Stop Delaying That Big Trip. Stop It.

As anyone who moves to another country knows, one of the guaranteed side effects of your change in time zone is going to be your friends, acquaintances, and even strangers constantly telling you how “lucky” you were to “get away.” Of course the initial reaction can be a touch of resentment at the implication that your arriving in this new land was simply a result of falling into an airplane/ pile of money, and waking up magically in the apartment of your dreams. As we know, it’s most often through a lot of hard, tedious work, patience, mountains of bureaucracy, and being at the bottom rung of everything for a while until you get adjusted to your new culture, language, and space. But for people who dream of living somewhere else — people who have a need to explore, learn a new language, or have always dreamed of a particular city, there is nothing more rewarding. And while when you’re boarding the plane with no return ticket and no clear idea of how you’re going to suddenly construct an entirely new life for yourself, things can be incredibly intimidating, no drug on the planet could possibly replace the thrill. It’s wonderful.

But even just to take a trip to a new country you’ve always dreamed of is an undertaking in itself — even if you plan on having firmly in hand that mythical return ticket so many of us have yet to procure. Sure, riding rickety trains from city to city in Eastern Europe, whittling your own walking stick in the Himalayas, renting a tiny bungalow on a beach in Thailand, drinking wine and eating good bread under the Eiffel Tower — these all seem amazing. They seem like some kind of dream. Yet they seem so far away. They seem somehow unattainable — that there are too many things standing between you and the foreign joy you’ve so long imagined. Paperwork, plane tickets, finding a place to stay, learning those cursory phrases that prove to be much more indispensable than you could have anticipated — not a one can be left off the list. Personally speaking, though I have known since I was a little girl that I always wanted to go to Paris and had learned to speak the language before setting foot in the territory — I had many false starts for my big trip. Even when I didn’t plan to live there, I just wanted to visit, there was always something that stood in the way — some reason I couldn’t justify it. Even when friends in Paris would offer me a place to stay, tickets were at their most inexpensive, and the weather was perfect — something happened and I didn’t go. By the time I finally made my first trip, it felt like I could finally exhale after holding my breath for years. I had done it; I was here.

And now, I hear at least once a day from someone — whether here in France looking to finally see the U.S., or from friends at home who won’t use my offer of a couch in my apartment to convince themselves it’s time to finally see Europe — that they just “can’t go.” The timing isn’t right, the money isn’t there, they have to get a new passport, they can’t find anyone to go with, they can’t get vacation time, things are just not going to work out right now. And these are often the same people who’ve been talking for six straight years about how much they want to go and travel — they are the ones who actively want to get out. I’ll have the same conversation over and over with friends — often friends who are at the peak no real responsibility/ a decent amount of disposal income combination. Friends who have jobs, sure, but have vacation time to take if they plan ahead of time. It goes like this, time after time:

Friend: Ugh, I’m so jealous of you. I want to see Europe so badly. I really should go. I want to come to Paris and drink coffee at those outdoor tables!

Me: Well, you should come and visit! I can come get you from the airport and you can stay with me!

Friend: Yeah, but the tickets are so expensive.

Me: Well, if you buy them now, they’ll be about 550 bucks round trip for the early summer — which is the best time to come, I think.

Friend: Yeah, but I don’t think I can get time off of work.

Me: Why don’t you talk to your boss now and see what time you have available this summer, and then go off of that?

Friend: Yeah, I don’t know. I’ll let you know.

Cut to them not getting back to me, and them starting the next conversation with me a few weeks later with “Omg how is Paris ugh wish I were there.” And this is almost universal — the exact same justifications, the exact same desire to go, the exact same reasons why it will never work. Year after year after year. And granted, I have had friends visit with me and they’ve always enjoyed the city — and it always helps to have someone to show you around and help you figure things out, not to mention the free bed. Not everyone has talked themselves out of it. However, most of the people I’ve seen here from the States are people to whom traveling in general is an indispensable part of life, something that comes at the top of their leisure spending priorities. In fact, I recently had a conversation with a friend about this very topic — one who is what I would refer to as a “travel addict.” He said,

I don’t make that much money. I mean, I make enough, but I stay in hostels and couch surf and always live on the cheap when I travel. I buy tickets way in advance for off-season times and I try to find places where I know people I can stay with or who can show me around. When I’m home, I don’t spend a ton of money on going out or shopping for a few months before I travel — it’s something you can save for if you want to. There’s always a way to put the money aside, especially when you’re young and don’t have a family or a house or whatever. Anyway, if I don’t do it now, I probably never will — I couldn’t live with that.

And yet, when people talk to him, they consistently act amazed that he manages to get around the way he does without his parents’ help or a very lucrative job. He is equally bewildered, I think, with how much they don’t realize they spend just going out at night or shopping on weekends. To each his own, of course, but to act as though traveling — especially when you’re young — is some kind of insane luxury that is utterly unattainable unless the stars align perfectly and God hands you a couple hundred dollar bills while no one is looking is ludicrous.

