When I share my stories, the one question everyone seems to ask is “How do you do it?” People tell us that we must have “something special”, or that they could never do it themselves… I call bull. I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’d love to share the things that work for me. First off, we’re much less put together than you’d think. Mostly, we never really know what we’re doing, we just figure it out along the way. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. The important part is learning to accept the outcome.
With some hard thought, I’ve pared it down to four things that I think make up the essence of a an explorer.
1. Embrace minimalism
I know, you hear this one a lot. It’s trendy right now. That doesn’t make it wrong.
Learning to live without is essential to travel, because usually one must abandon many of the comforts of home in order to explore. Maybe you own a lot of things, and maybe that makes you happy. That’s okay! But it’s important to grasp that stuff is stuff and the things you truly need to live aren’t physical. Keenen and I have lived out of bags for the last few years- bags that although inconvenient to lose, wouldn’t be a tragedy. And although it can be hard sometimes, it is also incredibly liberating and empowering to know that I can untether from the material world and get along just fine. When traveling, you have to live without, whether it be phone service, food to your taste, or friends. It’s important to learn to be comfortable with this, or it could ruin your trip. Plus, learning to live without teaches you to genuinely appreciate and treasure what you have in a way that nothing else can.
2. Start Small
Just because you’re nervous about buying a ticket to Timbuktu doesn’t mean you can’t embody the traveler spirit. Start with short weekend trips, or visit places that are nearby. I bet there’s a lot of things near your home that you’ve never checked out, but you should. The most important thing here is to leave your comfort zone, as often as possible and as far as you can go without freaking yourself out. Do this and you’ll feel your tolerance for the out of the ordinary expand and expand until you can do almost anything. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t, but at least you’ll know and you’ll have learned something about yourself in the process.
I use this word a lot here, but it’s truly what travel is about. To travel, you have to sacrifice your time, your money, comfort, and possessions. But the trade-off is invaluable; the experiences you gain while adventuring will be the most formative of your life, and make you overall a happier, more open minded, and fulfilled person. I understand saving money for a rainy day is important. Buying that new car may seem necessary… But cars break down, houses grow old, stuff is just stuff. But you have to live with you forever, and there is no better investment than one for your soul.
So to begin, sacrifice your luxuries. To travel, you need money saved (although not that much), so instead of buying a Starbucks in the morning, or going out to dinner every week, throw that money in savings. In fact, take it farther than that, and take it out of your checking account the moment you get it. One of our favorite ways to save is choosing a small, manageable percentage of each paycheck and moving it to savings on pay day. That way you don’t see or think about the money, and it builds up surprisingly fast.
4. Appreciate the Strangeness of Life
So many people that get the opportunity to travel tend to squander it. I’ve watched groups of young people set off on trips only to spend it out drinking all night, sleeping all day, and never stepping away from their group, away from comfort. These types of trips can be fun, but they aren’t what I’m talking about here and they certainly don’t foster personal growth because they are just more of the norm. If you want to party, plan a separate trip for it. There are definitely places in the world worth visiting just for that purpose.
When you go somewhere, it might not seem like there’s anything to interest you, but it’s easy to find wonder and beauty in anything with the right perspective. Keenen and I love to visit temples, cathedrals, and other religious sites – not because we practice, but because we enjoy the beauty, the craftsmanship, the culture, and the history that’s behind it. You will never enjoy your travels if you can’t learn to value what you’re seeing. Instead of letting things that you perceive to be strange as scary, embrace them and you may end up discovering a new passion.
I think this is all it takes. It might sound difficult… it’s certainly a good bit of introspection and self “reprogramming”, but it doesn’t have to happen overnight. Disagree? Anything to add? Let us know in the comments!