Thoughts about travel and local fun

I've been getting a  lot of questions lately about things that I do, and by do I mean mostly travel. Since I am taking two phenomenal trips basically back to back, I think that is the reason for the increased chatter. The questions usually go something like this, "How do you get to travel so much?" "How do you get so much vacation time?" "Isn't it so expensive?" "Do you go alone?" etc etc. So, I'll start by saying this, I am very blessed to have a good job for starters, but the rest is a matter of interest, priority and perspective. I try to live pretty simply ( I don't have a TV, microwave, land line or own property), I try not to purchase too many extravagant things. Every time I go to make a purchase I ask myself if the money would be better spent towards traveling, the answer is usually yes. I don't always listen to myself, but I always ask the question and it does help me save. I also lived at home for a long time in my 20s, people knock it but it's a phenomenal way to save (thank you Mom and Dad for letting me do that). I don't have much of a social life at home, huge savings. And lastly, I am single without a family of my own to support, so that helps too. Do it while you are young and unattached as they say, but I also think travel is in my blood.  This is not to say that all of those things need to be true for you to travel. These just happen to be my circumstances and how I do it right now. Everyone has different circumstances to be worked with and needs to examine it under their own microscope. But the real reason for my travel habit is that I make it a priority in my life.

I don't really get more vacation time than most people, I think I just use it differently. I get 2-3 weeks a year, which might be slightly more the average person (in the U.S.), but some industries offer up to five, so I feel like I am somewhere in the middle. I also don't really vacation, I travel. I don't know how to go sit on a beach in a sunny place for a week. I mean I could do it, but for me and my personality it isn't a good use of my time. I do relax while traveling, but relaxing takes many different forms for me. Everyone has a different version of what relaxing and vacation means to them, and if you aren't happy with what that looks like for you, explore it in depth and see what you can do to change it so that it does work for you, whatever that means. When it comes to time off, what is your priority?

The money factor is usually the biggest one when it comes to the reason people don't travel. In these economic times, and in general, it is a steadfast and true one. A lot of people don't have the money to travel, which I am not naive to. They have other priorities or circumstances which prevent it. I always hope that people who truly are interested in travel, will be able to down the road since circumstances are always shifting and evolving. But if you just bought a 50" TV and then complain about not having the money to travel, then that is a choice you made based on your own priorities.

With all that said, there is always a cheaper way to travel than you think. When I travel I cook most of my own meals and I stay in hostels and budget accommodations. It is pretty rare that I stay in a hotel, although I have a bit lately. I don't really drink when I am traveling which is also a huge savings and a relief in the morning. I try to save on the things I can on the road so that I can enjoy the things that cost a bit more and are worth it to me.

Travel has become much easier and more popular than ever and there are tons of great deals out there, where there used to be much fewer. There is always savings to be had if you know where to look for it and have some patience. I highly recommend Nomadic Matt's blog for tons of tips on doing it all on the cheap. He has also started to send out deal emails. Boots N'All Travel is another great site with a lot of ideas.  Really there are tons of sites out there for you to get your feet wet into budget travel. I am no expert at all on budget travel, but there is so much information out there if you look for it. Think about house sitting, couch surfing, hostels and more for savings on accommodations. If you have a credit card with points, use them!

So the whole point of this post, before it veered way off topic, was to show that there are also great things that you can do locally, it doesn't always have to be high intensity travel. The same type of mindset that helps you go out and travel can help you explore at home. Travel, to me, is really about exploring and a curiosity about other people and their lives. That perspective lends itself to being able to "travel" anywhere, even in your own backyard. With a little bit of interest, curiosity and an open mind, you can find things in your area, like what I found this weekend, Tibetan Monks making a sand mandala. It was a mere 15 minutes from my house and a wonderful FREE experience. I feel like there is always so much going on in our lives, that sometime we can forget to look close to home, but if we keep our eyes, ears and hearts open, there is always something new right around the corner, near or far, home or abroad. What can you find in your own backyard? Explore. Learn. Enjoy.

The most experienced monk at this particular mandala making. They say he has a PhD in mandala. 
The detail is stunning. iphone pictures don't do it any justice.