You Can Live a “Normal” Life and Travel, Too

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I'm not a professional traveler. I do not make a living from taking trips around the world. For a long time, I was not location-independent, either — I was just your average recent-college-graduate, trying to figure out how to balance a small paycheck with my desire to travel as much as possible.

And yet, people often tell me how jealous they are of all my travels. They tell me how “lucky” I am. They say they wish they could travel like I do.

But you know what?

They absolutely can. YOU can, too.

Solo travel in New Zealand

So many of those out there who are writing about travel are professional nomads. Many of them lack a home address, and can fit most of their worldly possessions into a backpack. They flit from London to Bangkok to Sydney and back again, and we “ordinary” people think this is all so terribly romantic and awesome that we convince ourselves that we can't possibly do the same.

We psyche ourselves out and buy into a lot of misconceptions about living a life full of travel. We begin to believe things like:

  • You must be rich to travel.
  • You must be single to travel.
  • You must be brave and outgoing to travel.
  • You must be free from responsibility to travel.

We convince ourselves that we can never be one of “those people” because we have a job and debt and a family, and we enjoy having a stable address that people can send Christmas cards to.

But guess what? These misconceptions are just that — misconceptions. You can travel without being rich and single. You can travel without being particularly adventurous. And, most of all, you can travel without completely setting aside responsibility.

Yes, I'm here to tell you that  you can, in fact, travel and live a “normal” life, too!

Lupin field in New Zealand

Travel does not have to be a lifestyle for everyone. You can be a businessman or career woman and still be passionate about travel. You can work a 9-5 and still see the world if that's what you're passionate about.

The key is what YOU want.

If you want to quit your job to travel the world, great. Go for it.

But if you like owning a car and your own bed and having a permanent place to call “home,” that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your travel dream. It doesn't have to be an either-or scenario. Believe it or not, you CAN have both!

Cherokee Trading Post

I'm not going to lie and say it's easy, though. Because it's not. If you have a strict work schedule or a young family or a lot of debt to pay off, it may be challenging to live your “ordinary” life and still manage to fit in travel. But just because something is challenging doesn't mean it's impossible.

Here are some tips for how you, too, can fit travel into your ordinary life:

  • Start saving now. It's never too early to start saving for a trip. Even just setting aside $20 per week can go a long way quickly.
  • Plan your dream vacation. Even if you won't be able to take it right away, planning a vacation can keep you upbeat about traveling and give you something to look forward to. I start planning some of my big trips up to a year ahead of time.
  • Keep an eye on travel deals. Especially if you start planning and saving for a big trip early, you can keep an eye on things like airline and hotel deals. You never know when the perfect one will come along! Signing up for mailing lists from specific airlines, or from travel aggregators like TravelZoo, is a great idea, too, and can alert you to big savings opportunities.
  • Make the most of vacation time and holidays. We Americans get a raw deal in my opinion when it comes to vacation time. If your employer isn't cool about letting you work overtime or giving you unpaid days off, you'll have to get creative in order to make the most of the vacation time you have. You can stretch your 2 weeks much further if you plan travel around paid holidays, or if you can elect to work your holidays and save them up for later.
  • Don't wait for someone to travel with. Especially if you're working full-time and have friends and family members who are also working full-time, it might be difficult to coordinate a vacation. But that doesn't mean you should forego travel. It just means you may need to consider adding “solo travel” to your vocabulary.
  • Pick up new hobbies. For me, starting a travel blog has opened many doors in terms of travel. I've made a lot of contacts, and even picked up some freelance gigs here and there that have helped feed my travel addiction (and my travel fund). But if starting a blog isn't right for you, consider other hobbies that might allow you to get closer to your travel goals. Perhaps volunteering or joining a club could be an option for you.
  • Take advantage of all opportunities. Right along with picking up new hobbies, be sure to take advantage of any travel opportunities that those hobbies might afford you. For example, I traveled a lot during college because I joined the marching band. We went to places like Italy and China on performance tours at prices that a college student could afford.

