A lot of people dream about traveling.
They see others visit exotic locales—having incredible experiences and learning all about themselves—and they fantasize about doing the same.
They say, “One day that’ll be me.” Yet so often, that life-changing travel experience never comes.
Why is that?
Some people will argue it’s because world travel is only for the lucky and privileged; that the average person’s private obligations, professional commitments, and financial responsibilities are burdensome enough to make globetrotting not only unrealistic but irresponsible.
It’s really tempting to believe this. After all, modern society seems to be asking more and more from all of us. We’re expected to regularly answer work emails, update social media account statuses, maintain 12% body fat, and stay pop-culturally literate all while keeping a smile on our face. With such heavy expectations, the argument goes, who else but the most fortunate among us can even survive traveling?
Yet, of all the travelers I’ve met while trekking around the world, only a handful have come from backgrounds where money and time didn’t seem to be a concern. Everyone else seemed to be playing the normal game of life.
How then, were they able to visit distant lands and explore exotic cultures while so many others felt trapped at home?
Simply put, they made travel a priority.
Every single one of them decided that travel was going to be one of the most important things in their lives.
Warren Buffett—a self-made billionaire and one of the most successful investors in history—believes that prioritization is what allows people to achieve their dreams.
To illustrate this point, he has mentees create a list of the 25 things they are most interested in achieving in life. This list can be personal or professional, physical or mental, serious or fun. He then has the mentee circle the 5 things they are most interested in achieving over the next 5 years. Everything else on the list is crossed off—according to Buffett, once you’ve identified your top priorities in life, everything else should be ignored until your goals are reached.
People who travel the world do so not because they are simply luckier than others but rather because they’ve made it one of their top priorities. They’ve made sacrifices and adjustments to their lifestyles in order to achieve this goal. Undoubtedly, it wasn’t always easily. But it eventually paid off with the freedom to explore the world—and themselves—on their own terms.
With this exercise in mind, what are your top 5 priorities for the next 5 years? Write them down.
Here’s are mine, in no particular order:
1.) Stay connected with family and friends.
2.) Maintain physical and mental health.
3.) Help others to live more fulfilling lives.
4.) Better understand myself spiritually.
5.) Regularly leave the comfort of home to explore the world.
Now go through your daily routine on—activity by activity, thought by thought. Write this down as well. Then, without judgement or anger, put a check mark by each activity that directly helps you to reach one of your top priorities.
If you’re like most people, many of the things you’ve listed won’t have a checkmark. In fact, some of these thoughts or activities will seem to go counter to your priorities. It’s easy to feel bad about this, but there’s no need. What’s important is that you’ve identified what is and isn’t helping you to achieve your goals
Also, unless you’re trying to found the next multi-billion dollar tech company or finish med school in under 3 years, you can probably afford to give yourself a bit more slack than Buffett gives his mentees, i.e., it’s OK to spend some time on priorities 6-25.
In yoga, we often talk about the drishti—a focused, but soft, gaze that allows one to remain in balance, especially during challenging poses. The key to properly using a drishti is to not try too hard; you concentrate on a specific point yet avoid straining. Focus on your priorities like yogis focus on their drishti.
Why Now Is the Best Time to Prioritize Travel
Was travel one of your top priorities in the last exercise? If it was, great—you can skip to the next section. If you didn’t list travel as one of your top priorities, let’s talk about why now is the best time to do so.
There will never be a perfect time to travel. There will never be a point in your life devoid of all worries and obligations, where you can explore the world in a 100% care-free state.
People sometimes picture retirement as being this perfect time. They imagine that not having to worry about work or the kids’ college funds means that they their minds will be free of clutter and entirely receptive to world adventure.
Yet, new struggles always appear throughout life, and inevitably, our bodies break down as we age, making it harder—if not impossible—to do some of the things we could have done in our youth. Would you want to wait until your 70s to visit Florence, only to find that your bum knees no longer allow you to climb to the top of the Duomo?
Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that the trip we’re banking on in the future will even be possible. Natural disasters, political unrest, and personal health issues can and do occur unexpectedly. I’m not suggesting you live in fear—assuming that the future will be all doom and gloom—but the longer you hold off on achieving your goals, the less certain they are of being possible.
Finally, travel isn’t a life distraction; it’s a life enhancer. By teaching you about yourself and your surroundings, it helps to make your day-to-day richer and more worthwhile. Travel imparts new skills while building up your old strengths, helping you personally and professionally in the process.
In many countries, traveling abroad is seen as a right of passage for young people—an interactive educational experience with the goal of helping one to learn about themselves and their world.
And while the commitments of adult life can make it a bit more complicated to travel, if you’ve not already taken one of these journeys of self-discovery, there’s no better time to do so than now. After all, the sooner you start exploring, the more time you’ll have to appreciate what you find.
