How to Stay Motivated to Travel

| May 13, 2010 | 13 Comments
motivational How to Stay Motivated to Travel
The journey is the reward—indeed!

The good news—you’ve been bitten by the travel bug! The bad news? That was the easy part. Getting excited about travel is easy—it’s sustaining your excitement that can be difficult.

Confronted with a long wait, it’s not unusual to lose our motivation to travel, thereby making it difficult to stay focused on a goal that seems so far away. Over the past year, we’ve learned that our motivation waxes and wanes over time. So how have we stayed motivated in the intervening years while working towards our goal?

We’ve been saving up for our round-the-world trip since November 2008—and in earnest since March 2009. In fact, we’ve recently passed the halfway mark to our goal (check out our progress in the sidebar). And it hasn’t always been easy. So we thought we’d share with you a few of the methods we use to get and stay motivated while waiting for the long term payoff for all the sacrifices we’re making.

Of course, everyone is different, and each person will have their own formula to keep themselves on track. So while our article offers some possible solutions, it is up to you to make the right choices to keep yourself motivated. Maintaining motivation requires paying attention to your behaviour, listening to your instincts and learning how to encourage yourself as you progress towards your goal.

The difference between a goal and an objective

Here we think that it’s important to differentiate between an objective and a goal. That is, while your goal might be to take time off for long-term travel, your objective may be to gain a better understanding of the world in which you find yourself. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of those reasons is to explicitly recognize your progress. People tend to track progress automatically with most activities—like saving money, for example. But to stay motivated, we need to recognize our progress, not just track it. In our mind, ‘recognizing’ your progress is taking the time to look at the bigger picture and realizing how far you’ve come. It’s the difference, for example, between checking the balance in your savings account and assessing your personal growth. That being said, there’s a lot you can do alongside saving for your trip that will prepare you to travel. The personal growth afforded by travelling need not begin with your actual journey but should start as soon as you’ve made up your mind to take the plunge. Reading and travelling locally, for example. Or perhaps learning a language.

Armchair travel and adventure

Live vicariously! Embark on journeys across distance and time without leaving your couch! Check out blogs or read travelogues. Get inspired. Admire them (with caution, but do admire them). Reading about travel will make it more available to you and will fuel your efforts towards getting out there yourself. And of course, you are preparing yourself for the road, in mind and spirit! As far as books are concerned, I suggest a little Paul Theroux or Bill Bryson—especially Bryson! On the blog front, there’s a plethora of travel blogs available—check out some of the web’s most popular here. And be sure to check out those on our blogroll, here.

Travel locally

Don’t worry, we refuse to call it a ‘staycation’. But it’s worth mentioning as a great way to stay motivated to travel—practice travelling on the cheap by becoming a tourist in your own town. Instead of taking long-distance (and therefore more expensive) trips, why not explore some of the many options closer to home? We’ve read that most trips take place within 70 miles from home—which gives you a lot of room to roam! Plus, it’s good to know your area before setting out to see the world. While travelling through Asia, more than once Kathyrn and I were embarrassed to admit that we’d never been to visit the CN Tower, despite living in Toronto for the majority of our adult lives. Assured by people the world over that the view is fantastic, we’re planning to head downtown next weekend to check it out.

Surround yourself with travel

Susan Forshner from Transient Travels writes:

Hanging up a map of the world in your apartment or house is a constant reminder of where you’ve been and where you haven’t. My map hangs on the wall right behind the screen of my little Macbook. Flipping through the pages of a magazine or newspaper, with all the in depth stories and beautiful photos, is like flipping through old photos except instead of creating a feeling of longing for the past, it creates a yearning to go.

Be sure to check out the rest of Susan’s thought on the topic here. Like Susan, we’ve hung a map in our home office — and keep track of the cities, continents and countries we’ve visited with little colourful map pins. Moreover, we keep a copy of Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding on the back of our toilet. Classy, eh? To see what else is on the back of our toiler, check this post out.


It was former Beatle John Lennon who proclaimed in a song that “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Of course, Lennon was referring to the way so many people miss the important moments of life because they are too focused on other things to truly appreciate the moments as they pass by.

Lennon’s sentiment is echoed by Alfred D. Souza, who writes:

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”

Just remember — we all have a finite amount of time here on earth. So be sure to take stock of where you’ve been and where you’d like to go—often. When setting a goal with a long horizon, many of us tend to cruise through that time on autopilot, just hoping to get to the end so that we can get ‘started’.

We believe that it’s okay to sacrifice and to save and to wait — but do it mindfully and for good reason!

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About the Author ()

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. His latest book, The Physics of Flocking, gathers his favourite writing featured over the past two years on Two Go Round-The-World in columns like 'Looking Back' and 'The Whole Picture'—along with new reflections.

Comments (13)

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  1. Eli says:

    I’ve been thinking about my trip for over four years now, but the real “planning” began in the last twelve months. Creating a travel blog is a great way to keep up the motivation. I’ve made a strict budget for myself to make sure that I reach my savings goal in a reasonable amount of time. I think one of the biggest keys to staying motivated is to constantly remind yourself that every minute that goes by, you’re one minute closer to departure, especially when dealing with the day-to-day stress of working and saving.

  2. kathryn says:

    I like what you said Eli – it is important to remind yourself that although days can be stressful and sometimes difficult, you are only getting closer to the trip of a lifetime! Saving can be hard sometimes, especially when there is something you really want right now! I have to remind myself that money saved just goes to the trip..then everything is all good!

  3. Susan says:

    I’m so very honored that you included an excerpt of my post! And you’re so right about thinking in terms of the big picture.

  4. Shannon OD says:

    I definitely think that allowing yourself some fun and spending while your saving is also a big factor. Sticking to a tight budget can just sap all of the fun out of planning and prepping, particularly with a long term savings goal, so part of it is just remembering your travel savings goal, but also living right now, and making sure that you’re enjoying it. I pulled back on the budget a bit too tight when I was saving and it just made life no fun at all for a while!

  5. Candice says:

    I could be a professional armchair traveller. :) Motivation is key!

  6. Akila says:

    When I was anticipating the trip, I spent a lot of time poring through guidebooks and websites so that I would have ideas for my trip. Of course, I didn’t end up using half of the ideas but it kept me motivated!

  7. Linda says:

    The best way to stay motivated is to form group with same travel plans so that interest is always kept alive

  8. great and very helpful post for your fellow world travelers. Best, Dani and Bernie (aka BorderJumpers)

  9. Melanie says:

    Great post, you guys! Sometimes, in the middle of making flight arrangements, I get so frustrated that I’m ready to scrap a trip before I’ve even gotten started. But I find that four things keep us really motivated:

    -Working ridiculously late nights for about a week in a row
    -Driving around in L.A. rush hour traffic
    -Keeping travel magazines in the bathroom (clearly, we have a “great minds think alike” thing going on)
    -Putting up framed copies of our own travel photos

    Hard to feel unmotivated about travel when you’re looking at images of it every day. :)

  10. TravelholicA says:

    I totally agree about discovering your surroundings. When I don’t have the time and money for a longer/nicer trip I just take the train to the next small village and spend a day discovering it, talking to locals and taking pictures. I come back refreshed and feel like I had some holidays before another week start.

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