How To Travel When You Can’t…

It’s too expensive. You don’t have a reliable childcare much less a nanny. You don’t even have a passport or know how to start the process. In other words, how do you travel when travel just seems impossible?

How to Travel When You Just Can't
Sometimes, it seems impossible. But is it really impossible? Let’s find out.

So as I write this, I’m sitting here with my cup of coffee musing over how this whole travel thing got started for me. I’ve been around the block a few times: Israel, Paris, Baja Mexico, Hawaii, Korea, even the Galapagos Islands, but those trips were 20-some years ago and organized by either work or a family trip. Now I’m a suburban mom, a wife and an employee who lives in Boise, Idaho. Yeah, I live in Idaho on purpose. 😉

Three and a half years ago, I had a brush with my mortality and for the first time, had the fleeting thoughts that maybe my husband would have to raise our two girls without me. After my 3rd bout of mastitis that had turned nasty, I lay there in an uncomfortable hospital bed, my 3-month old baby at home with her dad, a PIC line in my arm and nurses telling me to dump my milk because the meds they were giving me would be toxic to the baby and a doctor impressing upon me the gravity of the situation (I might lose part or all of my breast as well as be on IV antiobiotics for months). I got through the infection and through the sleepness nights with our high maintenance baby (who is now a high maintenance preschooler) but my entire attitude about life shifted.

how to travel when you can't
Ignore “eat a dog” at the top of the list.
My takeaway is that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Life has no money back guarantee; we’re all just renters here on a short-term lease. Take the trip now.

Do you have a trip, an adventure or an experience you’ve dreamt about but it remains just a dream? My unsolicited advice to you is that if you can’t take that trip within the year, at least start planning it. Create a Pinterest board for and pin all your ideas, activities to it. It’s like your middle school dream journal, only a million times more awesome. Plant the seeds in your subconscious that YES you are going to take that trip and that it’s just a matter of time.

How to travel when you can't
It’s not just for recipes. Pinterest is the perfect trip planning tool – from checklists to restaurant recommendations. Plan it by pinning it.

Travel changes you fundamentally. You don’t know what you don’t know, and immersing yourself in another way of life, another perspective allows you to see, think and feel in a slightly (or maybe a fundamental, life altering) way. I want those opportunities to grow now, since I didn’t have them early in my life. I’d rather have them at 40 than just starting them at 65.

I’ve never regretted the money I’ve spent on travel. Now, I’m not talking about cruises or luxury tropical vacations because those can rack up thousands of dollars. There’s a place for R&R with a cocktail and poolside lounging, but that’s in a different category as exploration and adventure.
You don’t have to suddenly book your bucket list trip. It’s okay to start small (if you need permission, I’ll write you a permission slip. I promise. Email me.). But realize and acknowledge that all those reasons for delaying or outright saying “I can’t travel” may very well be excuses that anxiety and fear are telling you to keep you “safe”. Life isn’t safe to begin with. You can get an infection and die, just from breastfeeding your baby.

What I used to call reasons or problems I now recognize as excuses. Although I used to not be able to tell them apart. Trust me, you are a problem solving genius and you can solve problems. You just may not have realized that these were solvable. Issues standing in our way are obstacles and challenges. Even now as I write this, my 3-year old (affectionately dubbed “my intern”) is uh, providing me a growth opportunity to balance work and childcare. 🙂

how to travel when you can't
Even if you can’t get a babysitter, you can still start planning a trip.

These were (and sometimes still are) my excuses

  • I have young kids and only a part-time job. I can’t afford this.
  • Who will pick up the kids from school? I can’t ask my mom to do this for me.
  • Who will put the kids to bed?
  • My husband works late most nights and although he can design a reinforced concrete wall to withstand an earthquake in Tokyo, he can’t seem to pack a lunch or make a dinner. How will they eat?
  • Will I be judged as self-indulgent for traipsing about the globe when I have kids in elementary school and preschool?
  • What if something goes wrong? What if I get sick on the trip? What if my kids get sick when I’m gone?
  • What if my boss/spouse/parent/kids get irritated with my absence?
These are real thoughts that go through my mind. Some are real concerns, others excuses are just anxiety trying to talk me out of it because anxiety is terrified.  I’m sure you have your own excuses and actually, I’d LOVE to hear them in the comments below. From the trivial to the legit, we all have reasons why we don’t go for what we want, from travel to even life’s biggest goals.
how to travel when you can't
Make a list. Be brutally honest. And then address each reason.

