5 Steps to Making Travel a Priority

Travel a Priority | AbbyWeiland.JPG

I've traveled quite a bit in my thirty-one years on this Earth. I could say that I'm incredibly blessed and I've had numerous opportunities to experience amazing places around the world, because I have. But when people express sentiments like these, using words like opportunity and blessing, that's only half the story.

The truth is - I made these opportunities happen. I created space in my finances and time in my life. Those beautiful humans I've traveled with through the years have done the same. I'm a teacher, y'all. I do not make the big bucks.

So how do I travel so much? How have I hiked through the Amazon rainforest, lived with a family in an indigenous Ecuadorian village, admired the sparkling Eiffel Tower at night while eating a nutella crêpe (because if that's not how you experience it, I'm not sure how), or stood below cliffs full of puffins on a black sand beach in Iceland?

How did I do it? I made travel a priority in my life. That's it. I don't mean to make this sound too simplistic, as there are many many life situations which certainly don't allow extra funds for travel. At the same time for the vast majority of us, it is truly up to US. We get to choose how we spend our money. We are in control of our finances.

We are in charge of our own selves.

You are in charge of yourself. This means if you have no interest in travel and choose instead to spend your money on a fancy house or new car or extensive wardrobe or expensive makeup collection, then by all means, you do you, girl. We get to choose. Isn't that equal parts beautiful and relieving?

It's just that I get the question all the time - how do you do it? I wish I could travel like that, they say. You're so lucky, they say.

Yes and no. I am beyond blessed in myriad ways. This world has been kind to me. But, I didn't luck into living in Ecuador for three months. I researched and saved and planned and made a fool out of myself on the road to becoming near-fluent in Spanish. More than that - I quit my job, much to the chagrin of the world.

I didn't stumble upon a six-week backpacking trip through Europe. I gave up coffee-shop coffee and dinners out, I continued to drive my trusty old Honda Civic with nearly 200,000 miles, I lived in a tiny, basic apartment in a town of less than 500 people so I only had to pay $300 a month in rent. And I saved, saved, saved for months.

Here's the deal. If you look around and see everyone else going to the far reaches of this world, experiencing the allure of creation, and you don't understand how they do it - if you desire to go on adventures yourself, here's how you might start.

1. Take a look at your finances. Track EVERY SINGLE THING. Write it down. Type it out. Use a spreadsheet. It doesn't matter how you do it. What matters is that you do. Go back a few months and take a close look at where your money is going. I think you'll be surprised, shocked even, at where your dollars are spent.

2. Choose a realistic amount of money you want to save each month for your travel fund. It will not happen overnight. Caution here - putting trips on your credit card is not the way to go. You want to feel exhilarated and present in your travels, not stressed and counting every penny you spend. Save the money you need; carry credit cards for emergencies only.

3. Here's the hard part - figure out where that money will come from. You're going to have to take it from somewhere, so dig in and do the hard work of cutting the excess from your spending life. How much do you spend on Starbucks or eating out each week? How about all those subscriptions - do you REALLY need Netflix and Hulu and HBO Go and, and and? Be ruthless. Remember your end goal.

4. Save, save, save. It will take time. If you've never had a travel fund, it might take months or even years to build up. That's ok - you're starting today!

5. The very best part comes now. Research and dream and plan. Pick a spot from your bucket list, find a picture of your destination and make it the background of your phone or print it out and tape it to your mirror. Put your goal in front of your eyes each and every day. Remind yourself what you're giving up that weekly manicure for.

Abby Weiland