When I made the decision to become self-employed several years ago, one of the main factors in my decision was freedom.
I was tired of reporting into an office five days a week and being severely limited to the amount of vacation time I could take.
Yet, in the years since, I’ve only made travel a priority for family and conferences/conventions. While both of those have been awesome, that wasn’t what my original intention was.
The deeper I dug into why I hadn’t prioritized travel, the more I realized I had been hiding under a cozy blanket of fear.
So in a weird turn of events, I decided to throw off the blanket and opt for the cold of the unknown instead.
In simpler terms, here’s my story on how I’m not letting fear hold me back when it comes to traveling.
Defeating Fear When it Comes to Travel
Let’s start with the facts:
- I’m not well-traveled at all. I’ve never been overseas.
- Even within the US, I’ve been to less than 10 states.
- I’ve been to the west coast once.
- I’ve also been to Niagara Falls, but that doesn’t really count.
- I have irrational fears that I’ll be kidnapped, murdered, or robbed (not in that order) when traveling to an unknown area. Even 20 minutes away.
- My worst fear is getting so lost I’ll never know how to get back to where I should be.
- Language barriers are also a fear of mine.
- I’m afraid I won’t make any friends while traveling, and traveling alone for an extended period of time seems a bit lonely.
All of these fears taken together have been overwhelming – to the point of inaction. But that inaction has led to nothing but restlessness.
I spent most of this year wishing I was somewhere else. It didn’t even matter where. I planned a few spontaneous, last-minute domestic trips, but I still wanted more.
I just didn’t know where to start. The options are endless and, again, overwhelming.
Narrowing it down to Italy, Iceland, or Ireland (I have a thing for places that start with the letter I, apparently) didn’t help. I still couldn’t pull the trigger.
This is ridiculous, I told myself. Tons of people have done the solo travel thing before and they’ve been fine. These are all fairly simple countries to navigate, especially if I can remember anything I learned from five years of Italian.
But alas, reasoning with myself kept failing. Being stubborn has its downsides.
Starting With Simple
I came to realize that I had this stupid mental block of go big or stay home. Literally.
I felt like I had to go all in on my first trip – it had to be wonderful and epic in every single possible way. That meant going overseas, traveling for an extended period of time, making a crazy list of things to do in five different countries for months on end, etc.
Gee, I wonder why I was overwhelmed.
I had this epiphany when talking to a friend who resides in Canada, who graciously offered up their spare bedroom for me to stay in.
Duh, why didn’t I think of Canada? There are quite a few places I’d like to see there…
And incidentally, I received an email alerting me to a sale on flights to Toronto within the next week.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it…” – The Alchemist
I took it as a sign and booked the flight the same day. I’m leaving for that flight on Wednesday, and I’m staying for 23 days (so help my friend).
I may not be “going big” – I’m staying with a friend, in a place that’s around 9 hours away by car – but it’s still travel because I redefined what my definition of “travel” actually meant.
I’m glad I did, otherwise I’d probably still be home, daydreaming about being elsewhere.
An Experiment in Slow Travel
My other vision for travel involved slow travel – that is, staying in a place for an extended period of time.
The idea of being in one place for 7 days always seemed fairly limiting to me. I want to see and do as much as I can while still working, and I figured slow travel would be perfect for my lifestyle.
So along with experimenting with international travel in general, I’m also experimenting with slow travel here.
I’ll be working as usual, but I’ll also be taking advantage of the different scenery: I plan on hitting up a bunch of coffee shops and libraries while I’m in the city, and I also plan on exploring some nearby parks. I’m sure I’ll also spend some days indoors, curling up with a book, as I tend to do.
The point is I’m not drastically changing my routine, which is something that’s extremely important to me. Instead, I’m hoping to incorporate some more random adventures into my life while maintaining a decent level of productivity.
Why the “Experiment” Label?
This past year I’ve been treating more things as an experiment because I feel as though that allows for some modicum of freedom. It could be a cop out because I don’t want to fully commit to anything, but I choose to believe the former. =)
Essentially, I’ve had the travel bug for a while, but it’s mostly because 1) I’ve never traveled before and 2) everyone blogs about how awesome it is.
