Yes, You WILL Travel This Year. Here’s How.

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Happy New Year, everyone!

I posted the following on my Facebook page on New Year’s Day:

If you’re still looking for a resolution: Don’t let go of your travel dreams because people (significant others, friends, family) don’t want to go where you want to go or don’t want to travel the way you do. This year, take the plunge and plan your first solo trip. Overwhelmed? Reach out to me. I’ll help you plan the trip of your dreams.

I mean it.  People have already sent me emails.

So I thought it would be better to show you all at once how it’s possible to travel more.  And not just that — how to travel solo.

Here’s the truth: Travel doesn’t come out of thin air.  You need to prioritize it, work toward it, and plan for it far in advance.

All the time, people ask me, “How do you do it?”  Well, in the last several months, as this site has grown in popularity and my business has grown, my travel ways have changed.  So I’ll be giving you examples from how I planned my first totally solo trip, pre-Adventurous Kate, pre-freebies, which was to Buenos Aires in late 2008.  This trip was a huge success.

Here’s how to do it:

Step One: Build a Travel Fund

The easiest way to save cash for travel is to put a set amount aside immediately when you get your paycheck, put it its own bank account, and not touch that account until you’re ready to travel.  Period.

Start this today.  I mean it.  Once you choose where you’d like to go, you’ll already have a head start.

A word on debt:

Yes, I have student loans!  They’re not as bad as some of my friends’ loans, but I still have them and will be paying them off into my late thirties.  My monthly payment is just part of my budget.

While credit card debt is severe and should be paid off first, student debt, with its comparatively low rates, is not bad debt to have.  Keep paying it off as you always have, work it into your budget, and don’t let it hold you back from traveling.

If you deny yourself travel until your student loans are paid off — which could be a decade or longer — what kind of life is that?

How I did it: When I was working at my last job, I saved about one third of my salary.  I also moved home for a few months and saved one third of my salary, plus rent.  I gave up things like meals out and nights out at the bar every weekend, and that discipline paid off BIG.

Step Two: Decide Where You’d Like to Go

If you’re planning a solo trip, this is where the beauty of it comes in.  You can go WHEREVER YOU WANT.

Does Barcelona sound like a romantic city?  Or Paris, or Rio de Janeiro?

Does San Francisco sound like an awesome place to visit that’s close to home?  Or New Orleans, or Chicago?

Do you want to eat amazing food in Italy?  Does the landscape of Iceland intrigue you?  Do you want to live it up with street food and cheap massages in Thailand?

Have you always dreamed of snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef?  Or hiking to Machu Picchu?  Would climbing Mount Kilimanjaro be the ultimate athletic achievement for you?

If it makes your heart stir, go there.

Decide when would be a good time to go, and request the time off from work as soon as possible.

How I did it: There are a million places where I wanted to go, but I decided I’d like a city in a warm climate, and somewhere completely different from where I had been.  Buenos Aires had long intrigued me, I knew it would be warm around Thanksgiving, and I’d never been to South America, so that’s where I went!

Step Three: Budget it Out

Calculate the costs for flight, lodging (which can vary widely from couchsurfing and hostels to simple guesthouses to upmarket hotels), food, entertainment, activities, souvenirs, and incidentals.  That will give you an idea of how much and how quickly you need to save.

Why budget EVERYTHING in advance?  Because it could be very different from what you imagine.  It’s expensive to fly to Southeast Asia from the States or Europe, but I spent $25-40 per day there.  I could get a cheap flight to Miami, but I would be spending $100 per day there for a comparable level of amenities.

A word on alternatives:

If you can’t afford your dream trip, it’s not the end of the world.  I haven’t been to Australia, New Zealand, or Japan yet because they’re too expensive for me.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t let that hold me back!

If you have to trade in two weeks in Greece for something closer to home, that’s fine!  Go to New Orleans for four days, rock it, and have a fabulous time.

How I did it: Buenos Aires was an expensive flight, but most things cost about one third of what they did in Boston.  I also figured out that by going during Thanksgiving, souvenirs for my family and friends (which I had to buy, no matter what) could double as Christmas presents, so that cut down my Christmas costs!

Step Four: Look for Flight Deals

I could write for ages on finding travel deals, but I’ll keep it simple: check Kayak and Skyscanner a few times a day for a few weeks and book as soon as the price drops to something you’d be willing to pay.