And, at the end of the day…

  • Don't make excuses. Any excuse you can make about why you can't/don't travel can be overcome. If you truly want to travel more without giving up your current lifestyle, the first step is setting aside the misconceptions and excuses and going after what you want in any way that you can.
Hanauma Bay
Excuses won't get you here.

And, who am I to preach all this to you, you ask? Well, currently I'm a freelancer who works from a fixed address in Ohio. Before that, I was a graduate student working my butt off to get my Master's degree. And before that, I was a copy editor working 40 hours per week at a small newspaper. I probably don't have to tell you that I have most certainly NOT been rolling in cash since graduating college. I have to work hard to save up money and make time to travel just like everybody else. But, in the past four years, I've traveled to more than 30 countries.

And I'm doing it all while still living a “normal” life.

If I can do it, so can you.

Are you also a person who lives a “normal” life but still manages to travel? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

"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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193 Comments on “You Can Live a “Normal” Life and Travel, Too

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  1. […] A Dangerous Business: You can live a “normal” life and travel too Here’s a great post for anyone who has ever wished they could travel as often as travel bloggers. Amanda points out that even if you have a 9-to-5 job, you can save money and save up vacation time to make your travel dreams come true. That’s how I got started! […]

    Amanda,

    We just recently starting reading some of your posts. And we have to say, we absolutely love this one. We are just about to start a blog of our own focusing on US professionals who want to travel but have trouble figuring out how to do it (as you noted, with all those excuses) This is just so true, and people tell us a lot of the same things “How do you do it?” and “You must have so much disposable income for traveling”. But it really is about choices and decision making, rather than just money or days off. We love reading and will keep up with you in the future!

      Thanks so much, guys! I’m a firm believer that you really can have both a “normal” lifestyle AND lots of travel. I work full-time for myself now, but I drag my corporate-job-working fiance on quite a few trips per year! It can be done – you just have to make travel a priority if that’s what you want.

    Not waiting for someone else is the best thing! I tend to live a “normal” life and travel quite a lot as well. I think it’s about priorities.

    I decided long ago that I’d rather go somewhere alone than never go at all and that really was the catalyst.

      Yup, it definitely is all about those priorities!

    I think travelling with children must require a very special set of skills, that is one thing I personally would not attempt

      It definitely does, but there are plenty of families out there that do it and make it work!

      My husband and I have been traveling with our daughter for almost a year now. Yes, it’s more challenging, but we think it’s worth it! If kids are used to something from the get go, I think it’s much easier on them than springing it on them down the road. Plus, she flies free right now!

    “Even just setting aside $20 per week can go a long way quickly.” Yes!

    I’m on to budget my vacations with just this inspiration. Thank you so much!

      It doesn’t seem like much when you’re setting it aside, but all those $20s really do add up over time!

    In sort, Excellent, Tremendous, Classical & Inspiration.

    I just found your blog and love it! I love that you still work and live a ”normal” life and still manage to travel. My husband and I moved to Germany just over a year ago for work, and we made the conscious decision to travel as much, and as often, as we can. The 6 weeks of paid vacation definitely helps, as well as being so much closer to a lot of things, but we still manage to run out of vacation time! So, we have been focusing a lot on weekend trips – leaving on Friday after work and returning Sunday evening so we can still make Monday morning meetings. Traveling in this way can be tiring, but we have gotten to see so much of Europe that way!

    It sounds romantic to live out of a suitcase and flit from one corner of the world to another, but in reality, I like my bed. And washing machine. And home cooked food.
    Thanks for sharing how normal people can still be travelers and see the world!

    And if you want to check out what two American expats are doing living in Germany, check us out! http://www.submergedoaks.com/

      I don’t think it would matter how much vacation time I got – I would still run out of it! 😉

      Great to hear that you guys are making the most of both your time off AND living in the center of Europe!

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