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. Thanks for writing this!
    So many bloggers are location independent and are so far away from normal (not that it’s a bad thing) so it’s quite intimidating. I love travelling but would like to live a normal life with an actual home and circle of friends.

      I’ve done some longer trips (a couple of months sometimes), but by the end I’m usually ready to go home. I don’t think I could ever hack it as a permanent nomad!

    This is an eye-opening article, I love it when you said that traveling does not have to be expensive. However, in my case (having three young kids) might be too difficult to just decide to travel without considering the budget and all. Once a year, though, our family plans a roadtrip (usually it is during a summer vacation or December). Recently we went to a beach resort in Batangas, here in the Philippines. not a fancy vacation, but it has been a precious time with the whole family. 🙂

      Traveling closer to home is still traveling, though! And definitely doesn’t have to break the bank every time.

    “and at the end of the day…don’t make excuses.”

    …that’s it. If you want something, go get it.

    Relevant post, even two years later. Keep up the good work!!

      Exactly, Wade! You have to go after the things you want in life.

    Great article – especially “Take advantage of all opportunities.” – When I can, I add on a couple days to my business trips and take them as personal days to explore new places.

      That’s a great approach, Shannon! You just have to get a bit creative with your time off.

    I agree so much with you ! People say “oh you are lucky to travel” I always say that’s about choices !

    I work in business, 40h a week, only have 2 weeks vacation paid by year. I traveled 3 times a year (1 or 2 weeks trip) for the last 4 years ! I have an old car, a cheap appartment, I don’t buy that much stuff because I don’t need much to be happy :P. I take unpaid vacation. I even had a boyfriend (who didn’t have money to travel) and I was still traveling. I understood my passion, so he didn’t stop me to do what I love ! Money, job, boyfriend… no excuses 🙂

    I like to push people to do what they want and give them advices how to make it work. I love your post, your tips are great !!!

      I love your “no excuses” attitude – I totally agree!

    Very inspiring article! I’m currently in a job that is unfortunately not a career (very boring….only doing it to save $$$$ for travel) and am planning to travel the U.S next year as well as do a working visa in the UK for 2 years and travel though Europe. I have no idea what I want to do career wise (want to do something in travel but not sure what) and actually want to put off thinking about it and just travel for as long as I can!

    I have a question for you, do you have to be an exceptional computer wiz to make a blog like yours? As I’m planning to travel extensively next year I would love to start a blog but have no idea where to even start!

      You sound just like me! I often joke that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up… haha. Sounds like you’ve got some exciting things planned!

      As for your question, no, you don’t have to be a computer whiz at all! I knew very little about websites before I started my own. Plus, it’s so easy to Google things these days and figure things out!

        Haha glad I’m not the only one…all I know if life is that I want to travel and never stop, hopefully during my adventure I find a way to keep funding my travels continuously.

        Thanks for the reply about making a blog. I’m really excited to make one eeeek!

        Happy travels!

    Great Article. In the end it is, what you make of a destination – I am see my dentist at the border between Switzerland and Austria (from an old working address of mine) and haven’t changed it for years- we love the lake of constance and love to have lunch at it beaches, enjoying the different little towns along it, we get together with one or another friend or also have driven to the next town in Austria and enjoy ourselves. In fact next Thursday off to another trip to Eastern Switzerland and this time, I will be visiting the UNESCO heritage site in St. Gallen :)! Yes, I work full time, I travel with and without my husband, but some sort of camera always goes with me 🙂

    Hi,

    I instantly connected with everything you’ve said above. My husband and I have full time careers (that we actually like!), yet travel locally and internationally as much as possible! You’ve given solid advice! I’m SO happy to meet another woman with the same heart for travel. Connect with me at wifewithbaggage.com and/or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WifeWithBaggage).

    Cheers! 🙂

      That’s awesome that you both love your jobs AND find time to travel. Definitely what I hope to do in the future!

    Another great post! Two years ago,after saving money through a little account, I went on my dream trip to Paris. Even though I went with a tour, I went by myself not knowing anyone except for my 86 year old roomate(whom I had no connection to either). I would never have imagined myself dong this 10 years ago, but I had no one that would go with me. My husband has no interest in traveling. It was the best thng I have ever done. I met people that I now consider great friends. I am a small town Wisconsin girl who loves to go places. I work fulltime, have a family, and am not rich money wise anyway. It just takes some planning and patience. I fell in love with Paris on that trip and am diligently saving to go back even if it is by myself! I am proof positive that you can go anywhere.

      That’s awesome, Lori! And good for you for just going for it!!

    So true! There is a big misconception that being able to travel means that your either rich or a vagabonding bum. In other western countries (Europe, Australia, New Zealand) travel is a much bigger part of life. I wish travel was encouraged more in American culture and hopefully blogs like this will inspire others to step out there door!

    Even though I have a full time job with limited vacation time (another thing I’d like to see change in our society), with some planning and saving up I’m able to go on those trips I’ve dreamed about doing. I just discovered your blog when I was searching for travel advice about New Zealand (my next trip)! I just started a blog to post about my travels.

    Thanks for your excellent blog. I will also be back to read more about your adventures!

      I really wish traveling (and enough vacation time to allow traveling!) was a bigger part of American culture, too. It’s a real shame that it isn’t!

    wow just found your site and you and your words are so inspiring! I am currently figuring out how to incorporate more travel into my already super busy life (9-5 job, well more like 7-5, married, have debts to pay off, pay rent, etc). So thank you for your tips!!!

    I just started a travel blog. Am still figuring out how to get more traffic to my new blog- so any words on that would be very helpful as well!

    Thanks in advance! And again, thank you so much for your inspiring words! I will sure be back to read more about your adventures!

      Good luck with the blog, and figuring out how to fit more travel into your life! If you want it badly enough, you’ll be able to make it work. 🙂

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