“I’ve always thought about going, but I’m not really a traveler. I don’t know how to do it.” If I had a nickel for every time I hear someone say that, well, I’d have enough to book my next trip. And stay for a year.
The sentence was there as the Passion Passport team combed through #PassportToAsia applications over the past few weeks. It regularly appears in submission emails; my cousins always seem to preface their travel ideas with that disclaimer.
When they do, I stop them. I ask what they mean, to which I hear a stream of “I’ve never stayed in a hostel” and “I just never had anyone to go with” and “I’m not much of a camper.” They bring up Instagram feeds that they follow, saying they just aren’t as adventurous as real travelers, that it’s overwhelming or intimidating to attempt to plan your own trip, that they don’t know where they’d start.
I get it. Traveling can be intimidating. But if you want to do it, you need to do it. Go, explore, discover your own travel style.
No one knows what they are doing at first. We all started by a booking a flight somewhere, by following that desire to experience something different from our norm. That’s it. Some book a one-way flight and don’t return for seven years. Some catch a train to a weekend getaway. What do they have in common? They’re all travelers, all on equal ground, who started with the same idea. Having years of experience doesn’t make anyone a more legitimate traveler – maybe a more seasoned traveler, but not more legitimate.
If the idea of being halfway across the world and not knowing what you’re doing is scary, try starting with a foreign country where English is the primary language. It’s a happy medium. Fly in and head to a smaller neighborhood within a city or region.
A friend of mine has been telling me for years that he envies my travels, that he wants to go. Last year he turned those thoughts into action, booking a five-day solo trip to Puerto Rico. He started dating a girl shortly after he booked, and she definitely wanted to join him on the trip, but he stuck to his decision to go it alone. He was nervous but excited for the new challenge, and the trip worked out beautifully, with only a few kinks. Those kinks became his adventure tales. This year he’s branching out farther, choosing a country with a language barrier.
Another option is to bring work with you, as I often do. Work becomes your companion and helps you stick to a daily routine. If financial fears are holding you back, consider renting out your apartment or home while you are away. Subletting my apartment allows me to travel with less stress, knowing that the money I spend is the equivalent to what I would have spent on rent if I’d just stayed home in New York.
Feel like you’re too old to set off on a backpacking trip? Well then don’t backpack. Bring a suitcase. No one will judge you. If you book a one-way flight and decide once you’re there that you want to go into an area where suitcases are not as practical as backpacks, you can most likely just buy a backpack in a nearby city. If you’ve never stayed in a hostel and now feel like you’ve aged out, try looking for an Airbnb or VRBO. Or just book a hotel- Staying in hotels doesn’t disqualify you from being a “traveler”.
The most important part of this is that if you have a desire to travel, to experience other cultures, to see what it is like to get away from your daily routine for a few days or a few months, you have the power to do it.
To those of you who took the first step, who applied to #PassportToAsia with the disclaimer that you want to travel but have not had the opportunity, I commend you. You have the right idea: No one is a traveler until they’ve traveled. Give it a shot. It might just change your life.