During my travels, I’ve met really courageous people. And I’m not just talking about people working in conflict zones or doing charity work in third world countries—but everyday people who took a chance to do something bold.
There was, for example, a Norwegian nurse who left her community to study nursing in New York, even when everyone in her community told her not to. Or the suburban mom who decided to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia to start a business, or the couple who left their careers and moved to Northern Thailand—just because they could.
They weren’t all adventurous by nature, but the one thing these people had in common was that they decided to take the leap into something new and pursue a dream.
In my experience, that’s not always the norm. One of question I get asked a lot is, “How do I travel while I’m juggling work and my other obligations?” In our lives and careers, we sometimes run on autopilot, focusing on our day-to-day lives and pushing our dreams of travel to the back burner.
But trust me: There are ways to travel and do things you’ve always wanted to, even when it seems like you should be grounded and settled. You can even pursue these global goals while developing your career!
The first step is asking yourself some questions about what type of experience you’re looking for, how it’ll fit into your career, and how you can realistically make it happen. Start with these:
1. Why is this dream of travel important to me?
To make sure you’re on the right trajectory, you have to reflect on and understand your exact goals. Are you seeking adventure? Do you want to break free of your comfort zone? Connect with your roots? Broaden your career? It’s only when you know what you truly want that you can focus on the logistics of getting there.
2. What do I hope to learn or accomplish?
To dig a little deeper, pick two or three specific goals to determine your travel focus. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn about elephant conservation or have dreamed of climbing a mountain in the Swiss Alps. If you could do anything, what would be your biggest accomplishment?
3. How will this experience better equip me for my current job or help me transition my career?
Even if it seems like a leap, think about the skills you will gain and the experiences you will have that might be relevant to your career. This could be as simple as planning better itineraries or learning a unique way to train volunteers. There is always a way to connect experience abroad back to work—no matter what you do.
4. What has been holding me back from pursuing this travel goal? How can I realistically overcome these roadblocks?
Be honest about the challenges you’re facing now or may face as you start to seriously pursue this goal.
5. Who in my network can I connect with who has successfully pursued a global goal?
Find people who have made travel happen in their own lives, and set up some time to chat so you can learn from them. Ask for tips for navigating the planning and follow-through stages of your goal.
6. What are the most valuable takeaways I can learn from their failures or successes?
Your experience might not perfectly parallel those of your colleagues, but in any situation, you should be able to identify a few things you can learn from their experience. Find out what they would do differently if they could do it again, and note it for your own trip.
7. Can I identify a practical timeline to work toward my goals?
Do you want to accomplish your travel within the next six months or sometime in the next five years? Do you want to spend a year abroad, or would a three-week trip be enough? You’ll have to take your time frames into consideration to determine how long it will take you to get the resources you need to make your travel goals a reality.
8. How should I approach this goal at work?
Consider whether you’ll need to take time off from your career or adjust your work schedule to make your travel possible. This will help you determine if you can simply use your PTO or if you’d need to arrange to take a sabbatical—and that, in turn, will determine how much you need to tell co-workers and how you’ll prepare them for your absence.
9. What resources will I need to reach my goals?
Once you have closed in on what you want out of a trip and how it will fit into your life, you’ll need to identify the budget, support (both financial and emotional), technology, and research you’ll need to pursue your dream.
10. What flexibility do I need to build in?
Build flexibility into your plan in case things don’t go as smoothly as you initially hoped. Determine what parts of your plan you’d be willing to modify or change to make sure you follow through with your goal. For example, would you be willing to spend the extra time and money to extend your trip if it meant you could see a project through to the end? This will help you avoid surprises and stick to your plan as much as possible.
11. What is the worst that can happen? How can I better prepare without limiting myself?
It’s OK to consider what could happen. Maybe you’ll get lost in a country abroad, get stuck in an awkward situation when you’re not fluent in the language of that country, or get food poisoning. Those are realistic challenges—but don’t let them hold you back. Think about how you can prepare adequately for potential issues, and then relax. In general, you’ll find that the world is largely a good place with good people, and worst-case scenarios are rare.
12. Am I ready to share these global goals with the people around me, despite how they might react?
When you have an idea that’s outside of the box, friends and colleagues may be quick to judge and try discourage you from pursuing the goal. Instead of letting these reactions deter you, use them to help you improve and further develop your plans.
13. How will I make my return to my old life once I have achieved this goal?
When you come back, how will you return to work or your daily life? You will want to be prepared for reverse culture shock and build in time to adjust.
14. How can I share this experience with others when I get back?
It can be hard when you return and friends don’t want to hear the details of your adventure, whether they’re too busy to listen or your stories make them realize what they’re missing out on. Discover ways to share your experience while you are on your journey through social media, a blog, or a website. When you get back, you can seek out speaking engagements to share your story, start a charity project based on your experience, or perhaps launch something even bigger, like a new business or nonprofit.
15. What are my next steps after I achieve this travel goal?
After you’ve achieved your goal, you shouldn’t stop there! Consider how this experience will open new doors to opportunities, both at work and in your personal life.
When you ask yourself the right questions, you’ll gain perspective and be able to better frame your travel goals—which will make them much more attainable. You may have to start small, but that’s OK! Because a start, no matter how small, will get you one step closer to getting out in the world. So find your courage, take a chance, and start working toward your dream trip or global goal now. You’ll be glad you did.