How I did it: Flights from Boston to Buenos Aires were usually around $900-1200 at that time.  I checked Kayak several times a day.  When I saw the price drop to a mere $700, I booked immediately.

Step Five: Plan Your Time

How do you want to spend your vacation?  Get a guidebook (as cliche as it is, I do prefer Lonely Planet guides), read books set in your destination, see movies set there, follow travel blogs.  Ask your favorite bloggers questions (believe me, I get asked about places ALL THE TIME).

Most importantly, do what you WANT to do, not what anybody else says you SHOULD do.

Additionally, be flexible — don’t plan out every detail.  Some things are worth planning well in advance, like getting tickets to popular shows or booking admission to sights like the Villa Borghese in Rome or the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City, but wait until you get there for most things.

How I did it: In Buenos Aires, I decided to prioritize visiting a few museums, exploring neighborhoods, eating steak, seeing tango somewhere, shopping like crazy, and going to Colonia, Uruguay, for the day — but kept my options open.  I ended up skipping Colonia but did everything else — plus many things I didn’t know about until I got there.

Step Six: Find People to Hang Out With

I wrote all about how to make friends while traveling solo.  These tips are essential to any solo traveler, but they’re great for anyone who wants to socialize while traveling.

Believe me: when you travel solo, you’re never alone.

How I Did It: Before going to Buenos Aires, I planned to stay in a hostel known for its fun atmosphere and connected with several Couchsurfers online.  They invited me out several times and I had so many invitations, I had tons of options every night!

Step Seven: JUST GO.

You won’t know how it is until you do it — SO DO IT!

There might be a point where you nearly chicken out.  POWER THROUGH IT.  You’ll look back at that moment and laugh.

Make 2012 the year that you finally take that trip you’ve been dreaming of.  I know you can do it.

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44 thoughts on “Yes, You WILL Travel This Year. Here’s How.”

  1. Kate, what a very inspirational post!! I agree, it’s all about prioritizing! People who don’t travel seem to think we who travel often are just so lucky and rich—gee I wish that were the truth!! haha It’s ALL about saving, planning, and going for it! I couldn’t agree more!

  2. Kate! I’ve been following your blog for several months now and you are a total inspiration!! You are amazing and I wish you the very best for more adventures in the upcoming year.

    A quick question (feel free to email me if you don’t want to say publicly) but I’ve been saving for the past year and it never feels like enough (NYC is ex-pennn-sive). How much did you manage to save before embarking on your journey?

    1. Thank you, Ann! I saved around $10,000 (and had booked my flights in advance) before arriving in Southeast Asia. Then again, I also made money on the road, particularly during the later months.

  3. Wonderful post Kate! Since I’m planning an RTW with my husband I’ve been asked a few times how a solo female traveler can save for a big trip. I’ve sent them to your site, and this is just the perfect post for those wondering how to make it happen. Happy New Year to you.

  4. Great post, Kate! Gerard and I just took the plunge and we’re exactly 1 week in on our rtw! Currently in New Zealand! Definitely making 2012 our year and seizing every moment and opportunities. Hoping our paths will cross some day soon. Happy NY!

  5. This is a great post. I think travel can seem overwhelming if you’ve never done it, but I always find reading about other people’s experiences definitely helps make things seem more manageable. Hope 2012 brings a year of great travel for everyone.

  6. Hey Kate, excellent post and I hope inspirational for those that have made “travel more!” one of their New Year’s resolutions! Great resources.

  7. This is definitely valuable, but my real hang-up is how to ask my S.O. if I can go alone. I’ve got two weeks more PTO per year than he does, and I’d like to spend some of it traveling! Thoughts?

    1. mine’s started embracing life as a nomad, and while i’m stuck here for 5 more months, i know the experiences he’s making and the traveling he’s doing is making him happy – even i i’m super jealous of his trips =) hopefully its the same with you, and he’s happy you’re following your passions or dreams of seeing wherever, even if he’s not there to do it with you!

    2. Don’t ask him — tell him. “Honey, I’ve decided that I want to spend one of my extra weeks traveling on my own. I love you, I’ll email you every day, and I will bring you back something amazing.”