My best friend here in Paris works in the hotel industry, and loves his job. He is the ultimate guide — you tell him someone is new in town, he’ll introduce them to everyone and show them the five best places to go for any occasion. He knows where to get the best croissant — which is different from the place with the best pain au chocolate, it must be said. You imagine he just has a map of the city on the palm of his hand that he checks when no one is looking. And when you ask him about his favorite thing about his job, he’ll say,

When a much older couple comes in, and they can’t do much in their day, so you have to help them find the best things for what they like that aren’t too far apart. They’ll say, “Thank you so much. We’ve been waiting all our lives to take this trip–but it just got so hard to come here with children and the house and everything. We just didn’t come.” Nothing makes me happier than making their trip special and exciting. And they’ll always say, “You’re so young. Go see the world, then come back and build your life.” TC mark

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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  • Janice D'souza

    Could I sleep on your couch and practice my grotty French?

  • Anna

    I agree! Buenos Aires, I’m coming back to you in a few months. Stay right where you are!

  • Nicole Nejati

    I love this post. I am a travel addict! The last part of this is so wonderful. “You’re so young. Go see the world, then come back and build your life.” This is what I’m trying to live by. And yes, I am going to move abroad and explore because I can always come back and,who knows, I may never come back. But, I’ll never know if I never leave. Thanks for the extra inspiration Chelsea.

  • http://twitter.com/tlkshwhst J. Bakez / 백조시

    Basically every word of this is spot-fucking-on.  When you look back on it in a few years, a trip to whatever exotic locale you fancy will be far more valuable than anything else you could’ve spent your money on.

  • Sarah

    I’ve lived (and am living) abroad for the 2nd year in a row. Everything about this is truth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.n.knutson Sarah N. Knutson

    I’ve traveled a lot, but I’ve been struggling with committing to celebrating my college roommate’s celebration of graduating from nursing school by going to Ireland. However, reading this guaranteed me actually going to Ireland with my best friend. Buying the ticket when I get paid in a week. IT’S HAPPENING.

  • http://twitter.com/and_susan Susie Anderson

    so much agree. just feel like everybody can do what they want with their life if they are not too scared to do it

  • Katrina

    i love this post! :) I can definitely relate. I’ve always wanted to go to Paris, but there are just a lot of things holding me back right now. But I’ve promised myself, that one day… i’ll definitely go.

  • Kristen (espoir)

    I am obsessed with this post. Living in Paris is a dream and one that I want to make a reality. I also love that your friend works in the hotel industry – it’s where I might be looking to go. Any good advice there? 

  • Domino

    This was fantastic. I just can’t understand people who don’t travel but have the means to do so. I don’t think there is a better way to spend money than getting to know the world.

  • AS

    americans…

    • yes

      yeah, believe it or not sometimes it is difficult to save up $1000 just to get yourself across the ocean. go back to not learning Spanish and taking over the Spanish coast. 

  • Melanie

    UH, WHAT AIRLINES HAS $550 ROUNDTRIP TICKETS TO PARIS???!!! PLEASE LET ME KNOW!

    • Anonymous

      I used cheapoair dot com and got 550 round trip from New York to Paris in the month of June. It’s quite possible. Air France both ways. Non refundable, though, so I suppose that’s a risk you take with the low cost. On other sites, for refundable tickets, they start around 650-700.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexandra.lloyd1 Alexandra Lloyd

    My problem isn’t moving somewhere new, it’s going home… I’ve been in paris three years, and made it back “home” to england possibly twice adding up to about six days. I spend the terms never leaving paris, and the summer working in the mediterannean….. family? friends? oops.

    On a positive note, saturday I’m going to england for the first time in about a year and a half! 

  • Anna

    I like what this article is saying, but it might need to be noted that some people just say they wish they were there but really don’t. Plenty of my pals back home (I’m abroad, btw) just aren’t willing to travel. Maybe they don’t want to sound like a dick by saying they’d rather not visit.

  • Sian

    Love it. This is what I’ve been trying to tell all of my friends but this is done so eloquently. I’m going to send it to everyone. Although, like other people have stated, I think for a lot of my friends travel just isn’t such a big priority as it was for me. 

  • Joe

    I was 18 years old, living at home between high school and college when my girlfriend dumped me. I had been wanting to travel during that year, but didn’t think I had enough money to make it in Europe for a substantial amount of time. The day after the broke up with me, I got online and bought a one-way ticket to Dublin. I didn’t have a plan, but $250 put me on the continent and that was all I needed. There’s something so liberating when you realize that yes, you CAN travel. You can go almost anywhere! It’s really hard to communicate that idea to my friends, so thanks for articulating it in a better way than I ever could. 

