“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” -St. Augustine
The problem with traveling for most people is that it takes so much dedication. You’ve got to save up, commit to purchasing a plane ticket, book hotels and rental cars, tons of research to do and the list goes on. For these reasons, that trip you’ve been wanting to go on…that place you’ve been dying to mark off your bucket list…is always tucked away in the “some day” section of your dreams and aspirations.
Today, I want to challenge you to take that trip out of it’s holding pattern and make it a reality. Here are three steps to help you along the way.
Step 1: Set A Date
This is the most important step, because it takes the trip from an abstract idea and makes it concrete. It’s no longer something that will happen some day, it’s something that will happen on Month-Day-Year. My challenge to you here is to make the date something far enough in advance to give you time to plan it, but close enough to make you just a bit uneasy. In other words, if you make it five years down the road, it won’t be any more real than it was before. Aim for something in the next 6-12 months. That will make the trip real.
Step 2: Make Payments In Reverse
I live a debt free life now, but only because I worked my tail off for nearly 6 years to get out of debt. I live a pretty frugal life and don’t buy anything unless I can pay for it in cash. I think one of the craziest things we do is putting our trips on a credit card and paying it off over time. This just isn’t sustainable. A domestic trip will usually cost upwards of $1,000 and can go up quite a bit based on accommodations. International trips are almost certainly going to cost several thousand dollars. Trust me on this, you will be regretting your trip if you are still paying it off months or years from the time it ends.
The method that I use is to pay the trip off in advance. Here’s a typical domestic trip for me; a trip out to California to visit my wife’s family and to photograph places like Big Sur, the Bay Area, Yosemite or the Eastern Sierra.
Flight to California – $460
Rental Car for 7 days – $160
Hotel – $420
Food – $200
Gas – $200
Misc – $200
Total cost – $1,640
Now that I have my (estimated) total for the trip, I will set the money aside if I have it. If not, I just take the cost of the trip and divide it by the number of months I have before the trip. I typically try and plan my trips between 6 to 12 months in advance so we’ll go with 9 for an average. At 9 months in advance, that means I need to be sure and put away around $183 each month. Once the trip is planned, that $1,640 figure becomes my enemy. I hate it. I want to destroy it and make it go away. That means doing everything I can to pay it off as quickly as possible. If I have the funds in my travel savings account (I highly suggest one of these) then I can have it paid off immediately and be super happy. If not, it’s time to get creative. Some people can simply save that $183 each month by budgeting it out of their paychecks. Others will need to figure out ways to make more money. Whether it’s working overtime, working extra hard to earn bonuses, making a push to bring in extra work or even selling some items that you don’t use anymore or don’t need.
The challenge here is that you can’t just save up the money, get it all in an account right before the trip and be good to go. Some of the items on that list need to be paid ahead of time. So what you do here is decide which ones are most important and plan accordingly. I’ll just help you out here; the flight is the item that needs to be bought and paid for first. So at $460 that means you’ll need to save for about 3 months before you can buy your plane ticket. That still leaves you with 6 months before the trip which is plenty of time to still find the cheapest flight available. What you do not want to do is wait until the last minute to buy your plane ticket. That will double or even triple the cost of your fare. After that, you will need to book a hotel and rental car. Most rental cars just require reserving the car in advance and then paying for it when it’s picked up. Most hotels operate the same way, but some require a deposit. Everything else can be paid for during the trip!
Trust me, when you land back home and step foot on the ground with zero debt from the trip…you will thank me.
Sony α7S and Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS ZEISS, ISO 1250, f/6.3, 30-seconds
Step 3: Research, Research, Research!
Now that you’ve responsibly planned for you trip financially, it’s time to make sure you will be able to make the most of it. Doing your due diligence for your upcoming trip is a vital component of enjoying that trip and feeling like you did it well. I really do not suggest just “winging it” on a trip that you have saved up for and planned out months in advance. You will miss so many things that you will learn about after the tip. Ask me how I know.
For photographers, the main thing here is finding good locations to photograph and good times to do so. Hop on Google and see if there are any ebooks out there for your destination written by photographers. Most places will have these, you just have to find them and be willing to pay. Other sites will have articles written by photographers listing the best spots to take photos at certain locations. I have a few of these on my site.
It's Just That Simple
It really is that easy! It starts with a decision. Stop thinking of that trip as something you will do one of these days and give it a date. Work toward that date and make it happen by having it paid for ahead of time and being prepared when you land.
I’ll end the post with some more travel quotes to get your creative juices flowing and your passion to travel and explore burning!
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” -Mark Twain
See more of James Brandon's photography, sign up for his workshop and check out his ebooks at jamesb.com