Life Is Short. Travel Now.

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We've all heard the saying “Life is short.” And, sometimes, it is.

But life is also unpredictable.

Even though we all probably have dreams and goals and plans for our lives, there are certain things we have no control over. Our lives could be going along on right on track, only to be shattered by something we could never have seen coming.

A tornado that rips through a neighborhood. A flood that devastates farms. An earthquake that reduces a city to rubble. And these are just the unpredictable things nature can bring about. There are also accidents, health problems, financial woes…

Life is too fleeting and changeable to take for granted.

Red Berries

I have a tattoo around my wrist that reads: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” I try to recite this quote every once in a while, in order to remind myself to live in the here and now, and not in the future or the past. When it comes down to it, we can only live with what we're given, taking advantage of the opportunities that come our way.

This applies to travel, too.

I'm not a full-time traveler. I spend most days working to make a living just like you do. So when a chance arises for me to visit some far-off country or exotic locale, I jump on it.

Lake Tekapo

Take, for example, my recent trip to New Zealand. I won a prize from the Blog4NZ campaign, and decided to plan an impromptu trip to NZ. I bought a plane ticket and was South Pacific-bound within a month of winning. Sure, I could have postponed it, saved up some more money and planned to go sometime later.

But, I thought, what if “sometime later” never came?

I know where I would like my life to be headed in the coming months and years. But there are no guarantees that things will go as planned. In fact, more likely than not, nothing will go as planned.

Western Australia

Last summer, when I was on an Alaskan cruise with my family, I made note of the prevalence of older couples on our cruise ship. Old men who could only walk with canes. Old women who didn’t even leave the ship when we pulled into port. It was almost comical, the number of electric wheelchairs positioned outside staterooms at night.

And, while I’m glad that older couples still travel, I couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for some of them on this cruise. No doubt many had dreamed about and saved up for this trip for years. For many, it was probably meant to be a retirement gift to themselves. But were they even enjoying it?

How often do we hear others say, “Oh, I’ll travel when I retire,” “I’ll travel when the kids are grown,” “I’ll travel when the house is paid off”? I hear these excuses all the time. But you know what happens? Age. And stress. And, well, life. Life happens, and by the time you retire and your kids are grown and your house is paid off, you have bad knees and weak lungs and you simply can’t visit all those places you dreamed about in your youth.

How sad. I don’t want to end up like that, holding on to youthful travel dreams that will never be reality.

Queenstown

So I travel now, in whatever way and to whatever place I can. I scrimp and I save and I make it happen. I took the Blog4NZ opportunity placed before me and embraced it, despite the low balance in my savings account. I'm glad I did, and I was lucky enough to have a lot of my expenses covered on that trip.

But even on trips where everything has been paid for out of my own pocket, I grasp at every opportunity and unique adventure. I travel with reckless abandon — often to the detriment of my wallet.

Is this wise? Probably not if you’re a long-term traveler. But, for someone like me who tends to take shorter trips to distant places, I attack travel with a no-holds-barred attitude.

Bungy jumping? Helicopter rides? Expensive tours? If I think they are worth it, then I will not hesitate to shell out for experiences. I treat every trip I take as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Sure, I'd like to think I'll be back to Ireland or Italy or Australia someday. But what if I never make it back? I don't want to have any regrets in my life, and this includes travel regrets.

Franz Josef Glacier

I know not everyone shares this travel philosophy, though. Many travelers stick to a strict budget so they can travel for as long as possible. Others simply don’t wait to pay for anything beyond the necessities.

When I was studying abroad in New Zealand, I traveled extensively all over the country with two friends. We booked everything from whale watching to zorbing to a private flight over the Southern Alps, and racked up some impressive credit card bills. I think we spent more weekends outside of Wellington than in it. Another international student that year almost looked down her nose at our pricey adventures, declaring that she had come to New Zealand to study, not empty her savings account on travel.

My question to her was, why would you come literally halfway around the world to hoard your money and keep your nose pressed into a book every weekend? Would you go to China and not visit the Great Wall because it costs money? Would you go to Italy and skip visiting the Vatican because it requires an admission ticket?