    Als0 – IT IS still possible to do Europe on the cheap. I had about $2800 for 5 months and 16 countries. I’m pretty sure that’s as close as anyone could cut it, but it has been done. 

  • Slade_kyles

    this is a good article.   excellent work. 

  • http://twitter.com/Joao_Nuno João Nuno Álvares

    Travel is within my priorities of self-realization. Without a doubt. I have traveled something and I intend to continue always while I can.

  • guest

    what about health insurance

    • Steve

      You can get travel health insurance that’ll pay to airlift you out of third-world countries if needed (World Nomads, for example, offers it) but thinking like an American and assuming that the rest of the world has our messed-up health care system is probably the bigger issue. In most places in the world, medical care is inexpensive. I have a friend who scraped up his knee really badly in South Africa a few years back, as in “tendons and bone exposed” badly. He freaked out and was on the phone nonstop back to the US trying to confirm his insurance covered his treatment at a modern hospital there. He was relieved to learn he’d be reimbursed. But then he got the bill and didn’t even bother filing the insurance claim: it was $12.

  • http://strugglingsingletwentysomething.blogspot.com/ Katie

    I haven’t done much traveling in my life, and I would love to, but I would love to buy a house more. And since I live in an expensive area that I don’t want to leave, saving for one is going to take awhile. I don’t think any trip would be worth not being able to own a house.

    I also have to say that one big pet peeve of mine is when people brag about how much they’ve traveled. It really isn’t some kind of badge of honor- it just means that you have enough money to travel. And for me, even $550 tickets is much more than I can afford. I live in Boston, and last year I went to Florida for a road race and Vegas for a wedding, and I’m already in more credit card debt than I’m comfortable with from that.

    • Michelle

      why did you even read this post? why not read the post called put a down payment on a house. 

  • Claire

    I can’t thank you ENOUGH for posting this, I feel like these thoughts have been on repeat in my head for the past twenty years. I cannot say enough about what traveling can do for you as a person. Maybe the reason so many people don’t do it is just what you said – the people who DO bother to get out there are those who make it a huge priority in life and can’t imagine NOT seeing new places. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ICOAYHGEZCDBVXNJYQWGOWH3FY Ziya

    550 for a round trip? So lucky, for those living in that particular area of the Northern Hemisphere. Down here in Australia, it costs at least US1800 (2500 in peak season) for a return trip to Europe. When i was in high school and uni, i dreamed about going to Europe when i completed my studies. It was my life long dream and i’m happy to say i achieved it last Nov-this Jan. I barely went out for an entire year during my final year of uni, became a hermit at home, rarely bought new clothes or anything, made meals at home instead of eating out. In the end, i was able to travel comfortably across 11 European cities and 8 countries. 

    So now i’m back home, unemployed and looking for work – which is what i predicted would happen after a big trip like that, but i have no regrets. I’m young, single, i don’t have a mortgage, kids, credit card bills or any other debts to pay off. Best thing i ever did. I’m preparing to do it all over again – next stop, South America.

  • cobalt

    I think that if people make traveling a priority, they can afford to travel if they have some source of income & don’t have extenuating financial circumstances. My main method for generating a “travel slush fund” has been to figure out what a fair budget would be for housing and then live in a place that’s cheaper (usually much cheaper). The annual difference in cost then goes into my slush fund for flights/travel costs. For example, I downgraded from a 1 bedroom apt to a basement studio (albeit in a low cost region of the US), and the difference between $675/month and $425/month leads to a very decent slush fund of $3000/year. Even when I lived in Philly (which probably isn’t perceived as a very low cost area in the US), I shared an apartment (still had my own room) in a centrally located but not so trendy area and paid less than 1/4 the rent that my friend (living on a grad student stipend) paid for her apartment in a swank area of the city. I also have an aversion to buying expensive furniture and just buy used items or the cheapest Ikea items that fill a need. For people who spend an immense amount of time in their homes & find a lot of pleasure in making them look a certain way, it’s their choice to optimize their happiness to spend their money that way. But, I’m the type of person who isn’t perturbed at staying in hostel dorm beds vs. 5 star hotels when I travel, so I don’t mind having less plush but still adequate apartments when I am at home / not traveling. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten take some memorable trips to Central America, East Africa, East/Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. I doubt I’ll look back when I’m 70 and wish that I had splurged on that bigger apartment/new sofa instead of rafting on the Nile River / diving in Thailand / etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    just try me fagan, i’m a broke-ass grad making pebbles for money. how am i going to go to italy to get spaghetti – olive garden don’t count. 

    seriously though, seeing the world, it build character

  • Madrileña

    Moved to Madrid 5 years ago and never looked back!

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