Traveling is often something that people see themselves doing in their lives, but not everyone actually takes the jump and buys a plane ticket. Maybe traveling is just a dream because of barriers such as time commitments or money. This article is about overcoming those barriers, taking that jump, and experiencing the life you want to live today.
#1. Free Your Time
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If you're not free, find a way to be free! Just graduating college, I find myself in the perfect situation to travel because I don’t have a job or any commitments. I was just talking to my father on the phone, and he mentioned, “This is the first time I've taken a week off in the last 10 years.” The concept that we need money is so that we can support a life that we want, but when will we start living? Many people will never take the time off to give themselves a chance for adventure.
#2. Buy a Plane Ticket
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I guess there's no going back now! Buying a plane ticket makes the commitment real, and everything else you technically could figure out once you are there. Although, if you do like to have a little more foresight, there is still plenty of time to plan prior to the date of your flight. So here’s what you do: Go on to google flights. Type in a major airport as a starting location, select a date you might be able to leave, and hit “explore destinations”. This is how I started getting hooked on traveling. I bought my first random flight as a late night decision of a round trip to India. Some people considered that really unsafe, but I am much more curious to experience the world than I am afraid of it. India has a much lower crime rate than the U.S., so I’m just as unsafe walking the streets here as I am walking the streets there. However, I was much more cautious and aware of simple safety measures simply because of being out of my comfort zone and being alone. The next ticket I have is one way to Thailand ($317), and after a month, a connector flight to India ($48).
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There are several big questions to consider when packing such as, what is the climate of the place I am going? Am I going to be spending time in the wilderness or mostly urban areas? Will I be documenting my trip through photography and blogs? What do I need in order to be able to find my way around? This could be a whole article in itself, and I probably will make it one. But in short, I’ll share some of the ways I tackled these questions. I decided not to bring a sleeping bag because I was going to be in urban areas and sleeping outside really would not have been safe. I did bring a sleeping bag liner, which is warmer than a typical sheet but functions as one. For my upcoming trip to Thailand, I will bring the sleeping bag liner again and a mosquito net because the environment demands that. Clothing-wise, I plan to bring one pair of jeans, one pair of leggings, 5 plain 5 shirts, a medium jacket, 5 pairs of socks, sandals, hiking boots, 15 pairs of underwear, and 2 fabric bras. I only want to bring a day pack size bag since I will be going everywhere with it. Also, the cost of a new shirt is so low in Thailand (~$1), that the cost-burden ratio is in favor of just accumulating things as I might need them. As far as documentation goes, my iPhone serves as the jack of all trades. I am purchasing a Bluetooth keyboard that plugs into my iPhone for blogging, and am using it as my camera. Although it would be wonderful to have a better form of taking photos, I would need a computer to be able to download my photos to, and both of those things would increase the valuables I am responsible for and the weight to carry. One of the good things about photos on an iPhone is that I can upload them directly. Also, my phone can run blogging websites and essentially function as a computer.
#4 Finding Your Way
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Depending on where you’re going, language barriers could potentially be a struggle. I think it’s useful to have a phrase book. It’s as easy as just downloading one on your smartphone. I wished I had one when I was in China, but in India, I could find someone that spoke English no matter where I was. I recommend that everyone have a travel book. My favorite brand is Lonely Planet because they are focused on a budget friendly backpackers guide versus the more tourist focused guides. This was very useful in identifying a plan for the day and I had a map of each city I went to. This made it easy to ask for directions and made me feel comfortable with the spontaneity of not having things planned out. If I needed direction, I could always just refer back to my book to see where to go next.
#5 Funding Your Trip
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There are actually an amazing amount of scholarships and organizations out there that offer scholarships for gap years. Many people are deterred by the potential cost of a year long backpacking trip, but a combination of work, fundraising, and savviness will make your trip a reality. I worked all the way through college, part-time during the semester and full-time during the summer. Even though my wage was low, I was able to live simply and save a few hundred dollars each month for the last three years. But if you don't have savings, that's okay too! You can work abroad. There are opportunities for teaching English, job placement programs for college grads, and tons more opportunities out there if you look. Personally, I went in the direction of studying while I'm there. I applied to a language emersion program and scholarship to learn Hindi in India. I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to do so, because the scholarship of $1000 will more than pay for my flight, and the month-long emersion program means I have a home and food for my first month in India, all the while learning a new language! This program will really help me plant my roots and give me a strong start for my year-long trip. But there are so many scholarships out there! The American Gap Association has a list of over 20 scholarships, and another near 20 scholarship search engines that are centered around funding a gap year of travel.
All in all, traveling is possible in every way. We tell ourselves that we are working so hard to have the life we want. But what if we could live the life we wanted today?