10 travel excuses not to make in 2012

ghana, africa So, you’ve always wanted to travel, but you just haven’t done it yet. Why not? Do you think you can’t afford it? Or, that you don’t have the time? When it comes down to it, obstacles shouldn’t be getting in the way of you fulfilling your dreams. This year, stop making excuses and travel.

Excuse #1: I can’t afford it

This is one of the most common excuses people make for not traveling. Traveling doesn’t have to mean staying in 5-star hotels and eating at Michelin starred restaurants. In fact, using less-expensive accommodation options, like staying with locals for free through Couchsurfing, volunteering on organic farms in exchange for room and board with WWOOF, or doing a homestay can give you more insight into the local culture of the place you are visiting. Hostels, a simple yet social form of accommodation, can also help you meet fellow travelers while saving you money. And, eating at restaurants that don’t have a big “English Menu Available” sign are not only cheaper, but more authentic.

You can also help yourself before your trip begins by saving up some money. Stop spending money on little things that you don’t really need, like a $4 Starbucks coffee (make it at home) or a $10 sandwich from the eatery near your job (again, make it at home). Also, stop splurging on bigger things, like new clothes, makeup, sneakers, big nights out, etc… Obviously you don’t want to deprive yourself, but cut back a little and look for alternative and cheaper options that can also be satisfying.Excuse #2: I don’t have anyone to go with

You don’t need anyone to go with! I’ve gone on backpacking trips through Europe and South East Asia by myself and have never had a problem meeting people along the way. If you stay in hostels, you will easily meet other travelers. Money exchanges, airports, markets, and walking tours are other prime spots for making friends. If you’re more interested in meeting locals, try a homestay, volunteer, or just seek out the cafes and bars where locals hangout and strike up a conversation. The best thing about traveling alone is you never have to adhere to anyone else’s schedule. Instead, you can wake up when you want, see what you want, and do what you want without having to feel the need to coordinate with someone else.

Excuse #3: I’m too young/old

You are never too young or too old to travel. If you’re young, why not do something abroad to help build your resume, like volunteer, study, or intern abroad. If it’s a matter of your parents being worried and you want to appease them, join a tour group like Intrepid Travel or G Adventures so that you’ll be with an experienced guide as well as other young travelers.

If you think you’re too old, think again. There are plenty of older people out there, not just traveling, but backpacking and trekking their way around the world. In fact, just this past October, 84-year old Richard Byerley broke a new world record and became the oldest person to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. And before him, the oldest person to do this same feat was 82-year old George Solt in 2010. If you still feel skeptical, there are tour groups that cater to those in their retirement years, like Road Scholar and Grand Circle Foundation.

airplane Excuse #4: I’m afraid to fly

According to planecrashinfo.com, the chances of you being killed on a plane flown by one of the top 25 airlines is 1 in 9.2 million. And, even if you went with an airline that is deemed to have higher accident rates than the others, the chances are still slim at 1 in 843,744. If logic still doesn’t assuage your fears don’t get dismayed, you can still travel. Fill up your gas tank and take a road trip, pack a bag and travel by bus from city to city, or, for something a little more luxurious, opt for a relaxing cruise.

Excuse #5: My boyfriend/girlfriend/parents don’t want me to go

While it’s understandable that the people who love you will miss you, they should also try to be happy that you’re doing something that will make you feel fulfilled. There is so much technology available nowadays that keeping in touch is easy. Video chat on Skype, send e-mails, or keep a blog to let your loved ones follow your travels and know that you’re safe.

If it’s a significant other that’s keeping you from traveling, ask them to come along with you. And if they can’t, you still shouldn’t give up going on a trip that will enrich your life. As for your parents, it’s only because they are worried about you, so try to ease their minds as much as possible. Call regularly and send them photos, make it clear how responsible you plan on being, and show them blog posts and articles from other travelers who have been to the same cities. Despite the fact that I’ve backpacked myriad countries alone, my parents still worry, and that’s something that will never change. But, these trips have helped me have experiences I never would have otherwise and have helped shape me into the person I am now.

Excuse #6: Traveling is dangerous

While I hear this one a lot, it’s always amazing to me that people can put such a blanket statement on traveling. Isn’t life in general dangerous? I’ve also heard that driving, smoking cigarettes, playing contact sports, drinking alcohol, and eating fatty foods is dangerous, but I’d say majority of the people I know do most of those things. You need to take risks in order to live a full life. Of course, you should take precautions. Walking back to your accommodation alone and drunk at 3AM in a foreign city (or even your hometown) probably isn’t the best idea. But if you use your brain, you should be more than fine.

One thing I always find, too, is that people perceive other cities as being more dangerous than they often are. On a recent trip to Ghana, Africa, my friends were extremely worried for my safety. On a hike in the Volta Region I asked a local who I had befriended if he would ever come to New York to visit me. His reply? “Isn’t New York one of the most dangerous cities in the world?”

Excuse #7: It’ll ruin my career

Most jobs give you time off (and if they don’t, maybe you should try looking for a new job), so use it. If you get two weeks take two weeks vacation, and try to plan it around holidays and weekends so you can add extra days into your trip. If you’re looking to go for longer, don’t look at it as the end of your employability. Traveling can help build and enhance your skills and also shows how adaptable you are as a person. You may also discover things about yourself along the way that can lead you into a job you didn’t even know you wanted, like teaching abroad, travel journalism, being a tour guide, or working for a nonprofit or travel company.

Excuse #8: I have a family

Take them with you! Just ask Meg Nesterov who writes Gadling’s Knocked Up Abroad, chronicling her travels with a baby. There will be challenges to traveling with a family, but with the right attitude and some planning it isn’t impossible. If your kids are a little older, they will be introduced to unique cultural experiences at a young age, and you can seek out destinations that have opportunities for learning. There are also tons of hotels out there that cater to families, and many homestays and volunteer programs that will accept families with children, as well.

