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. Ooops, I spelt cherish incorrectly. I’ve got this bad habit of not checking my messages before I post them. Anyway, you must have a lot of guts to do the Nevis bungy jump. I think I’d freeze with fear.

      Haha, I was terrified for DAYS before my Nevis jump! But once I got out there, I was running on pure adrenaline, and I’m really glad I did it in the end!

    I like your attitude to life and adventure Amanda. We only pass this way once and we sure as heck aren’t going to get a second shot at it (never believed in reincarnation myself). When I was younger, I travelled all over the world, including forty-two states in the U.S. Had a great time with memories I’ll cheerish for the rest of my life. All the best from a Kiwi.

      Thanks, Matt! I’m all about taking opportunities as they come along. Like you said, we very rarely get second chances, and that definitely applies to traveling, too.

    I love your travel blog! everything from tips, photos, inspirations, sense of humor …
    Congratulations! Great job!

      Aww thank you so much, Nini! Glad you like my site, and I hope you’ll come back often!

    I try to inspire people to travel every day! It is definitely where I’m most at peace and happiest in life. Great post, it will definitely inspire many others to travel as well!

      I’m with you – it’s great inspiring people to follow their travel dreams!

    You make a good point, why wait to travel in your golden years when you are less physically capable of doing it. None of us know how long we have, so we should get as much joy out of today and stop putting off our lives for those grand plans in the distant future.

      Exactly. Putting anything important off for “later” is never a good idea.

    I love this post! you took the words right out of my mouth.People wait to long to do the things they want,I am in the medical profession and so often see people that have waited to travel until they retire and then they or there partner get sick or worse…..do it now while we can …thanks for a great read!

    I see you are taking a cruise to Canada this month it is one that goes to New Brunswick,Nova Scotia etc???

      I’m glad you agree and can relate, Marianne!

      And yes, the cruise I’m going on in about a week goes to Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia (on Carnival).

    Thank you so much for your blog – you really speak my mind 🙂
    I have the same attitude and follow my travel dreams, even though I’m not rich and have a full time job. And a house, and two cats and three ducks 😀 What I don’t have is a travel partner but I decided long ago that this would not stop me.
    So far I’ve been to:
    Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Singapur, Thailand, Maldives, Egypt, Japan, London, Ireland, Montreal, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Barcelona, Milan, Mallorca and other places in Europe. This year I am going to Florence, Gothenborg, Iceland, Rome, New Zealand, Australia and Shanghai.
    Most of my trips I made alone – for the big one this year I will be driving from Christchurch to Auckland in a camper van. Alone.
    So, thank you again, I hope your site inspires a lot more people to just do it 🙂
    (I am planning on getting a tattoo on my wrist as well, reading ‘no regrets’)

      So awesome that you are chasing your travel dreams!! You’ve been to some great places, and you’re going to some of my favorites this year (New Zealand and Iceland)! Have a BLAST.

    I really love your blog… It inspires me to travel more..

      Thanks Rhye! That’s so good to hear! Happy travels. 🙂

    A friends father-in-law was diagnosed with a brain tumor just before Thanksgiving and died today.

    Life is short and unpredictable. If travel is your thing, *DO IT*. There’s always a way.

      I’m really sorry to hear that, Rob. How sad, especially around the holidays. 🙁 But you’re right — life IS short and unpredictable. Which is why we should all follow our passions (whatever they are), take every opportunity that comes our way, and live life to the fullest every single day.

    I have 5 kids and pretty expensive to travel with all five of them in tow. But as they were growing, we’d bring them anyway. My 3 elder ones have gone to places that they would remember always. It’s now time for the little ones to explore the world, too. So I am taking my youngest to Australia this March and he doesn’t have a clue that he is going on a trip.

      That is fantastic, Connie! Good for you. A lot of people are intimidated by the thought (and cost) of traveling with kids. But that’s great that you’re doing it and taking them to some amazing places! I’m sure they’ll really appreciate those memories when they’re older.

    To be fair (and I hate being fair) we live in a society that prioritizes being safe and conservative over being adventurous. Travel in itself is way outside the bounds of most peoples’ comfort. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had people say to me “Oh, I could never do that” or “you must know someone there” when talking about such challenging destinations as .. New Zealand, or the slightly more difficult European countries. Or for that matter a two week road trip in the northwest of of this country. I’ve actually had someone say “I’ve never been to Oregon – I don’t know anyone there”, as if somehow you can only go places where you know people. Oregon might as well be western Uzbekistan for some people who live two states away.

    And (more being fair) I just read this interesting article. Only about 35% of Americans even have passports.

    http://www.theexpeditioner.com/2010/02/17/how-many-americans-have-a-passport-2/

    Not that you have to have a passport to explore this rather diverse landscape in which we live (as proven by a recent road trip someone’s been writing about) but the world would seem a smaller place without the option of hopping a plane to .. wherever.

