Life has so much to offer, but in the end, it's really what you make of it because it's your life and nobody else's.
In debt, living paycheck to paycheck, I nearly thought it impossible to live my dream life. To experience different cultures and their unique types of foods. To hike the jungle side by side with the elephants in Thailand. To relax on a hammock overlooking the Caño Cristales river in Colombia while smoking some of their finest marijuana. The list goes on, but as you can tell, I won't be able to do all that while living paycheck to paycheck, already scraping to get by as is... Or can I?
It's been seven years since I've had a good vacation, and it definitely showed. Life felt like a never-ending cycle of work, eat, sleep, repeat, which affected my work, relationships, and even my own self-image.
But everything's changed since then.
Recently I've discovered a way to do all of that and more - at least once a year! And I know that doesn't seem like much, but trust me, each trip will bring new experiences and a new perspective on life!
Much of the information in this article will probably seem basic at best, yet, it's a formulated plan proven to change your life for the better radically.
If you follow the steps below, you might find yourself sipping mimosas in Maui or relaxing at a spa somewhere in Bali sooner than you'd think. It's all up to you!
Step 1.) Pick a destination
So first and foremost, what do you want to do? Where do you want to go? If you knew that you could do it all, see it all, where's the first place you'd travel to and why? And remember, think big! Because a little nobody like myself growing up in a small town of middle-class hippies went from once a year 3-hour road trips to hiking side by side with elephants in Thailand, doing yoga in Bali, and sipping mimosas on the beaches in Maui. So where do you want to go?
For more inspiration on where to go or what to do, I'd recommend checking out the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts or even Sandals.com - not affiliate links, just FYI.
Step 2.) Visualize
Photo by Cece B on Unsplash Step two - and probably the most important step of them all - is to visualize arriving at your dream destination. Setting the expectation in your mind by feeling it already happening. If you picked a tropical destination, then maybe you'd imagine the smell of the ocean breeze, the warmth of the sun, and the gentle wind brushing through your hair. Imagine digging your feet in the sand, tasting the mimosa - I really love mimosas - and spending quality time with loved ones. I feel as if it's happening now, at this moment.
This is the only step on the list (besides step 8) that requires consistent practice. Set aside 5 minutes at least once a week to follow this practice. The more you practice visualizing your dream life - in the present tense - the closer it will become to reality, and the more determined you'll become to make it happen.
The last bit of advice I'll give you for your visualization practice before moving on is to snip out or print out a few images related to your dream vacation. Post them on your wall(s) on visible spots that you're sure to look at every morning and evening. Doing so will help contribute to your visualization practice just that much more.
Step 3.) Set a date
If you really want to travel and live your dream life, then please set a deadline. My wife and I generally take our big yearly vacation around our honeymoon in mid-May, so we set our deadline for May 1st. By that point, we should have all the necessary funds set aside, the trip booked, the stuff packed, and we're ready to go. Having a deadline brings a sense of urgency, but even more so, it reinforces the commitment to follow through.
These two quotes below say it the best.
"A dream without a plan is just a wish" - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"A plan without a deadline is just a dream" - Robert Herjavec
Repeat it with me; a dream without a plan is just a wish, and a plan without a deadline is nothing more than a fickle dream.
Okay, so you've set your deadline, now it's time to move on to step 4:
Step 4.) Open up a separate savings account
When saving for something big, it's generally best to keep the money separate from your regular funds. Out of sight, out of mind. So open up a separate savings account, preferably with a different bank than what you normally use.
If you really want to go the extra mile, try setting up a savings account at a local branch in a different County.
Most counties have their own local credit union, but you don't have to be a local to set up an account. The main benefit of doing so is that you won't have easy access to those funds. You might have to drive 2–3 hours to make a withdrawal or call customer service to initiate a transfer which often takes 2–3 days. Just having to take that extra step might be enough to resist the temptation of withdrawing the funds - and remember, this is the money that will make your dreams come true!
Another less tedious option, yet still effective, would be to set up online savings account with a trusted bank, like Chime or Capital One. I personally use Capital One's 360 savings account due to its higher-than-average APY.
Step 5.) Determine the cost
Now that you have your savings account set up, the next step is to determine the cost. How much will you need to make your dream vacation become a reality?