Excuse #9: I’m scared of being culture shocked

Even the most well-traveled individuals can experience culture shock, and it’s completely normal. However, you shouldn’t let the possibility of some discomfort abroad stop you from seeing a foreign land. If it’s your first time traveling, start with a country or countries that are more Westernized and speak English. Once you get more comfortable with being away from home, you can start to branch out little by little. If you get to a place where you really feel uncomfortable, don’t run away but instead face the obstacle head on. Realize the unique experience you’re having and try new things that you never imagined you would. You can always sneak back to your hotel room and write your thoughts in a journal when you need a break.

Excuse #10: I don’t know a foreign language

Obviously, you can solve this problem by traveling to destinations where they do speak your language. However, by only sticking to primarily English-speaking countries you can miss out on a lot of great cities. You’d actually be surprised how many people in non-English speaking countries can, in fact, speak at least some English. And when they can’t, using hand gestures, pointing, and carrying a pen and paper to write down the names of landmarks or draw pictures can be very helpful. And just to be safe, a pocket dictionary never hurts.

5 challenges of long-term travel and how to cope

privacy Does the thought of quitting your 9-5 job, packing a bag, and booking a one-way ticket to travel the world sound appealing? While in many ways it is, there are also a lot of challenges that go along with long-term travel. Learning how to deal with these hardships can be a big help in making an around the world trip, career break, or extended vacation a lot more enjoyable.

Challenge 1: Lack of privacy

Unless you’re extremely wealthy, chances are you’re going to be traveling on a tight budget if you plan on being away from home for more than a few weeks. Most likely, you will be staying in shared accommodations like hostels or volunteer homes and sleeping on people’s couches, leaving you with very little privacy.

So, what should you do? Many times hostels rent out single rooms that can allow you some alone time on a budget. While you’ll still pay more than for a shared dorm, it can be worth the splurge once in awhile. You can also try looking for sublet listings in the area or searching Airbnb for cheap rooms for short and long-term rent.Challenge 2: You feel homesick

While you may believe that traveling will keep you too distracted to miss home, think again. Chances are, at some point you’re going to crave something from the life you once lived, whether it be the people, the food, an activity you used to do, or just being able to lounge in your bathrobe while eating cereal from the box.

When traveling, I usually carry around photos of my friends and family back home, not only for myself but to show locals who are curious about my life in New York. It’s also a good idea to purchase an affordable calling plan, such as Skype or PennyTalk, to make calls when you feel like you need to hear someone’s voice. I’ve also found that keeping a blog, or at least an active Facebook page, helps because friends and family can follow my trip and comment, which makes me feel more connected to them.

If it’s a food you miss, going to the more touristy areas and trying to find the Western-style restaurants can help you find what you’re looking for. While in Ghana, I missed pizza so much that I actually took a 3 hour bus ride to get some, no joke. While I enjoyed trying local cuisine in Africa and getting to know the culture, I was at the point where I would have literally run through fire if I knew there was a McDonalds or Pizza Hut waiting on the other side.

Whatever it is you miss, try to recreate it. But always remember how lucky you are to be having an experience abroad and to not let homesickness keep you from missing out on unique experiences.

Challenge 3: You miss your normal diet and fitness routine

This is my biggest challenge when traveling for a long time. At home I’m very regimented in my workout routine and there are certain healthy food staples that I eat on a regular basis. Depending where you are this can be challenging, but not impossible.

Your first stop should be a local market or supermarket where you can find an array of unprocessed foods. While they might not have exactly what you’re looking for they may have something similar. For example, in Ghana I really missed apples, which weren’t always available. I started eating mangoes to subside my cravings and realized I actually liked them more than apples. Also, try to book accommodations with kitchens so that you can prepare your own meals and choose your own ingredients.

While you may not want to waste precious time at a local gym or late nights out partying are making it difficult to wake up, change the way you look at exercise. Don’t think of what you’re doing as a fitness routine but as a way to see a city from a new perspective. Bike from one town to another, go jogging through a picturesque park, swim at a local beach, or take a unique fitness class that you might not take at home and look at it as a cultural experience. Another tip: limit your use of transportation and try walking and biking. Not only will you save money and reduce your carbon footprint, you’ll burn calories.

Challenge 4: Quick relationships become the norm

Regularly traveling from city to city and always meeting new people can be a lot of fun…until you have to say goodbye. However, goodbyes become the norm when you are globetrotting, and it can be difficult to part ways with so many great people.

With this, one important thing is to change your outlook on the situation. While it isn’t fun, you’ve got to think about how lucky you are to have gotten to experience a new place with such interesting people. Take a lot of photos, make memories together, and at the end of it all exchange contact information. With all of the technology and social media platforms we now have, keeping in touch with people all over the world is easy. I can’t even count how many times I’ve actually planned other trips with or gone to visit people I met while backpacking. So, don’t be discouraged. And at the very least, you’ve made a new pen-pal.

Challenge 5: The actual traveling part of traveling gets exhausting

While getting to roam around the globe and see different places is fun, the actual means of getting to these places can get old. Sitting on long train rides, waiting in line to get through security at the airport, and stuffing yourself into a crammed bus are hard enough, but when you’re doing it regularly it can become downright draining.

Since teleporting is not yet an option (but probably will be soon at the rate we’re going), the only thing to do is to schedule vacations away from your vacation. Take a week (or longer) off from moving around and stay put in one town. While many people want to see as many different cities as possible, sometimes it’s better to see less places for more time to really get to know the culture.