On Making Travel Happen Mentally

Making Travel Happen Mentally

A long while ago, my dear blog friends, Disa and Valla, put in a request asking me to share a few tips on how Charles and I make travel happen financially. That post is coming next Tuesday because after much reflection, I believe there are certain mental barriers about travel that need to be addressed before we can even get into the conversation of money.

Today’s post is all about making travel happen mentally based on my personal experience as an American traveler who also happens to be female and of color.

With that said, I’ve listed below the top 5 mental barriers I had to overcome before I could truly make travel a reality for myself.

Make sure to grab a cup of tea or coffee and get comfy because today’s post is long one!

Mental Barrier #1: Travel Is Above You

Growing up and living in the working middle class, I always thought travel was above me. It was something other people did. Not me. And to be completely honest, up until I was about 24 (a good 5 years ago), I seriously thought that travel was beyond the reach of what I could aspire to do.

But it’s not. It’s actually something that became very attainable once my mindset changed and I started to believe I could travel.

Travel is a Privilege… This is a phrase I heard often growing up as a young adult. And it’s true in that one must have the means and opportunity to travel.

But this privilege associated with traveling is more than just about having the means and opportunity. This privilege also encompasses having an internal affirmation that you have just as much a right to travel as the next person. Without this internal affirmation, it doesn’t matter whether you have the means or opportunity. You are not going to travel no matter how much you say or think you want to if you don’t believe that you are worthy of having such an experience.

This is why it’s soo important to break down the mental barrier of believing that travel is above you. Because it. is. not.

Mental Barrier #2:  The World Won’t Accept You As You Are

I can’t tell you how many times growing up as a teenager, I scoured travel books and websites in search of stories and/or images of colored American people who traveled. I found none.

Thankfully this is changing rapidly as a result of the growing web and social media – hello awesome list of 15 multicultural travel bloggers and travel books by people of color. But as a teenager, this lack of representation made me wonder apprehensively about how people would react if I showed up on their side of the world. Would I be welcomed? Or would I be discriminated against because I was 1) American 2) female  and/or 3) of color?

Case in point:

A couple years ago, Charles and I had considered traveling to Iceland before ultimately deciding to go on a 3 city tour through Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona. When we did our initial research, we searched for travel videos on Youtube and it wasn’t until the 4th video we saw, which had footage of a black traveler visiting Iceland, that Charles said, “Okay. I can get down with Iceland. If he can go, I can go.”

Heck, even last summer when Charles and I told our friends in passing that we were traveling up to Maine to visit my family, their reaction was, “Really? Maine? The whitest state in America?” And each time, we responded, “Yes, Maine. We’re going and you should consider planning a visit too.”

Obviously, I have no misgivings about visiting Maine since I have a personal attachment so it was interesting to see some of our friends react this way. Interesting but not a surprise because in general, people tend to travel to places they know other people who look like and act like them have traveled to as well. Where they know there is a guarantee they will be welcomed. And Iceland and Maine aren’t typical places you see people of color traveling to.

If there’s anything travel has taught me, it’s that the nationality and skin color of any given country, state or city’s people does not directly correlate with their mindset and how they respond to “outsiders”.  In all of our #blackandyellowtravels, Charles and I have yet to experience a negative interaction where we didn’t feel welcome.

Don’t get me wrong, we are always very aware and prepared for the possibility that we may face discrimination or racism when traveling but we can’t and don’t let that possibility stop us from going in the first place.

The places you decide to travel to should not be dictated by whether or not you think the world will accept you. What matters is that you accept you as you are and that when you do travel, you take pride in the role you play as an ambassador of your country and people. #represent

Mental Barrier #3: Traveling Internationally Is The Only Kind Of “Real Travel”

Nope. Nada. Don’t let your mind close you off to the wonderful possibilities of local/domestic travel by thinking like that.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, travel is simply defined as “to go on a trip or journey: to go to a place especially one that is far away.”

There is nothing in this definition which dictates that “far away” has to be across the ocean. Far away could mean 5-30 minutes from where you live or maybe a 2-3 hour flight to another state.

It’s important to remember that for all the Americans who travel abroad, there are just as many international travelers (if not more) who travel to the U.S. to explore it’s uniquely, diverse history, cities and landmarks.

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Travel is travel is travel is travel and sometimes the best travel experiences happen in your own backyard.

Not sure where to begin in your journey to become a local tourist?