The How-To of Making Travel a Priority
So how exactly do you go about making travel a priority? How do you turn your travel dreams into reality? Here are four simple steps.
1.) Identify Your Reasons for Not Traveling
The first step is to identify the reasons why you’re not already traveling. Spend 5 minute writing down all the things—both big and small—that are keeping you from hitting the road. Take the time to explain the logic behind each point. For instance, if you believe that work is keeping you from traveling, explain specifically how it’s doing so.
Now go through your list and see if there’s anything that just doesn’t make any sense. When we write out the arguments that are in our head, it often becomes apparent that they’re not really based on logic but rather on fear and irrational assumptions. For the above example, perhaps you realize that traveling abroad doesn’t signal to the office that you’re not passionate about your career.
Next, try and brainstorm some ways in which you would work around the other issues on your list. Is there any way you could rearrange your work schedule, work remotely for a shot period, or take some time away?
For many people, these exercises will eliminate most—if not all—the reasons on their list. But sometimes there’s an issue that doesn’t seem to go away so easily, like a challenging relationship.
If there really does seem to be no way to get around these obstacles, then you have to make a choice. What is most important to you—travel or this other commitment?
Only you can make this choice. Only you know deep down what is most important in your life.
Making travel a top priority sometimes means letting go of people and activities that were once very special to us. While this can be uncomfortable in the short term, over the long haul it pays off. For there is nothing worse than living a life according to other people’s rules, where your deep-seeded needs are never met.
2.) Start Small
If you’ve not previously done a lot of traveling—or it’s been a while since you last left home—the idea of hitting the road can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. Where should you even begin?
It often helps to start small, gradually adding exploration and adventure into your life as you build yourself up for longer, more intensive trips. Plan a staycation, where you spend your days visiting nearby attractions while sleeping in your own bed at night. Take a weekend trip somewhere within driving distance of home. Spend an afternoon visiting a part of town you’ve never been to before.
Over time, you’ll get used to traveling. It will become second nature to hit the road when you get a chance. Newton’s First Law of Motion—which states that a body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force—holds true for travelers as well.
Some people will remain content with shorter trips like these, whereas others will be eager for more complex and ambitious journeys. Don’t be alarmed if you prefer to stay closer to home.
While they aren’t usually the subject of tv documentaries or magazine essays, you can often learn a great deal about yourself without going to the other side of the world. Simply put, a passport (or even a car) isn’t necessary to grow.
3.) Take Immediate Action
For some would-be travelers, the best way to get going is to simply take action. Buy that ticket to New Zealand for next February. Get a table reservation for the upcoming Oktoberfest. Tell your boss you’ll be out of the office for two weeks in June. Even if you’re not 100% sure how you’re going to make things work, take the action. The bigger and more permanent the commitment, the better.
Taking immediate action works because it harnesses a moment of intense motivation and turns it into a concrete truth that you cannot easily escape. This means that if and when your worries appear, you’ll have no choice but to overcome them.
While waking up to the realization that you’ll actually be flying to Spain in 6 months or hiking Patagonia in a year might seem a bit scary at first, you’ll quickly learn to adapt to this new reality.
If you’re someone who likes spontaneity, consider buying a last-minute ticket for a weekend getaway. If you prefer having time to plan and budget, then commit to something further in the future.
Whatever direction you decide to take, the important thing is that you take action.
4.) Share Your Commitment to Travel
Another way of making travel a priority in your life is to let other people know.
Bring up the fact that you’ve decided to travel more in conversations with friends and family. Hang up pictures of the destinations you plan on visiting in your office or home. Ask for travel-related gifts like backpacks, phone chargers, and guidebooks for your birthday or the holidays.
By telling others that you’re committed to traveling, you also tell yourself. One time, you’ll gain more and more confidence in this reality as it’s repeated time and time again.
It’s so easy in life to lose your way. Even if you know what you want, there are a myriad of distractions just waiting to keep you from achieving your goals.
For those of us interested in travel, this is especially true. All too often, travel—and the journey of self-exploration and development it represents—is cast aside as an activity done only by the super wealthy or the super shortsighted.
Yet as you’ve seen, what separates those who fulfill their travel dreams from everyone else is rarely luck. Rather, it’s a simple choice: the choice to make travel a priority.
By choosing to make travel a top priority, those filled with wanderlust open themselves up to a literal world of opportunity and adventure. They get in touch with their deepest desires and confront their darkest fears. They begin to live their lives not based on the recommendations of others, but according to what really matters most to them.
As the great American writer and traveler Jack Kerouac wrote in The Dharma Burns, “Because at the end of the day, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing the lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”
Will you take that first step? After all, that's the key to making travel a priority.
Would you like some help taking that first step? Download my FREE pre-trip boot camp The Traveler’s Mindset: How to Mentally Prepare for Journeys of Adventure and Growth!