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It was the seventh grade when my middle school language arts teacher made us all memorize Robert Frosts' "The Road Not Taken". Standing in front of a classroom of prepubescent boys and girls, one by one we recited the poem, at great embarrassment for most, in its entirety. In hindsight the true meaning of the memorized words never really took shape for me until adulthood.
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."
The forked path, the devil and angel on your shoulder, the constant dichotomy of good versus evil, the known and the unknown - these are common themes that plague us in adulthood and throughout our lives. Which path do we choose? Which journey will bear the most impact? I find myself often positioned in front of those who find this see-saw of decision making the reason for their lack of travel. I hear from peers and those older than me, all humming the same tune: "It's so expensive", "I don't have the time off work", "I'm nervous about flying", "COVID is everywhere", and so on. These, to me, are excuses shrouded in fear of that unknown path. Two roads diverged - take the safe route? Or the unknown? It's this fear of the unknown that is the real reason I think people come up with excuses not to travel. It's a BIG world out there, but that's the beauty. So many people live in a box. They see the same people every day, they live in the same house their entire lives, they know their mailman and their neighbor's dog, and all that is great, but it ends there. Day in and day out. Perhaps contentment is in those simple joys but there is so much out there left undiscovered. For me, it is choosing that unknown path that has indeed made all the difference in my life.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
— Mark Twain
The heartbeat of this quote has led my life to so many unimaginable places across the globe - from bathing with an elephant in Nepal, to sampling snake wine in Vietnam. I've stomped in vats of grapes up to my knees and participated in a communal onsen bath buck naked in Japan. I've experienced camel rides, camping in a Moroccan desert, and walked the towns of Malta where Game of Thrones was filmed. I've seen goat heads for sale in Turkey, seen adults taking shits on the side of a highway in Nepal and smelled the putrid odor of their trash burning fires in the streets at night. I've been to countless foreign wineries, been on a 4x4 adventure through mine fields in the Falklands, leading me to a secret beach full of king, gentoo, rockhopper and magellenic penguins as far as the eye could see. I swam with bus-sized whale sharks in Mexico, I've been to the 'end of the world' in Tierra del Fuego and tasted empanadas in Argentina. Up and down the globe from coast to coast I've had these amazing experiences, and never once did I let fear or money or any other excuse hold me back from my thirst for travel. Am I being a braggart? You bet your britches I am. But I'm also trying to illustrate that the world offers such an incredibly wide array of flavors, sites, culture and new understandings that I could never have learned or adopted if I had stayed home.
If ever there were a post to put in a nutshell what this blog is all about, it's this one. I want you to TRAVEL MORE. I'm not writing these how to's and listicles to make a buck. I'm doing this to share with all of you readers that the big scary world really isn't all that big and scary after all. Even in the most foreign of places, it all boils down to one thing - we are all just people, trying to figure it all out. You'll feel comfort in a strangers smile, and become one with a culture with every bite of new cuisine. You'll gain new understanding, appreciation and education from every step you take outside of your comfort zone. Stop taking PTO to water your garden. Get in your minivan and go see some National Parks. Better yet, drive to the local courthouse and get your passport! Start small - go to Mexico or over the border to Canada. Just do something different.
I'm tired of talking to people who have no vision for travel. I'm tired of hearing "I'd love to travel someday". What's the hold up!? You don't have to drop a load of cash to travel. And for those who spend $15,000 on their family of 4 to go to Disney World, WTF are you doing wrong? Everything. Ya'll, this site is here to help you. You need to be an active participant in your travel planning. Scratch that, be PROactive. Set tracking for Google Flight alerts, sign up for deal sites like Travelzoo. Decide where you are doing it wrong and do it better. You don't need to stay at the $300 a night Disney resort when you can stay for $80 just outside the Disney gates. Mickey is splattered everywhere, trust me. You will not be missing out on the 'Disney experience' if you stay a mile away. I will also add that traveling abroad is actually very thrifty once you get there. I stopped setting a budget years ago. Instead, I set a 'max limit' in my mind on what I'm willing to pay for airfare to Europe, for example. If I am paying more than $550 per person to get to Europe, I'm doing it wrong. I travel in the off-peak times. I look for deals and pounce. Don't hem and haw. POUNCE on that airfare. I am signed up for travel programs and book hotels, flights and cars on points. My last three flights to Europe were completely free - all booked on points from using my credit cards. My hotels in recent stays have all been FREE - again, booked on points. I look at Vacationstogo's ninety day ticker for cheap last minute cruises. I look at flights that aren't direct from my local hub. It's just as easy to go Miami to Europe as it is Orlando to Europe. It's one extra drive south, or bus ride, or even a short haul cheapie flight. You have to think outside the box to leave that box. Let's say you want to end up in Madrid. Don't pay for the $1000 flight direct from your house to Madrid. Try a few days in Portugal on TAP airlines first. Get there direct, spend a few days exploring, and take a short haul budget airline from there like Ryan Air, Easy Jet or Vueling. Try Reykjavik's stopover program - they offer you flights to numerous places in Europe and allow for 2 or 3 night stays in Iceland for part of the deal. You get to Iceland, eat some whale or other blubberous offering, enjoy some cold dark days and then jump back on a flight to somewhere else. Again, think differently. Think globally.
Now I realize I just dropped a bunch of site names and knowledge and tricks that - don't worry - I will eventually type up in exhaustive detail for you. But mostly the takeaway here is to always take the road less traveled. Always choose the adventure over the safe path. I'm not saying go join a biker gang and dance braless in the streets, but I want you to open yourself to a new mindset that traveling IS achievable right now. Not someday. If you have physical limitations and fears, talk to someone about it. Take some Xanax or some Dramamine, get your COVID vaccine, wear a mask. I don't care. You will look back one day and realize exactly what Mark Twain wrote - you missed the boat. Life passed you by and you idly sat and watched it happen. Don't be that person. Get out there and TRAVEL MORE.
That's all from me today.
Always Pack Tissues
P.S. I know everyone has a different story to tell and different real reasons that may hold them back from traveling. Ya'll keep doing you. And in the meantime, I'll keeping trying to rattle the cages of everyone else living for someday. Today's the day! Book that trip!!!