Want to Stay in a Traveling State of Mind? Make it a Habit.

Last week, in celebration of my final chemo, I finished an around-the-world dream trip itinerary. It took about 3 months of on and off day-dreaming for me to come up with it… and even upon its completion there were some gaping holes ( Cześć, Poland; Ahoj, Prague).

Nonetheless and despite its fantasy status, just the idea of such a trip has soothed my soul and sparked my spirit so that I feel ready to face the world again – or as much of it as I can squeeze in. Our coffers are low from medical bills and I’ve got a bunch of students to look after – but that doesn’t mean I have to give up my traveling state of mind.

For travel to become a habit, it’s got to be part of your regular routine; that means making it part of the life discussions and decisions.

First up, time.

Traveling doesn’t have to be the “grand trip.” If you really want to see what’s out there, you have to be prepared to work your schedule within an inch of its life.  If you’re a 9-to-5er, work that weekend! Be prepared to getaway at 5:01pm on Friday. And then suck it up with a predawn return on Monday morning.  Depending on your destination, Sunday night stayovers can have some nice perks. You can fight burnout by tucking in the following weekend for recovery. If you’re a shift worker, all the better. Push those days off to form a glorious midweek getaway that will be cheaper and less crowded.

To make room for the bigger trips, just say yes – even if you’re not sure what you’re saying yes to.  When you’ve accumulated your time off, claim your dates. There’s a gazillion studies out there that say most Americans leave tons of unused time off on the table.  That is not the mark of a traveling state of mind, so don’t let it happen to you.

If you travel for work, be creative with your schedule. If you’re based in DC and have a meeting in Chicago, try to schedule it on a Friday and use that as your jumping off spot to the other side of the country. Or work remotely until you can make your great escape.

And don’t forget to get lost locally.  No doubt there’s an adventure to be had just an hour or two from your front door.

Next, money

Ok, this is a little trickier – but is travel a priority or is it not? If it is, then make it a line item in your budget. It can be as formal as a payroll deduction to a separate account, or as simple as jar in the kitchen. Look for ways to make small cuts to your regular spending.  Skip the Uber and take a walk. Brown bag your lunch. Do you really need that new shirt?

You may even end up creating a whole new ritual by doing so. Several years ago we decided that Friday nights would be dinner in – and we’d pay ourselves the gratuity we would have given the server. Thus, “Ribeye Fridays” were born. Home grilled steaks, rich red wine, and an evening together to stay connected. Bonus points: a fab trip as dessert.

Then, stay inspired.

All that scrimping will demoralize you if you don’t keep your eye on the prize. The aforementioned daydream itinerary is certainly one way to do it. There’s some great blogs and websites that will capture your imagination as well. My current obsession is Trover. Or look at the best the world has to offer through the eyes of National Geographic Travel’s Instagram account.

Don’t delay. When a friend says, “we should go to Napa…” don’t glassily agree and say, “yeah, we should…” Grab your calendar and say, “Yeah! We should!”

But the most important thing is to always have a trip in the works. It’s not unusual for me to be planning the next trip on the return flight from the current one.  Keep those dream itineraries handy. And your suitcase in plain sight!

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