    So.. enough with being fair. I wholly subscribe to the notion that if you can afford it, TRAVEL. Even if you have to do it on the cheap, travel a *little bit*. Hop in your car and take a long weekend one state away. See the sights. Visit the special places that the people 300 miles away enjoy that are not on any tourist map, finding them by making new friends in the local coffee shop. Or take a long day and explore what the town 90 minutes away has to offer. Break through that boring old “just like every other day” habit! Of course, you do need to be careful. It’s a dangerous business going out your door………

      Thanks for this great comment, Rob!

      I agree that we live in a society where the “different” is usually deemed as being “scary.” Some people (perhaps most people) would only feel comfortable a on a big package tour, where they can still enjoy all the comforts of home. It all has to do with the desire for novelty vs. the desire for familiarity. Someone like you or I has a strong desire for novelty in life. We don’t so much need the familiarity — we can go somewhere where we don’t know anyone, and we can go alone. But for some people, that amount of novelty would be too much, and they would feel uncomfortable.

      But it does make me sad to think that only about 30% of Americans have passports. I throw that figure around all the time when I’m discussing travel, especially when I’m traveling somewhere without a huge number of other Americans (for example, this last time I was in New Zealand, I came across NO other travelers from the U.S., save for the 2 expats I met up with in Queenstown). But it all comes back to that need for familiarity. Sadly, we Americans seem to cling to that need, which is why a good number of U.S. residents have never been on a plane, or have never been outside of their home states!

      But to them, I say, live a little! Get out there and see the world while you can!

        It’s hard to believe that many of us are the descendants of people who put all they owned into a trunk or two, dragged it onto a sailing ship, and embarked upon a new life with no guarantees at all. And their descendants did the same with covered wagons to hack a life out of the west.

        Of course, those statistics don’t apply to me. My grandparents emigrated to Canada from Scotland and Wales, and *my* parents never lived further than 250 miles from where they were born. I, on the other hand, have lived more of my life outside the country where I was born than inside it. And there are lots of places that still call my name. 🙂

        Oh yes… I’ve just been checking out next summer’s travel and round-trip tickets to Copenhagen/Stockholm/Oslo are less than $800 return. That’s pretty cheap for a flight that will take you to the lands of the midnight sun. Or in the case of Copenhagen, a day’s train ride to anywhere in Europe!

          Nice! I’m planning to make it to Europe next summer (though right now I’m planning to focus on Scotland and England), so I’ll have to keep that in mind!

            Amanda, check out hipmunk.com (if you don’t already use them)…

            An $800 flight to Copenhagen/Oslo/Stockholm and then a cheap flight to Glasgow/London is hundreds of dollars cheaper than flying to the UK directly. In fact, osloLondon is about $15 each way on ryanair.

            I don’t know *why* the flights to Scandinavia are so cheap, but I’m going to bite. They are cheap enough that it’s cheaper to fly to Scandinavia and visit friends/explore and then do a round trip StockholmKEF for 10 days in Iceland than it is to do Iceland as a stopover.

            Yep, after years of wanting to do it I’m going to visit Iceland next summer 🙂

      Regarding passports; I wish the U.S. government would either substantially subsidize the cost of issuing a passport, or just issue them freely! I just spent big bucks on passport (renewals) for my wife and 3 kids.

      That cost alone is quite burdensome, even before paying for the actual trip itself, not that it keeps me from traveling, but it surely keeps many people from venturing internationally.

      That is one thing which I would actually LIKE my tax money to be used.

        I totally agree, Mike! The cost of a passport is just one more reason people often don’t bother with international travel.

    Totally agree. I recently convinced my 78 year old mum to commit to a 3 day Lake Eyre trip that cost alot of money. She had the best time, and who knows whether it will flood again in her lifetime?

    I so don’t get people travelling and being more concerned with not spending money than on enjoying where they are. Newsflash guys: you can’t take it with you.

    Live every day like it’s your last, you won’t have to pay the debt if you’re dead right??

      Great points, Naomi! I can’t understand the people who travel cheaply when they have money, either. Now, if you really are strapped for cash, then I suppose I understand a little better. But if you have the money, why not enjoy it and actually do the things you want to do??

      Good for you convincing your mom to go on that trip! I’m sure she appreciates it now.

    This just made my heart race. I LOVE this post. I feel exactly the same way, and you expressed it so incredibly eloquently!

      Thanks so much!! I’m really glad you could connect to the post. It’s been great to see so many others sharing the same sentiment!

    Carpe Diem 🙂 That’s all there’s to it. For those of us who might be far away from where we were probably intended to be, life is not only about taking the chances we are given but about creating the chances ourselves without waiting for them to magically occur. The time is now!

      I couldn’t have said it any better myself, Rodney! Carpe Diem indeed.

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