Do you dream of visiting the great pyramids of Egypt? Eating your way through Tuscany? Exploring the Serengeti by Land Cruiser? I get it. Just imagining what things will be like at your ideal destination is half the fun. That said, sometimes I think we get so caught up in these big, grandiose adventures that it keeps us from going anywhere.
Here’s how your travel bucket list may be holding you back (and what to do about it).
The Problem: The trip feels too overwhelming to plan.
I know a couple who dreamed of road tripping New Zealand for their honeymoon. They discussed whether to explore Middle Earth on the North Island, go skydiving on the South Island, or both. Christchurch seemed like a fun city stop, and what about Marlborough wine country? And since they would have traveled so far already, wouldn’t it be incredible to SCUBA dive at the Great Barrier reef?
Okay… now how do you cram all that into 12 days?
What started out as an exciting idea ended up becoming incredibly stressful. This couple did end up honeymooning in New Zealand, and only because they gave up and had a travel agent book everything. Though the trip was incredible, it left both wondering if they should’ve opted for something less involved. Maybe planning a wedding and a bucket list honeymoon (along with both working demanding jobs) was a wee bit too much.
The Fix: Ask for help.
Yes, I know you can book everything online all by yourself. But working with a travel agent saves you tons of time and money. You can still be involved in the process, but these experts have a wealth of knowledge about your dream destination, as well as access to exclusive deals. You may have analysis paralysis, but it’s their job to keep the process moving. With their help, you’ll be paragliding above Queenstown in no time!
The Problem: You discredit less spectacular trips.
Renting a private villa with your besties for a Cabo-extravaganza couldn’t sound more perfect. And a less budget-busting version would’ve been exactly what you would’ve planned back before everyone had so many responsibilities. You know, things like kids and pets and jobs and aging parents and a mortgage and car payment and, and, and!
Because you can’t figure out how to coordinate everyone’s schedules and needs, you scrap the trip all together. Oh well, maybe you next year. Sigh.
The Fix: Think smaller.
Sometimes it’s less about the destination than it is about the people. There are years (hey, maybe decades) where taking an epic trip is just too hard. I encourage you to shrink your thinking. When you make travel easy, people will do it. Plan a getaway within driving distance, or book a long weekend in a mid-sized city with lots of direct flights.
I like to treat travel as a habit. It’s muscle you can strengthen, and the more you do it, the more you want to do it. This year, it may be the exotic Wisconsin Dells or enchanting Mystic, Connecticut. You can always book that Cabo trip later, when things settle down.
The Problem: Traveling for the wrong reasons.
Instagram is lovely for inspiring #wanderlust. I get lost scrolling through @DameTraveler’s feed of women in exotic locales. From sunset camel rides on Australia’s Camel Beach to soaking up the kaleidoscope-colored light in Iran’s Nasir ol Molk Mosque—I’m instantly transported to far flung destinations, scheming how I will one day get there myself. It’s lovely.
Sometimes I wonder if access to so many beautiful images creates a warped sense of what we’re trying to get out of travel. Are we visiting Phuket for the experience, or are we looking to snap the perfect photo? Do we go to Iceland because it’s captured our imagination, or are we experiencing a fear of missing out— “everyone else seems to be going, so maybe I need to as well.” Is it good enough to set foot in a country just so you can check it off your list, even if you didn’t truly experience the local culture?
The Fix: Tune out the noise.
It irks me when I see lists like “Top 10 Places you HAVE to Visit Right Now!” Travel is a deeply personal experience, and who cares what’s “cool” if in your heart, you really want to go somewhere else?
Close your eyes right now and think about what you want to get out of your next vacation. Do you see a beach? Are you enjoying seafood freshly plucked from the ocean, paired with an icy cold sparkling wine? Is your partner there? The kids? Maybe your best friends form college? Destinations like Mallorca, Sydney, or Cape Town would fit the bill. However, Boston, Charleston and Portland, Maine could also work—for a fraction of the price, and in mere hours.
In baseball, the crowd goes wild over home runs. However, it’s the smaller plays—singles, doubles, stealing bases and quick fielding—that makes the game fun to watch. Travel is a lot like that. Infusing trips into your life in smaller, more achievable ways, leads to a more fulfilling travel life.
So, where are you heading next?