Cottesloe Beach

There are so many worthwhile experiences to be had in the world — and yes, many of them require money. But it’s my travel philosophy that you shouldn’t deny yourself any of these experiences just because they come with a pricetag.

If you are privileged enough to be able to afford to travel, then you should attack it with curiosity and vigor and a sense of adventure. And to hell with the bank account.

So travel now. Make memories. And enjoy your life.

At the end of the day, I'd rather die with a million memories than a million dollars. Money won't comfort me on my deathbed, but knowing that I lived a full and fulfilling life might.

What's your take? Do you take full advantage of every travel opportunity as if it were your last, too?

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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126 Comments on “Life Is Short. Travel Now.

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  1. Well said! I couldn’t agree more. I’ve heard far too many stories of people with dreams who never made it. There was always the excuse of “one day”, but we may not have “one day”. For all we know, our last day could be today, which is why it’s so important to do these things now. I agree completely with the experience portion as well. Obviously, we want to travel responsibly and not spend money frivolously, but when we’re out there, I think it is worth it to splurge on a few experiences if we can and keep the memories that go along with it.

    Crazy that this article has been around for so long, and I have not found it.. I guess it is because it is something that eventually figured out. Now that I have started a fledgling travel blog, this is something that we have been trying to convey through our FB posts, and the ad campaign we are currently working on really focuses on this, but have not written a full on article about it. It seems that every one has a reason not to travel, or follow whatever passion it is that they may feel, and take it for granted that the opportunity will be out there for them some day. We will keep on trying to find intriguing way to share the message. In the meantime, posting this article on our FB page. Thanks! Roxanna

      I’m all about taking advantage of all the opportunities you can right now. I don’t want to die with any regrets, travel or otherwise!

    Yes Life is shot, at least travel every year one tour.
    I like your blog very much.

    Been reading your blog for a while but only just come across this article. When I was with my ex I got so sick of his family telling me that there was no need for me to travel while young, I could do it when I got older. As far as they were concerned, settling down and buying a house was the only possible goal in life. I definitely didn’t fit into the box! Luckily my family just want me to do what makes me happy 🙂

    Since we split up I’ve started visiting some of the places I’ve always wanted to see most – the US, Sweden and I’ve just got back from a month in Japan. Who needs a boring relationship when you can see Mount Fuji instead?

      Great outlook, Sarah! And good on you for making those travel dreams a reality!

    I adore this article!!!! This is exactly the reason my husband and I are moving into a tiny house on wheels. No may excruciatingly high rent to pay, no cable or electric bill due to no electric appliances. We want to have the money to travel come the start of the year and we will!!! We want to travel til we are ready for kids and then continue to travel WITH THE KIDS!
    We want to experience much of the world and then be able to broaden their minds by teaching them about many cultures and places. That has to start with us. And for our situation that starts with taking into consideration what is more important, luxuries or dreams. : ) : )

      You have an awesome attitude, Aubry! And YES, it all starts with YOU, and you deciding what you want to prioritize in your life. 🙂

    This really resonates with me. My mother had Stage IV metastatic breast cancer and still managed to travel but because of some of the side effects she had extremely reduced lung capacity. She wanted to see Machu Picchu but could never have made it because of the altitude. We went on a road trip through New Mexico and she could tell the difference but didn’t let that stop her from traveling. The last big trip we did was Hawaii and she loved it. She told me later, that her brother had tried to convince her not to go and gave her this line: “Are you sure this is what you should be doing with your life?” Like is was a bad thing that she wanted to spend a week in Hawaii. My Uncle is one of those people who believes that you should travel when you retire. But he’s been lucky, he’s in his 60s and manages very well. However, his wife has had some serious accidents happen recently they’ve had to cancel the same New England trip twice in two years because of it.