Start by checking out your town or city’s official tourism website to see what your area has to offer. Google “places to see and eat in” your locale. You may be be surprised by what you find.

I also recommend checking out Polly’s awesome blog, Let’s Love Local, which provides creative, offbeat inspiration for local travel. Every Friday, she proposes a local weekend adventure challenge aimed to motivate you to get out of the house and discover what’s amazing about where you are, wherever you may be. I always love visiting her blog for inspiration whenever I’m in a local travel rut.

Mental Barrier #4: Fear Of The Unknown

Fear is a mental barrier that holds many people back from turning their dreams into reality. In this particular case, the dream we’re talking about comes with certain risks that some may feel is not worth the experience.

Below are some of my travel related fears:

– Coming into harm while traveling alone as a female
– Traveling to a place where English isn’t spoken and getting lost
– Experiencing discrimination and/or racism
– Terrorism (both abroad and domestically)
– Being far away from my family and friends in case of an emergency

The common factor between the fears I have associated with traveling is that they are all possibilities. There is no guarantee that any of my fears will come to fruition.

As Charles likes to say, why worry about something that might never happen especially when I know the pros of traveling outweigh the possible cons. Emphasis on possible.

It should be noted that fear of the unknown is normal. But instead of allowing my fears to hold me back from traveling, I use it as motivation to better prepare myself for “just in case”.

For example:

Whenever Charles and I travel, I always create a detailed itinerary that includes information about our flights, accommodations, tours we’ve booked, etc. and I send this itinerary to our immediate family members so they know where we are and how to reach us in case of an emergency. I also keep a paper copy of important phone numbers and email addresses on me in case my phone dies and I need to contact someone. These are things that make me feel more at ease about going on a trip.

Traveling into the world that exists beyond your comfort zone is a big step. But all you need to do is take one… One step to simply begin. And yes, the first step is always the hardest but trust me when I say it’s worth it, especially if travel is something you really want to do.

I can guarantee that once you get past the initial step of overcoming your fears and booking that first trip, the next couple of travel experiences become easier and are filled with less fear as the unfamiliarity of traveling becomes familiar. Before you know it, you may find yourself casually sprinting through the motions of making travel happen over and over again a.k.a Congratulations! You are officially a travel addict.

Mental Barrier #5: You Don’t Make Enough Money To Travel 

Raise your hand if you have a job, can satisfy your basic needs and still have money leftover to:

– Get Starbucks every morning
– Eat out for breakfast, lunch or dinner
– Buy new clothes or shoes that aren’t essential

Did you raise your hand for any of the options listed above? If yes then you, my friend, do make enough money to travel.

What you may be missing that is holding you back from making travel a reality is:

– A proper timeline for planning
– A realistic budget
– Discipline/ willingness to sacrifice the extra comforts in life that you spend money on (but don’t need) so you can save for travel

And it’s okay. I used to believe I didn’t make enough money to travel as well because of these reasons. It wasn’t until I sat down and got honest with myself about how I was spending my money that I was able to fully grasp just how much of my income could be directed towards travel.

Before I go any further I think this is a good place to pause since I plan to dive deeper into how Charles and I make travel happen financially next Tuesday. If you made it all the way through to the end of this post – You Da Best!

With that said, I leave you this lyric from one of my favorite songs that’s been replaying in in my head as I write this post: Free Your Mind and The Rest Will Follow.

{linking up w/ travel tuesday}

  • Mandy

    Fantastic blog post! I grew up with the same mindset – I wasn’t affluent enough to travel. But then a friend traveled from overseas to my wedding. That was my breakthrough. You can have hang ups about traveling all you want, but you shouldn’t have hangups about supporting friends. If he could travel to my wedding, I should be able to pull together the funds to travel to his. And now I can’t get enough of traveling – overseas and domestic. I have so many places I want to go! I look forward to seeing your continuation next Tuesday! :)

    • Thanks Mandy! I’m so glad that you had a breakthrough with your mental barrier and made travel a reality! It really is true that once you start traveling, you can’t stop. The list of places to visit just keeps growing and growing and growing haha. xo

  • Great post! You’re right – the first step is overcoming mental blocks. I also agree that local/U.S. travel also gets overlooked and most people would be surprised by just how much there is to see and do right in their own backyards. My hubs and I are actually heading off to do a bit of backyard exploration today! It’s how we fill in the gaps between our trips abroad and keep our sanity – lol. Because wanderlust is no joke!

