I just got back from a day and a half vacation in beautiful San Francisco and it was so diversified and lively that it felt like many more days than it was. Here are some suggestions for making all your travel dreams become a reality.
1. Be realistic
3. Stay focused
Being realistic sometimes bites. But it goes a long way in the art of travel. It’s about understanding who you are and what makes you happy. You may, for example, one time have dreamed about going to The Galapagos Islands. But if you prefer big, bustling cities and can’t handle getting seasick, then in doing your research you will find that The Galapagos may be an old or misplaced dream that probably won’t be very fun for you. Let go of that dream and figure out what currently suits you.
Budgeting is the key to travel; and it’s not just about money, it’s about time too. With all the lovely places there are to visit, it is not easy to choose. And inevitably as you visit more sights, the list of new places just keeps expanding. We all have limitations in life, figure yours out and work within them. Planning, research and talking to others about their travel experiences all help. I’ve eliminated whole countries by asking pointed questions of fellow travelers who have visited places on my list. And of course there are so many books, magazines, websites and blogs to consult.
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, closing doors is also very helpful. I once thought, for example, that there were many places in Alaska that I wanted to visit. We planned the first trip there with the understanding we would go back another time and see other parts. It’s a huge state. We thoroughly enjoyed Denali, Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula. But once we were there, we saw the wildlife wasn’t quite as abundant as we liked (so much frigidity), and realized tropical venues are more our style. A future trip to Alaska is now lower on the list. It was a beautiful trip, lots of fun, and an awesome state, but there are other places we want to visit more.
Here’s a real eye-opening way to prioritize. Spoiler alert: it’s painful. Count how many years are left in your life until travel will become physically impossible. Then multiply it by the number of times in a year you can realistically take a trip. That’s how many big trips you have left if you’re lucky. ouch. sorry. If you’re middle aged and realistic, it doesn’t amount to many trips. But as harsh as this is, it does give you insight. It forces you to focus.
Focusing on where you most want to go in the world is not as easy as it sounds. Make a list of your top choices and allow for frequent re-prioritization. Some folks prefer not to make a plan, want the spirit of the moment to move them. But besides the time restriction of a finite life, there are over seven billion people on this planet. Reservations, permits, and planning are necessary in most popular visitor destinations.
Lastly, go to places with your companion that you both enjoy. If you prefer to travel alone, this isn’t a problem. But I can’t emphasize enough that compromise on a vacation is not usually fun for anyone. I was once on an African safari with a family who obviously forced their teenage daughter to join them. She spent the whole trip with ear buds and a frown, and wow, they threw away so many thousands of dollars. The spirit of travel sometimes requires a person to be temporarily inconvenienced or uncomfortable. If a person is where they want to be, these brief moments are easily overlooked…but forget it if they never wanted to be here in the first place. yikes.
Our trip to San Francisco had limitations, as every trip does. We had only two days for this trip. We planned accordingly and had so much fun! (For tips on planning a bigger trip, like a safari, see my post Let’s Go on an African Safari.) We wanted it to be carefree, easy, summer fun…and it was. We took a ferry across the Bay and left the car behind, enjoyed the markets and gourmet shops, ventured along the waterfront, found the America’s Cup Village where the fastest yachts in the world will compete next month. There were booths of crafts and art, local soccer teams playing, street artisans playing music, roller skating, and performing, boats of every size and color. This two day trip transported us out of the so-much-to-do homeowner mode and into a vibrant, colorful summer world.
Earth is a big place. But once you manage a few basics about what would be fun for you, you can focus on just where you want to spend your precious time, money, and energy, and then have a blast. Bon voyage!