Clearly, there’s some external influence there. Travel could be awesome for these other people, but I have to keep in mind that it may not be right for me.
I have no way of knowing unless I do it. Hence the experiment.
I’m not committing to a shit load of travel upfront because for all I know, I could end up hating it. I’m not the best at airports, and I’m a creature of habit. Being so far outside my comfort zone might come as a gigantic shock – enough to make me realize that maybe all I need are two big overseas trips a year.
I’m open to whatever conclusions I may arrive at through this experiment. I’m not going to try and force travel on myself just because I see others enjoying the hell out of it. Different strokes for different folks and all.
I’m also aware that most people only talk about the highlights of traveling, and not the downsides. My hopes and dreams involving travel may very well not match reality because of those highlight reels.
But, again, there’s only one way to know for sure.
AND, if you’re in a similar position as me, you’re in luck, as I’ll be writing about all of it.
I’m not sure how yet – I may do weekly wrap-ups, or I may do daily blogs. I may record some videos, or I may have some photo blogs. We’ll see. =) Either way, I’m going to try my best to bring you all along with me and be totally honest about how the experiment goes.
What Else is in Store for My Year of Travel?
I realize it’s not yet 2018, but I’m personally not a fan of arbitrary dates like January 1st. My year of travel can start whenever the hell it wants to, thank you very much. So I’m kicking it off now.
What’s next after Canada? Here’s my itinerary (for now):
- I’ll be visiting my parents to spend the holidays with them.
- In January, I’ll be in Virginia for a week for a convention of sorts.
- Then I’ll be back in Austin for a week because tickets were on sale. Do I need much more of a reason? Nope.
- In February, I’ll be back in Canada for a show by one of my favorite artists, probably also for a week.
- Then I’ll be back with my parents as my mom and grandma both have birthdays in February.
- In March I’ll be going to Iceland, but only for a week (which will be another experiment).
- My hope is that an awesome sale will pop up and that I’ll be able to cross Ireland, Italy, and a bunch of other places on my list off in the Spring.
- I plan on taking it somewhat easy during the Summer to give myself some time to recharge. I’ll probably find myself in Austin in August for a week or two.
- For Autumn, my hope is to take a gigantic road trip along the U.S. and Canada. How, you ask? (You totally asked.) I’m so glad you asked!
My New Purchase – Specifically for Travel
So, some sad news: my little 2002 Honda Civic wasn’t doing so well. This is probably a story for another time, but suffice to say not having a reliable car was also holding me back (much more than I realized) in the travel department.
I started looking for a new vehicle at the beginning of the month, and after a few weeks of research, I found what I was looking for.
A Subaru Forester. A 2010, to be exact. I couldn’t bring myself to buy a new car.
To make a long story short, I wanted a vehicle that could:
- Take me everywhere without worry (AWD).
- Allow me to sleep in the back of it (station wagon or SUV).
- Give me peace of mind in the safety/maintenance department (mostly new).
- Be a good camping companion (towing capabilities are nice, roof racks are also great).
- Drive like a car (I had only driven smaller cars).
This one fit the bill!
It’s pretty cozy. =) And I’m 5’9” – it has a lot more space than I thought it would.
I plan on taking this baby on that road trip. I figure it will cut down on motel costs whenever I’m too tired to keep driving during the night, and I can also sort of camp in it, although I plan on getting equipment to camp properly as well.
I’m really excited. It hurt to drop that much on a car, but at the very least, it has 43,000 miles on it, so it should last me a very long time (my old car lasted me 8 years and I bought it at 55k miles).
At the end of the day, it’s helping to facilitate the life I want to live. It might be a waste for others, but for me it’s a lot more than just a car.
Concluding Thoughts on Travel
Travel mostly appeals to me because I love to learn about other cultures. I want to see how other people live, and I want to experience it for myself.
I also love nature, and I want to visit as many national parks as possible.
A big side effect of travel is personal growth through pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and I place a high value on growth, so it aligns with my values pretty well.
Overall, I’m excited that I’m finally kicking this experiment off. It’s long overdue. Some things may change along the way, but I know it will be a valuable learning experience regardless.