Now, this is usually the step where people - including myself - start to falter. I mean, especially those of us living paycheck to paycheck, setting aside a few hundred (or thousand) bucks every month might seem impossible. But it's not!
Before moving on, I should point out that this step right here is exactly why step number 2 (visualization) is so important. Simply looking at the cost to travel won't give you the motivation necessary to make it happen. In fact, it might do the opposite. Yet, visualizing, by taking a deep breath and spending a few moments to imagine what it will be like when you achieve your goal, will provide you with the motivation necessary to follow through on this 9 step process.
To determine how much you'll need to take your dream vacation, divide that over the time you have left (in months) between now and your deadline, which will show you exactly how much money needs to be set aside each month. Even if - at the moment - it feels like an unrealistic target, do it and move on to step number 6.
Step 6.) Set up automatic savings
Hopefully, you have direct deposit set up for your paychecks because this is the most effortless method for automatic savings. With most companies, you can edit your direct deposits, choosing whether all or some of your money will go into your primary checking account and if you'll deposit into one account or split your paycheck among multiple accounts. Fortunately, if this method isn't available to you, know that most banks have an option for automatic withdrawal, where a set amount of funds is transferred to a separate account - at either that bank or another - which is similar to the previous option, just a bit more tedious.
Now that you've determined the total cost in step five, as well as how much you'll need to save every month between now and your deadline, set it up! Log into your companies employee website or your bank account and set up an automatic withdrawal for either bi-weekly or monthly (preferably whenever you're paid). The sooner, the better.
You're almost there! Can you smell the breeze coming from the ocean? Can you feel the heat beneath your feet from the warm sand? Can you taste the mimosas? (I really, really love mimosas). If so, great! Because you've made it to the most exciting step of all.
Step 7.) Book your trip!
Because why not? You've picked your destination, set the deadline, and determined the necessary funds to make the trip. So book it! Unfortunately, some hotels/resorts require payment in full for reservations, but sometimes a quick call to customer service can change that! We could book our next vacation at a resort in Thailand without paying much upfront - even less since we booked it a year in advance!
If possible, I would also book your plane tickets (if flying) as far in advance as possible. You'll definitely save some big bucks by doing so!
I mean, you could wait until the last minute to make your reservations, or you could get it set up now, so all you have to focus on from here till then is:
Step 8.) Hustle, Hustle, Hustle
Like no tomorrow! You've chosen your destination, set the deadline, determined the required funds, and (hopefully) made your reservations in advance. Now the only thing left to do is put in the work.
Think about it for a second; you were already working anyways, slaving away at the 9–5 with nothing really to look forward to besides maybe the next episode of Lucifer on Netflix and an ice-cold beer after work. But now you have something to look forward to. Something big. That should be all the motivation you need to step your game up and make your dream a reality.
Maybe you determined that you'll need to set aside $800/month for the next 12 months to take that trip to the sacred temples in Indonesia or Sandal's five-star resort in the Maldives, but maybe you can only afford to set aside $300 every month. Then, I'd ask you how bad you wanted it.
- How bad do you want to experience the life of your dreams?
- Is it worth a little extra hustle?
- Some focused discipline?
I say yes!
So ask yourself, what can you do to make sure that your dreams become a reality? Maybe that means picking up a second job or really buckling down with your current job to ask for a promotion down the road. Maybe that means getting serious about writing and making money on Medium. Whatever you have to do to live the life of your dreams, do it without hesitation, knowing that you're one step closer to experiencing all that life has to offer.
Step 9.) Have fun!
You did it! With Step 1–8 complete, the last step on your list is to go out there and have a blast! Soak in the sunshine, surf the waves, socialize with the locals, eat different foods, wrestle with some monkeys, ride the elephants, and most important of all, don't limit yourself!
Life is what you make it, and if you made it to step 9 in this article, then the only thing left to do is make it a good one!
Step 10.) Repeat?
It's up to you what you do next! I believe that this 9 (I guess 10) step process will radically change your life by exposing you to all that life has to offer. Life is so much more than a constant struggle, a 9–5 grind. Life is what you make it, so make it a good one, and take a vacation!