several bases in Germany if worst came to worst. I can easily get ASE certification, I’m just lazy :) I already have A+ and not too long ago DHL in Czech Republic (Prague) had some entry level IT openings that only required A+.

        I will keep you posted on what happens. My friend who just left my house is borrowing my unlocked HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1) since his Iphone is CDMA (Verizon). He is leaving for London on Tues (Jan 8th) and then moving onto Dublin seeking asst. Basketball coaching gigs with club teams he’s been in contact with.

        He has a son but doesn’t have him full-time. He is also homeless because you can’t live on the bit over $850 SSI-D gives him (Gulf War Vet).

        It can be done if you don’t make excuses and lock yourself in like so many Americans tend to do.

  2. Lerma

    This post really inspired me to travel this year! Yes, there will be no excuses for me not to travel on country that I find interesting to go. Wish me luck guys.

  3. Cat

    “If you have a job you can do from anywhere”

    I think that is a HUGE goal for many people, but so difficult to do. I guess if we were travel bloggers… ;)

    I have to say, I just started reading travel blogs. I travelled frequently when I was younger as a student ambassador, and as part of a Girl Scout troop, and then I studied abroad. However, I was always coming back home and not too thrilled.

    About 8 months ago I changed careers and became and IT professional. Though I believe I could be very good in this career, it’s just not the one for me, and the growth and opportunities at my current place of employment are so limited. It just seems like there’s nothing to look forward to.

    I’ve been debating travelling, and making up many excuses such as:
    How will I pay my $600 PRIVATE (no deferrable) student loans while I am away?
    How will I find a source on income (currently thinking: work at kayack shop, woofing, writing, blogging -I hear this one takes a long time to build a following-, etc.
    How will I justify this to my family?
    Will I be able to get back into the work force when my adventures are done?

    If you have any insight that is positive, I’d love to hear it.

    Unprompted this morning on the way to the store my mother went on and on about how it’s silly to just up and quit your job and run around, with no means of income and not enough money saved up, but man I’m going bananas!

    Thanks in advance for reading my long post :)

    • Tim Leffel

      Cat – would you mind the IT job if you were doing it from a beach or mountains somewhere and only working 20 hours per week? A lot of the people with “a job you can do from anywhere” are certainly not travel bloggers. They’re people doing normal jobs in another place: graphic designers, editors, translators, web designers, book ghostwriters, systems analysts, technical help desk workers, programmers, and on and on.

      Any job that can be done remotely on a laptop is a job that can be moved to a place with a lower cost of living. With most of them you could easily wipe out that debt and have plenty left over after living expenses while working half as many hours as you are now. Not everyone who leaves the country is traveling every day. Many are just enjoying a cheaper, more fulfilling life somewhere else, with less stress.

    • Wade K.

      Since you are a college grad, consider becoming an officer in the military. The Air Force is mostly a civilian job with a uniform, you get paid well with housing, food, and medical paid for, and get a month off every year. You can let them pay for living overseas, and at 20 years you qualify for a pension that starts when you leave the Service. That will allow you to travel anywhere you like, live there if you want. I wish I had stayed in, would’ve retired 10 years ago.

  4. Bob Weisenberg

    Love this article. So glad I discovered you on your recent video Bootsnall. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and your excellent blog. Thanks,

    Bob W.

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