Travel Goals

I really need to get out more. Sure, I’ve been exploring Los Angeles thanks to the magical world of being a single woman in her 20s, but while Los Angeles may have a little bit of everything, it doesn’t really have everything. I’m in a bubble, where Donald Trump could never become President of the United States, and Gluten-Free is somehow considered normal.

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Meanwhile, in my kitchen.

I mentioned that one of my big goals is to get to see more of the world, but I haven’t given it the attention or effort that it deserves. This was partially because I was in a long-term relationship with another self-described hermit, but if I’m being honest with myself, I could have either pushed harder to travel together or just gone without him. Was avoiding one or two fights really worth missing out on exploring the world?

Well, no more. This year I’m going to cross off some bucket list sights and experiences. And I’ve already done two of them!

Here’s what’s on my list for this year:

  1. Lake Tahoe (covered in snow!) ✓
  2. Washington D.C. ✓
  3. Napa Valley (for Bottlerock)
  4. Ireland
  5. New Orleans

But I also want to visit these ASAP:

  1. The Grand Canyon
  2. Seattle
  3. Nashville
  4. Oregon’s coast
  5. The Northern Lights (from anywhere, really)
  6. Nebraska
  7. Thailand
  8. Japan
  9. Greek Isles
  10. Italy

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International Checklist

Gotta catch ’em all.

I want to fill these maps up, and I’m off to a decent start (not including places I’ve stopped between flights – sorry, Belgium, Texas, Arizona…). I’ve been really lucky. My maps aren’t glowing green, but they’re not totally grey, either.

So how am I going to actually start filling these up?

It comes down to a bit of planning, budgeting, and actually committing to it.

Planning

I know generally where I want to go, but what’s the best time to actually do it? And what do I want to do once I’m there?

A lot of the answers to this are coming from the internet (and probably more influenced by Anthony Bourdain than I’d care to admit). I’m guilty of looking up the best times to see XYZ, because I’m still under the impression that our robot overlords Reddit, Pinterest, and Google know best.

Luckily, a lot of my friends are well-traveled, and have a lot of valuable suggestions as well. I’m keeping a running list of places or events to experience on Pinterest, and fact-checking online before taking the plunge.

Budgeting

Right now, even though I’m trying to save up for my downpayment, I’m pushing at least $100 to a travel fund every month. Over time, this builds up enough to cover a whole (albeit modest) trip every few months. Conventional wisdom tells me to have a separate bank account for travel goals, and not touch it unless I’m paying for said travel. That sounds like yet another thing to have to deal with. Instead, I just set a “travel” budget in Mint, and set aside $100/month there to build up over time.

Sure, I could use their handy “Goals” feature, but this money is meant to be spent, so I’m not considering it savings. Instead, I let the “negative” balance keep rolling over and building up, then chip away at it with whatever trip I’m taking next.

Also, if I get a windfall, like my tax refund, a bonus, or even if I just spend less than expected that month, I’ll put that excess into either my travel fund or my downpayment savings. All of my cash back from credit cards is going into that travel fund as well, and bit by bit, I can afford a whole trip.

Committing

I’m hoping that writing these out will actually pressure help me to keep this promise to myself. More seriously, though, I’m committing to these trips at work, and putting my money where my mouth is.

Taking time off work always feels like a huge hurdle. The residual effect of my first startup, in which we worked basically 24/7/365, still creeps up every time I decide to take a trip. But screw it – you work for your life, and my life will benefit from experiencing more of the world. So I request the time (often more than I think I’ll really need, just in case) as soon as I know generally when I want to be somewhere new, and adjust later.

Once committed and approved for work, I book my flight or AirBnB as soon as I find a good deal. If I don’t find something early, I’ll set trackers and continue checking for good deals through the next few months (or, if nothing better comes about, booking a few months early anyway).

Once everything’s booked and time is approved from work, it’s hard not to go.

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So there it is. I’m making it a point to cross off 5 places from my to-do list by the end of this year. Wish me luck!

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