Defining your own personal travel philosophy is a critical step in achieving fantastic vacations.
Auguste Rodin, a famous French sculptor, was on the forefront of modern art in the late 1800's. Ever since I visited the peaceful Rodin Museum Gardens in Paris in June 2010, I've come to love his work. His sculptures are unique and emphasize the individual. The Thinker, one of his most renowned pieces, is often used as an image to represent philosophy and celebrates the greatness of individual character. I can only imagine what The Thinker is pondering, but I really hope it's travel...
Defining your unique and individual travel philosophy is an important foundation to set. How you think about travel, and all things that go along with it - money, timing, structure, and locations - will define how successful your vacations become. You do not have to have all the answers or a detailed plan for every vacation, but the fundamentals matter. Your unique travel philosophy will evolve as you reflect and determine what makes you happy.
THE GREEN STUFF
The most common barrier to entry for travel is money. Unfortunately, travel gets a bad rap as being expensive, which, no doubt, it can be. However, a little planning can go a long way. Determining how much you want to invest in travel is very important. If you are serious about it, 'Travel' should be a line item on your monthly budget. If you are receiving a paycheck twice a month, there are two chances to save money for travel. Multiply that across 12 months, and you have 24 opportunities to invest. My philosophy is to start small and make it formal.
- Create a separate savings account: Use an existing savings account or setup a specific travel account. I prefer the latter, giving me the peace of mind that I have a nice stash protected for travel purposes.
- Setup a direct deposit from your paycheck: Start with $25 a pay period, and you have $600 a year for a major domestic flight or three nights at a nice hotel. Increase to $100 per pay period, and you have $2,400 a year for an amazing week-long trip.
- Be smart about it: For the months you are traveling, plan ahead for additional wiggle room in your budget. You will remove the anxiety that comes along with money, which will allow you to focus on enjoying your well-deserved vacation!
No, not your outfits. My definition of a travel 'style' is specific manner in which you desire to experience travel, no matter the destination. Travel is a very personal experience; one that looks, feels, and transpires differently for each of us. Lay out your fundamentals in advance, especially when you are traveling with others. The success of your vacations will improve dramatically with a little upfront strategizing. Your travel style will evolve to your own unique philosophy over time.
- Planning: Do you prefer a set itinerary with pre-planned activities or do you prefer playing it by ear and defining your itinerary as you go? My philosophy is to always have an itinerary drafted in advance, with the must-do activities scheduled prior to departure and plenty of open time slots to be flexible! Create a visual itinerary that allows you to see the trip come to life. I like to use Excel to drive a nice structure.
- Activities: What specific types of activities would make you most excited about your trip - adventure, outdoors, relaxation, culture, shopping, food/wine? My philosophy includes researching a location for what it is known for most and incorporating those activities first. I'm a big proponent of booking in advance - a lot of time the major attractions require this, so plan ahead to not miss out.
- Structure: What does a perfect travel day look like for you? Do you wake up early and hit all the hot-spots before they get busy or would you prefer to sleep-in, enjoy a great breakfast, and plan your day accordingly? My philosophy includes building a daily itinerary with one major activity, at least one great dining experience, and always setting aside time for a nap or relaxation.
HOW TO FILL YOUR BUCKET
The traditionalist ideal that that you have to be ready to 'kick the bucket' before you can start planning and executing your dream vacations is a falsehood. However, nowadays, our millennial-filled society seems to have gone to the extreme. Alas, the overflowing bucket. There is an abundance of people with really long bucket lists, and no plan to achieve. Why?
- Now or bust: People view a bucket list as a comprehensive list of activities, experiences, or opportunities to achieve within a lifetime, and we end up worrying about how to accomplish them all. Or, even more common, we start thinking about what may change in our lives preventing us from actually making it happen. Get clear with yourself on your most important travel desires and start forging a path with them in sight.
- 3-5 year horizon: Assess a mid-term horizon to understand which trips are realistic to take based on where you are at in your life. Draft a 3-5 year travel plan that includes 'bigger picture' trips and smaller trips that can be executed more nimbly. Every year evaluate where you stand. Will they all happen within 5 years? No. But get them written down and your chances of execution will be much higher.
- Plan: Bucket list trips do not come to life overnight. Spend the time doing your homework, saving your money, and aligning the trips to what is happening in your life. Research the months that are ideal to travel to those locations and align this with your own personal calendar. You may have to put some stakes in the ground in advance, and hold to them, but the preparation horizon will result in a fantastic trip.
BECOME 'THE THINKER'
Just as Rodin celebrated the individual, each of us deserves to invest time in defining a travel philosophy that is unique to us. Feeling great about your vacations does require investment, planning, reflection, and some trial and error. There is always room for continuous improvement in travel, even for the most seasoned traveler. In the meantime, start stashing those precious dollars, begin defining how your dream trip would transpire, and dump your bucket and start anew. The world is waiting, Get Out There.