One of the questions I’m most often asked both by friends and professional acquaintances is how I travel so often. They tell me it seems that I’m headed somewhere almost every week, and they aren’t wrong. Of course, most of those trips are quick getaways near DC, but I also love taking bigger excursions a few times of year. However, I certainly wasn’t raised a traveler, and, for a while now, I’ve wanted to share with all of you a bit about how I learned to love travel.
ANYONE CAN TRAVEL
Growing up, I always assumed travel was something other people did. We had our summer beach vacations, which are great memories, but I assumed anything beyond that, and definitely anything involving a flight, was exorbitantly expensive and out of reach. Virginia is a beautiful state, but I was surrounded with the mindset of, “why leave?”
When I began looking at colleges, a strong study abroad program was #1 on my list – I knew I wanted to see the world beyond the East Coast. Well, I ended up at U.Va. which, despite being one of the best schools in the country, does not push study abroad as an option – plus, there was no way I wanted to miss a moment of life in Charlottesville! So, yet again, travel remained something that was beyond my reach.
There were a myriad of reasons for brushing aside my wanderlust – the perceived expense, the intimidation of navigating a city, country, or culture that seemed unfamiliar, and the ability to say, “I’ll go next year.”
But, somewhere in my late twenties, my weekend trips around the East Coast became increasingly frequent, I planned my first trip out of the country, and I finally went abroad. The more I traveled, the more it became clear that my excuses for staying put didn’t stand up to the reality.
The huge mental block that it was unattainably expensive to travel? Well, I’ve been to Europe three times in the past two years and the total for the round-trip flights for all three of those trips – just over $1,000. A few visits to spots around Latin America? Those flights rarely top $300. With a little research, there are always deals on hotels or Airbnbs to be found, and some of my best meals have consisted of $9 worth of street food. And don’t overlook the value of travel within the United States. If you’ve lived in the mid-Atlantic your whole life, a trip to New England or Texas or California is wonderfully eye-opening.
PREPARATION IS KEY
The intimidation of traveling is definitely a key factor in holding many of us back, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Yes, you’re visiting a country where they may not speak the same language as you, you may be driving on the other side of the road, or you may be in a landscape that looks more like a sci-fi movie than anything you ever imagined could exist in real life, but people and cities are all the same at their core.
My best tip for getting past the intimidation of the journey and learning to love travel? Prepare. Have an itinerary that is well-researched. Stick to your budget, but don’t cut corners and sacrifice comfort, particularly if you’re not a laid-back traveler. Make sure your hotel is in a safe neighborhood. Read all the Trip Advisor reviews on where to go and what to see. If you have a definite plan – with, of course, some room for flexibility – you’ll feel less stressed because you’ll know what to expect. With experience will come confidence, and then you’ll be able to fly by the seat of your pants a bit more, but, if you’re just starting to dip your toes into the life of a traveler, make sure you have a well-prepared plan.
On a similar note, begin by planning a small trip or visiting a country where many, if not all, people will speak English. Once you’ve gotten your feet wet there, then it’s time to start exploring the trips you’ve always dreamed of. Whether it’s a romantic weekend in Paris or a week spent lounging in Bali, it’s all within your reach.
DISCOVER A NEW PERSPECTIVE
As I’ve traveled more, I’ve realized the greatest thing you’ll gain is a new perspective that affects each and every day – even when you’re home. It’s impossible to see the world the same when you’re drawing on inspiration from the sights you’ve seen along the way. I love my city – Washington, DC – but if I just stay here, I’d never see the massive ice chunks in Iceland’s glacier lagoon or appreciate the full-bodied red wines of the Bordeaux region or taste the warm, delicious (and perhaps unidentified…) meats from a Costa Rican soda. I’d never have the chance to chat about the emerging craft beer scene in Ireland with a bartender in Killarney, gain inspiration from the creative shopkeepers in Charleston, or marvel at whales breaching off the Pacific coast in Mexico.
It’s these experiences which go on to color everything you do and it’s part of how I’ve learned to love travel and appreciate what it leaves with me. If you never leave your comfort zone, you’ll never know what else is out there and what memories you’ve yet to make. And don’t hold yourself back, do it now.