Growing up in Elizabethtown, KY, I was the girl with Eiffel Tower notebooks and bucket lists that took inventory of all the great sites in Europe. When I was 17, I got my passport and spent three weeks traveling France, Italy and Malta with the People 2 People ambassadors. After that, I went three years without stepping foot on a plane and almost eight years without stepping foot on foreign soil.
In my family, vacation was a road trip to Cumberland Falls for a few days. We went to Florida and Chicago a few times when I was younger, but the older I got the less distance we covered. My parents are affirmed homebodies, and the people I knew who did travel farther did so lavishly. I didn’t have enough money for that, and I convinced myself that I couldn’t afford to study abroad in undergrad.
…which was stupid.
Waiting for the time to be right
Travel would just have to wait until I could prove myself financially worthy for it, right? Is this not the same story so many others tell themselves?
In early 2015, I went to Germany for a graduate class. When I returned from this week abroad, an acquaintance asked me how my trip was, and I responded, “It was great! I’m going back.” The thought had not formulated in my head before I said the words to Sara. It was as if my tongue was highjacked to say something I was too stubborn (maybe afraid) to acknowledge.
I wanted to travel, and the older I became, the frailer the “good reasons to wait,” in turn, became.
I was once part of the 64% of Americans that have never left the U.S.
Americans just don’t have passports
According to the US Census Bureau, only 42% of Americans had a passport in 2017. Some of the more popular reasons for not having a passport are:
- Can’t afford international travel.
- Don’t have the time off work.
- Fear of traveling.
- Desire to travel around the U.S. first.
To this last point, an American doesn’t need a passport to travel extensively. The U.S. is a big, beautiful and diverse country. One could spend a lifetime exploring the 50 states and still never see it all.
However, there is value in leaving the sovereignty of America that goes beyond a change of scenery. Travel opens up experiences and world-wonders one cannot even image. Traveling, you meet people and opinions and cultures that challenge your understanding of the world and your place in it. The value of travel has been repeated so often it could be considered cliché. But clichés are cliché because they are true, yeah?
Hiding behind excuses
Recently, a friend volunteered interest in traveling with me. We talk about details for a bit then she decided she couldn’t take any more time off work; she couldn’t afford it; her boyfriend wouldn’t be happy about her leaving. She presented these excuses to me as handcuffs; things beyond her control that kept her from doing what she wanted
I know these arguments well; they were my arguments once. But while these reason seems irrefutable, they are excuses that only have the power we give them. We give the excuses power until they become walls behind which we can hide. This applies to travel, but it also applies to anything. For some reason, we are hesitant to invest time and money into the things we want in life, whether that be travel, education, or a skill.
It would be very easy for me to look at the last four years of my life and underline all the things I haven’t accomplished—no new, fulfilling job; no partner, no new home; I haven’t even written that much. But all the things I don’t have are the things I’ve sacrificed for my life. The concern for money and time off work are not obstacles I’ve overcoming; they are details I have managed.
Others may cite sickness or children or dozens other responsibilities, to which I can provide examples for others who have shouldered the weight of the same and managed the carry it around the world with them. I follow a travel blogger who travels around the world between her cancer treatments. I’ve meet families who are on round-the-world trips with young children, homeschooling them from hotels and overnight buses.
If you want something badly enough–in my case, I wanted travel–there is no reason to give an excuse power to control your life.
Basically, if you want to do something but you have a list of reason why you’re not doing the thing, I’m calling your bluff: those reasons are excuses.