The list of reasons can be endless. But are they real? Ask yourself how to travel if you can’t {insert your reason here}

  • I can’t afford it.
  • I’m afraid to fly.
  • I don’t have a passport and/or I don’t speak the language.
  • I don’t even know where I’d go.
  • TSA inspections suck and I don’t want uniformed officers going through my makeup bag.
  • My kids are too little.
  • My kids are in college and I’ve got tuition to pay for!
  • I don’t want to go alone.
  • I don’t think it’s safe.
  • My spouse doesn’t like to travel.
  • My spouse doesn’t like it when I’m gone.
  • Frankly, I’m terrified.
  • (insert your reason/excuse here)

Your ego and anxiety love the status quo because travel can be unpredictable. Things go wrong. Things go right. Things go other than you planned. I’ve forgotten a travel visa, I’ve gotten sick in the first few days of a trip, I’ve gotten lost and didn’t speak the language, I didn’t have WIFI and couldn’t communicate with my travel partners, it rained the WHOLE time, etc.  You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men…that’s right, they lead to character developing growth opportunities. They also make excellent stories around the dinner table. “Remember that time you got sick in rural china? Tell us that story again!”

You work through each problem like a puzzle.

how to travel when you can't
If you treat travel excuses like a game and travel problems like a puzzle, you’ll discover that you’re a Sherlock-type genius.
So in all honesty, how to travel when you just can’t travel? Make a list of everything stopping you from financial concerns to the voices in your head. Acknowledge that they might not be the legitimate reasons that you’ve always believed, but might just be excuses. And then get creative. Re-frame “I can’t afford it” to “how can I afford this?” Re-frame “I don’t want to travel alone so how can I find an awesome travel partner?” or “How can I learn to want to travel alone?” It often comes down to fear.
We all know what Yoda says about Fear. It doesn’t lead to the adventure of your dreams.
how to travel when you can't travel
How to travel when you can’t is to learn to stop making excuses for yourself and take your bucket list trip…or at least work towards it. Personally, my goal is not to be a digital nomad living my life on the open road with nothing but a backpack, my gypsy soul and my wanderlust. I love my cozy home life, I love my family and I’m actually kind of a homebody. But I’m equal parts “Fearless Adventurer” and “Timid Introvert”.
Traveling helps me overcome both fear and inertia (once on the couch, a body tends to stay on the couch.). I’m also aware that I’m setting an example for my daughters that a married woman with children can pursue her dreams and make things happen, including traipsing the globe every now and then. Maybe some day they’ll think, if mom can do it, so can I. I want them to do know that you can do the things you want to do, even if you’re scared, even if they’re difficult.
I’m absolutely going to be there for school plays and piano recitals. But I don’t want to be one of those blue haired beauties on group tours full of seniors when I finally “have time” and “have the money” to travel. Because like I said, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the privilege of blue hair and social security checks.
Have you taken your bucket list trip yet? (Last year, I took my bucket list trip to Japan.) That trip inspired me to fill my life with travel and adventure  (balanced with the adventures of being a parent in the suburbs).
My bucket list trip wasn’t the end of the list. As it turns out, it was just the beginning.

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  • You are so right we do not know what tomorrow brings. This is why I am taking my bucket list trip this summer – Scotland here I come. I convinced my husband (who dislikes travel) to come along and we are taking our 2 girls so I can start sharing the world and the joy of travel with them as well. We all have many obstacles that stand in our way to travel but if we really want to travel then we must stop with the excuses and find the solutions. It is possible you just have to take the steps and make it happen. Happy Roving!!!

    • I love that you’re making them come with you! I can’t wait to read about everything you’ve learned to make this an awesome experience.

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