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 the push, Amanda. It truly inspires me to do and decide things that I thought is impossible. Let’s say I’m one of those who have a beginner family and a lot of things are in hurdles to travel right now. But just like you said, “Do not make excuses”. If you want it then do it!

      Exactly! If you want to travel, I’m sure there are ways to make it happen!

    […] written before about the fact that you CAN, in fact, have your cake and eat it, too. You CAN fit travel into a more “normal” lifestyle — one that includes a job and a fixed […]

    Great topic! I love the security and reliability of a 9-5 corporate job with benefits, so I’m not likely to “go nomad” any time soon. I’m fortunate enough to get 4 weeks paid vacation each year. My biggest dilemma is choosing between a couple of big trips a year vs lots of extended weekends. I hate staying home for months on end, but I really enjoy taking two weeks off at a time and totally escaping everything. I still haven’t found the right balance yet.

      Yes, you’re definitely lucky getting that much paid vacation time! I’m sure you’ll figure out the balance – I totally understand the dilemma though!

    Hi Amanda,

    That was a fabulous and very inspiring article for someone like me who always had plans and wished to travel to so many places. You put travelling, planning and related issues in a very practical prospective. And, yes, you made travelling quite achievable. Thanks a ton. 🙂

    Kshitij Thakur

    I recently came across your blog and find it fascinating. I think about travelling all the time but always wondered how I can fit it in alongside my “normal” life. Well, you have definately inspired me! Morrocco for New Year (2014) and Barcelona end of January (2015).
    Keep up the great blog and if you are ever in my neck of the woods (Manchester / Liverpool) you would always be welcome to stay.

      Hey Pete! That’s so awesome to hear! You definitely CAN fit travel into a more “normal” lifestyle – it certainly doesn’t have to be either/or! I hope you enjoy your adventures!

    I definitely agree that travel is very possible for a lot of Americans, as long as you make it a priority. My family used to travel for two weeks internationally almost every summer. We didn’t have a lot of money, we were just really good about saving it. Some families want a nice new tv, others want a beach house, some people really like to go shopping, my family traveled. Luckily my parents are self-employed, but it’s still really hard to step away from a business and find someone to run it for you while you’re gone. I’ve found the easiest way to fund my travel addiction is to just live and work abroad, but I know that lifestyle isn’t for everyone and won’t always be for me. But I’m hoping to make travel an important part of my life even after I settle down.

      Your comment just goes to show that people in all sorts of professions can fit travel into their lifestyle if they make it a priority! I certainly don’t make a lot of money, but I always find ways to travel.

    I really enjoyed your article. Travel is one of the greatest experience in life because it stays with you for the rest of your life. I love traveling but since my kids were born has been kind of difficult and expensive as well. As you say nothing is impossible, maybe more difficult with kids though but if we really want to travel we should set it as one of our priorities in life. Your article has inspired me to travel more even with kids and maybe would be more fun.

      That’s great to hear, Laura! And yes, travel is definitely trickier when you have kids – but it’s definitely not impossible!

    Very true! I wrote about something similar here, but I love all your extra tips! Basically, it comes down to if you truly want to travel, nothing can stop you. I hope more people realize this!

      So true! I tell people all the time that if you decide to make travel a priority in your life, then you WILL find a way to make it happen.

    I really liked this article, it’s inspiring for me! I live a normal life too, following all the travel blogs and wondering, how to involve more travel into my life. My personal goals for this year and the years to follow is to get more out, doing weekend trips in my country and hopefully see all the nice tropical beaches and destinations.

      Well good luck with that goal, Melanie! If you really want to do it, I have no doubt that you’ll figure out a way to make it happen!

    So true, I would like to share 3 trick to travel while having a normal life: 1. Save your vacation days!! They will be useful. 2. Expand your vacation days: I used to work for a financial firm and they gave us 16 days of vacation every year. Here’s what I did: If you want to travel for an entire week, make sure you use it during a week with a holiday. This way you can use only 4 days of vacation. These 16 days used wisely can be expanded to 20 days (4 weeks of travel). 3. Take vacations in large chunks – the most expensive part are usually the flights. Fly to Shanghai and use ground transportation to move around. And lastly (I know I said 3), make sure you take advantage of time between jobs. When you get a new job, ask to extend your start date. This can give you 1-3 free months that you can use to go backpacking anywhere!!

    You make such a great point – why do people assume the travel lifestyle is “all or nothing?” The whole point of traveling is living the life you want to live, which certainly doesn’t mean you have to become a permanent nomad. You can still enjoy travel and have a career (or family or kids or insert your version of normalcy here.) Thanks for a great post!

      Thank you! I really try to prove this point through my own travels. I may not have a conventional job at the moment, but I still do have a life back “home” that I don’t like to leave for long periods of time.

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