People sometimes ask how I find the time or the money to travel. It’s often asked incredulously, as if I’m working some kind of magic. It’s not easy, necessarily, but it’s not really hard either: when we truly want to travel, even the sacrifices it requires become pleasurable in their own right (and even though my cash-flow is more comfortable now, I always found ways to hit the road even back in my minimum-wage years). There are two processes I’ve cultivated that have helped “yes” become possible:
1. Let everything in
2. Let everything go
It’s nowhere near as simple as it sounds.
Letting everything in is step #1. It means being open to every possibility that may tickle your consciousness, no matter how odd, or personally challenging, or even aversive it may feel. As an introvert, I’ve gone outside my comfort zone many times to let things in, and the rewards are amazing. A throwaway remark made by the parent of a high school friend about someone she had met on a train led to a teenage pen-pal relationship with a French girl, which in turn led to multiple trips to France over the years. When I told my parents at the age of 16 that I wanted to go to France for the summer, they simply asked, “how will you pay for it?” So I mowed a neighbor’s lawn for months till I had enough for a plane ticket. The goal was obvious to me, and the means were (almost) literally right next door–voilà.
“You should come stay with us and visit X,Y,Z…..”–people say this constantly, no? How many times do we assume it’s just a pleasantry? I started letting it in as truth, and it turned out people really did want me to come stay with them in New York City, San Diego, Colorado, Seattle, and London. Hotels are typically much more expensive than the plane ticket to get to a destination, so saying yes to these invitations made otherwise-impossible journeys happen.
Other things can be invited in, sometimes on a whim and with epic results. I’ve now taken two life-changing trips with travel companions who responded to posts I made on Facebook. In one case, I hiked the Inca Trail on an unforgettable trip with my uncle after a post asking for a trekking partner, and in the other I traveled to Iceland with a woman I’d previously met in person just once, for only an hour. It was a bit of a risk (like most introverts, I am pretty selective about travel partners), but it paid off gloriously:
Letting everything in is the first part of the equation–it brings possibilities to the doorstep. Letting everything go is what makes saying yes to the longer, further, more expensive journeys feasible. Letting go of the idea that we need to stay in hotels, or eat in restaurants. Letting go of what we think need to take, or how we should look. Letting go of romantic ideals of what a place should be (which often leads to complicated plans to have all the “right” experiences), so we can show up and just enjoy what it is.
Letting everything go is actually easier for me than letting everything in (the reverse is probably true for some people). For me, the loss of luxury or privacy inherent in staying in hostels, sharing bathrooms, or camping out are small prices to pay for the experiences they have made possible. I’ve actually developed a bit of an aversion to restaurants when I’m traveling, and much prefer to shop local grocery stores or seek out food cart fare. Not only are restaurants expensive, they’re time-consuming–I’d much rather have the extra hour to explore, and as a result I get antsy waiting for the check. I still fall prey to romantic idealism now and then (the June backpacking trip I am planning WILL feature wild ponies and rhododendron in full bloom under endlessly sunny skies, I just know it), but most of the time I’m able to hit the road fairly open to whatever may come.