  8. Dear Kate
    I just discovered your blog. I have a dream of traveling to South America (to practice my Spanish) and I am thinking of going to Buenos Aires for 2 weeks in April. I currently live in Singapore and have traveled solo to Japan, Australia, Thailand to name a few. Even though I have had so many amazing solo travel adventures I always feel a bit nervous before my departures. I love to explore during the day but I sometimes feel lonely in the evenings. Buenos Aires is a city where I want to experience the restaurants and the nightlife so I will definitely try your couchsurfing social networking tips. Your blog is an inspiration!
    Did you feel safe as a female solo traveler in Buenos Aires?

  9. I’m on a slow computer and it showed me the title before the rest of the post and i was like “YES I KNEW 2012 WOULD TURN OUT GOOD!!” haha

    thats a very inspiratioal/motivational post! keep it going

    and the word about when you travel solo you are never alone, couldn’t agree more about that! people just seem to find you when you are alone!!

  10. awesome post!! i’ll hopefully be doing just this a few weeks after i graduate college 🙂 started my travel fund last month…about 1/3d done so far…5 more months to make it happen!!

    i’ll need to pick your brain more and send you some emails about this, i have so many questions!!

  11. I keep hearing conflicting things about South America. obviously there will be differences between countries, regions, cities and neighbourhoods, you can’t really pass judgement on the entire continent as it is, but I have to say, I found most stories offputting in some way. not safe. scary. which is just fine for me at this time, because my I-want-to-go-there list is long enough anyway 🙂

    I would recommend Thailand to beginners who still want to gain confidence travelling or travelling alone. and then it is easy to move on slightly more “difficult” destinations. easy to keep the budget under 30 dollars per day as well (unless you drink and party a lot).

  12. Great article! My roommate, her sister, and I took sabbaticals for a month (September 2011) and backpacked Europe. It was an amazing experience that I would not trade for the world. We were all shocked at the fact that we had jobs to come back to! If you want to travel, and still keep your job, don’t be afraid to ask! You may be pleasantly surprised. 🙂 we kept a blog while on the road, or rather, train Love your blog! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Hi Kate! I just booked my flight to Bangkok like ten minutes ago, and the feeling is so unreal I’m compelled to share it with you! I want to let you know how helpful and inspiring your blog has been as I’ve secretly planned this trip throughout long boring days at the office. While I’ve wanted to backpack SEA for a long time, I’d never seriously considered doing it solo – but you were instrumental in changing that thanks to posts like this one.

    Looking forward to reading about your travels in 2012.

  14. Hey Kate! Just found your blog yesterday on GQ Trippin and I’m hooked! I am beginning my own RTW in March (hard to believe), and will spend two months in Thailand, as well as 3 months in Argentina around this time next year (flying into Buenos Aires). I’m looking forward to uncovering all of your suggestions/posts for both locations 🙂

  15. When you get the “Travel Bug” everywhere but home is a destination! I took 7 trips this year and already have my next 5 booked with family and friends. I never pay Full price for our trips which allows us to take more trips!!

    Dec – Barton Creek Resort in Austin & San Antonio Riverwalk for NYE
    Jan – Nashville
    Feb – Palm Springs, CA
    March- Undecided (Either New Mexico or Colorado)
    April – Vegas
    May – #1 All Inclusive 4 Diamond Resort in Nuevo Vallarta

    If you Don’t take a Chance….. you Don’t stand a Chance!

  16. I know I’m about a year late on this post, but I think it still rings true. I have planned everything out so I can go and teach in Spain. Thanks for being an inspiration and providing all this information for people who love travel and learning about the world we live in!

  17. I will be going on my 7th solo trip to New Zealand this year…and that’s not counting the US cities I have visited by myself. It started in 2007 and has not stopped! I am not ready to let go of my job and worldly possessions just yet (I really want to save $$$ to be able to retire on some island and just own a cafe by some exotic beach till the end of my days). You earn 52 paychecks a year…you can afford to budget wisely and put 3 paychecks aside for your travel dreams!! I just got a 2nd job that I plan on having for a few months to save even more!!! I don’t buy any excuses! If you will it, you will get it!

  18. Great tips! That’s pretty much what I did last year and I haven’t looked back. It’s changed my whole outlook and I’m now freelancing and planning a year in Australia 🙂

  19. <3 this! My partner and I leave on our RTW trip (also doubling as a honeymoon in a month). Terrifying but exciting! If you want something badly enough, you'll make it happen.

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