    • Thank you Dana! I’m definitely working on being a better resident tourist. What with the weather warming up, I have no excuse to not get out and explore more of the D.C. area. And it’s sooo true, wanderlust is no joke!!! xo

  • I definitely agree that we need to overcome this in order to travel, and not doing something you usually do (like eating out) will help get you on your next trip!
    Thanks for linking up with #TravelTuesda!

    • Oh yes, not eating out can really make the difference in making travel happen! Thanks for hosting the linkup Diana!

  • love this post! and I have definitely struggled with all of these things at one time or another. when I really decided to make travel a priority for me it was so much easier to cut back in other ways. I don’t get bi-weekly manicures or get fancy lattes ever because to me i know i could be using that money for travel and that excites me so much more than gel nails and overpriced coffee.

    • I totally agree Carrie! Once you make travel a priority, it’s much easier to cut back on unnecessary expenses :) xo

  • Hello, and welcome to Travel Tuesday! I LOVE THIS POST. Which means you are probably awesome, too!!! I have totally gone through each of the stages you listed, right around when I was 24/25 years old, as well. You hit the nail on the head in every way, and I’m sharing your post with the world. Thanks for linking up with us, and hope to see more!!! You crushed it!

    • Thank you Christy/ Swags!!! <- not sure which one you prefer to go by? :) I'm glad you can relate to the points I made and crazy that we both came to the same realization around the same age haha. Definitely will be linking up more now that I'm back in the blogging zone! xo

      • Haha, you’re welcome! Swags is just easier for people to remember and spell. :D Awesome, can’t wait to see more!

  • Hi Setarra! I’m so glad I found your blog through Travel Tuesday! I really love this post. It’s so true that you have to overcome the mental block first before even worrying about the finances! And I completely agree that international travel is not the only kind! Exploring your own backyard is just as important and could be just as rewarding. And I admire you that you’re not letting skin color affect your decisions on where to go. I love that you said that it’s important to accept yourself first and represent your people. :) I’ll be sharing on Twitter!

    • Hi Anna! Welcome – happy to make your acquaintance! :) And thank you! I felt like most of the “how to make travel happen” posts I’ve read have focused mostly on the financial aspect which is why I wrote this post. It’s crazy how much our mindset plays a role in everything we do, whether we realize it or not, which is why it’s soo important to be self aware of how our thoughts might be holding us back in life. xo

  • Whitney

    I LOVE this!! I have a friend who travels all the time, domestically and internationally and I have always felt your first point. That travel was for everyone but me. Or I’d tell myself when Boomer was older. Well now she is 9, and darnit we are doing some day trips for her spring break in a few weeks. I’m also getting my passport this year for a wedding in Mexico, and I’m planning on putting some stamps in it sooner rather than later. Great post. By the way, the traveling friend (who is Black) just recently got back from Iceland and loved it!

    • Yessss! Simple getting a passport will open doors for you I swear. I also think it’s great that your exposing Boomer to travel at a young age, such a great experience for her! And we def want to make it to Iceland at some point, hopefully sooner than later :) xo

  • You know what? I never even thought about the mental impact of what traveling outside the U.S. can do to you and I’m glad you started with this post first!

    My main thing I need to over come in #5! When I see how some of my friends travel and I’m like I wish I can do the same when in all reality I can I just really have budget myself more and really cut back on the spending and figure out how to prioritize my bills where I can see the grey area to start saving.

    • Oh yes, our minds can really hold us back if we aren’t aware of the way our subconscious thoughts control our actions. And I’m doing final edits on Tuesday’s post about travel & finances today! I really hope it’s helpful! :)

  • I’m so late here, but the point about exploring your current surroundings is so important. There are so many hidden gems around every city. One of my favorite things to do is discover the downtown areas of small cities. The ones where everything is on “Main Street,” or “Central Avenue.” I could walk up and down a Main Street for hours, dipping in and out of little shops, and it can really feel like an escape.

    Can’t wait for more posts in this travel series!

    • I totally agree. I especially love areas of small cities where the outside of business buildings are historically preserved and super charming. I could walk around forever. And I know it took me awhile to finally get these posts up but thanks for asking me share this info in the first place. I wouldn’t have thought to breakdown on how I make travel happen financially or mentally had you not asked. So yea, thanks Disa! :)