    Mom was 52 when she died and was in the planning stages of a trip to Ireland for the two of us. She had to plan carefully because she had to have oxygen tanks with her all the time. I’m planning on going to Ireland for 2 months next summer for an internship and plan to hop over to London for a week after I’m done. I’m in grad school right now and I know when I go home for Christmas my Uncle is going try to convince me not to go. I want to do it now because I don’t know what might prevent me from going later in life. Even if that’s just ten years from now not just retirement age. I could get hit by a bus, diagnosed with cancer, etc. I have this crazy plan that if I ever get cancer, regardless of age, that I’ll take at least a 2 month trip *somewhere* with some friends because I’ve seen what happens to bodies after chemo, both from my mother and her support group friends, and I don’t want to miss an opportunity because I no longer had the strength, function or lung capacity to do so.

      I’m sure your mom would be really proud of your decision, and would definitely want you to go! Don’t ever let your Uncle talk you out of following your travels dreams. As you know all too well, you never know what could happen tomorrow, next week, next month. Take advantage of every opportunity NOW!

    Life is too amazing to be ignored. it can never be too short for those who enjoy every moment and consider every opportunity as a gift. Some people work too hard that they ignore life is not all about earning a fortune.For me, soon enough when my kids are a bit grownup, my husband I will take them to different places. Those places may only be in the Philippines; nonetheless, what is important is that we can get to enjoy every second of being together as a family while my husband and I are still strong and young. Indeed, life is a gift. I love your article 🙂

      I totally agree that life is about much more than just making a fortune! It sounds like your family definitely has the right attitude!

    I agree – life is too short. Travel when you are healthy enough to enjoy it – you never know what will happen tomorrow.

    Just clicked on your site while I was searching for money hiding underwear and have really enjoyed reading your article. Wholeheartedly agree with your outlook on life and travel and a lot of it reflects my own attitudes towards them.
    In a couple of months I’ll be one of those 60 year olds (where has it gone) whose knees are no longer able to tackle some of the things I’d like to do. My wife and I will visit Peru in a couple of years but doing the trail is probably unrealistic for me and not possible for her, so going the guided route is the way it will have to be. One of these things I should perhaps have done several years ago but it wasn’t really on my horizon at the time. So, something that younger travelers could think about is to do some of the more physically demanding trips when you are young and able instead of waiting till life catches up with you.
    Leaving for England next Saturday for my daughter’s wedding and then we fly over to Italy for eighteen days. Last time I was there was 37 years ago and of all the countries I visited (which is lots) it is the one that I promised myself I would someday return to. This time will be a little different as the first couple of times I had a backpack and was hitch hiking round Europe. can afford more than bread, cheese and wine this time around but I doubt it will taste any better than it did in those heady days. Between hitching and spending several years in the British merchant navy I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel and still love to take vacations as often as possible. Looking forward to RV’ing in North America and doing a trip to Africa in a couple of years as well. lots of adventure to be found out on that open road Amanda and it makes me smile when I see young folks like yourself who reach out and grasp the opportunities when they come along. I’ll never be financially rich but wouldn’t trade a single one of my travel memories for the dull lives and larger bank accounts of so many folks I know who have never traveled.
    Looking forward to reading a lot more of your articles. Keep up the good work.

      Thank you so much for the fantastic comment. It sounds like you have had some amazing adventures – and have some more amazing ones planned! Good on you!

    I love your ethos. I try and do the same. I never forget when we were in NZ driving around the south island in our little campervan. We stopped for a cup of tea in a car park and a helicopter landed next to us! Turns out they were flying people over Mount Cook for about $200…and they took Visa! Best spend ever (even though it made us broke later on).

      What an awesome story! I have many similar ones (including quite a few from New Zealand!). Life really is just too short to pass up awesome opportunities like that!

    That is brilliant…I love your philosophy…more people need to live life to the fullest…the world would be a happier place!

      Thanks, Anita. And I totally agree! Living each day to the fullest definitely makes for a happier person.

    Beautifully written Amanda! I can definitely agree with what you are saying. You have several wonderful one liners in here. Especially things like, what if later never comes? It might not. What about sitting on your death bed realizing that you didn’t do what you wanted? Both are quite scary to me. Thanks for your thoughts, I enjoyed reading your post!

      Thanks, Andy. I’m glad you can relate to and appreciate this post!

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