A friend recently texted me, “I like that you guys do so much, but I like spending money on myself, too.”

When we see our friends at a party or dinner that we haven’t seen for awhile, we get the occasional, “Hey, world traveler!” It’s been a year since we’ve been out of the United States, and we still get that nickname. It’s a compliment we love to hear, but it makes me wonder, why can’t they be world travelers, too?

I know that traveling is something that my friends desire, but it seems so hard to reach. Most people’s excuse is money. Barely anyone ever has enough money. It’s understandable, but I’m a believer of, “If you really wanna do something, you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find excuses.” Wise words from my Uncle Nep that I will always remember. People have done amazing things and so can you.

Compared to other travelers, we are merely babies at the traveling experience. Some people are brave enough to leave their jobs and their homes for a year of traveling. We just started, and we are already regarded as “world travelers.” How can we afford to travel as much as we do?

Money Can Be Regained

Steph at twenty-somethingtravel.com wrote an article “Is the American Dream Holding You Back?” that mentioned, “there’s always a new phone, a nicer car, a bigger house to be aspiring to. The problem with the American Dream is it’s always slightly out of reach.”

She’s right. Ray and I just recently learned how to enjoy shopping. We’ve spent the past two years holding back on new clothes and new shoes to save money for the next trip. I will give away my purse before I give away my snowboard. A purse can make me look good, but a snowboarding trip will make me feel good. Not only am I proud that I learned a new skill, I can also look out from the top of the mountain and enjoy the view. I spend a weekend laughing with my friends, and a lifetime laughing at inside jokes. A purse will never give me that.

Wouldn't trade this experience

When I studied abroad in Spain, a lot of the other students and people we met have been to New York. They know a lot about other countries’ politics, their current weather news, and their futbol team rankings. Here, I’m surprised when I hear someone say, “Yeah, I’ve been to Europe.” People die of happiness if they hear that someone bought a ticket to another country. It’s like traveling is unheard of here. At least where I live, travelers are few and far between. We would love it if we could share these experiences with our friends.

Before I left for Spain, Ray told me, “You can always get money back, but you can never take back an experience you missed.” After I returned to US soil, I realized how true this is.

Work to Live

It could also be that the culture here isn’t about seeing other places. A recent article, “Why is America the ‘no-vacation nation’?” came out on CNN about how a typical American gets about two to three weeks of vacation a year while Germans get six weeks of paid vacation a year plus their holidays. Paid time off is mandated around the globe, and the United States is the only advanced nation that doesn’t guarantee its workers annual leave. Ray is a victim and got five days of vacation for the first year where he works. This is currently our biggest traveling nemesis.

Ray's Cubicle

My cousin, who lives in France, told me that French parents are required to take their kids on vacation out of the country every year. Managers make sure that vacation times are used. They know that families and life are more important than work. Work to live, not live to work.

The article even mentions the fact that Americans associate hardwork with success and happiness. This fact is probably the reason why a lot of the American comments on the article are filled with, “You can’t get anywhere if you’re lazy.” Where is “anywhere” really? Is it in your big house and your five cars? Is it in your credit card debt? Is it more time at work and less time with your kids? Is that where you wanna be? And then what? What are you gonna do in your big house? Spend all your money furnishing it? Spend all your time after work cleaning it?

We lavish in certain things, too. Like eating at restaurants, Ray’s electronics (boys will be boys), and we aspire to buy better cars. But we don’t make our whole lives based on getting these things. We work hard to climb the corporate ladder and be able to save up enough to get what we want. Yes, you can climb that ladder and still use up your vacation hours. We try to balance life and work to keep ourselves happy and excited. Otherwise, what else are you living for?

I texted back, “It’s up to you if you want the material things, or if you want the experience. Those materials will always be there if they don’t become obsolete, but these experiences may not always be around.” You can wait to get older to travel, but you may lack the energy or the drive to. There’s something for everyone, and for us, it’s experiencing life.

What’s stopping you from traveling?

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