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There’s never a right time to travel in our lives. When we are young, we have the energy and the time, but not the means. When we are middle aged, we have the means and the energy, but not the time. And when we are old, we have the time and the means, but not the energy.
What this quote makes me realize is that no matter when we decide to travel in our lives, there will always be some kind of sacrifice. If you’re young, then you have to be willing to take some financial risk. If you’re middle-aged and have a family, you have to ditch job security and carve enough time to make travel a priority for your family. And lastly, when you’re old you have to be willing to risk your physical well-being for some of the risks that travel might bring.
Not too long ago, I received an email from an older woman who had read our blog that said this.
“First I would like to tell you how much I envy you for being able to do what you are doing. I have always wanted to do it but life has a way of getting in the way. I have always loved seeing and doing new things and had that opportunity when I was still working. I worked overseas for a long time and saw most all the things that interested me in countries like: Japan, England, France, Germany, Holland.. you get the picture.
I have not traveled much in the United States and keep thinking that it may now be possible. I could sell my house and all my stuff and buy a nice (hopefully a bit newer) RV and hope it would be more reliable; I can not afford both and what would be the point of doubling my responsibilities as I want life to be more simple. The reason I am writing you is for your opinion after I explain. I am an active, healthy 76 year old single female. I would be traveling alone most of the time and would have no trouble driving an RV. I have 3 children that say I am too old to do this. I don’t intend to drive every single day; I would like to stop, see things, stay awhile and then move on to another place when I feel ready.
I want to know how hard it is to stop and set the RV up and how much trouble it is to unhook it all again. Is help available and is this something that I might not be able to accomplish without help. I know there are things I am not aware of and am not considering that may make this not a good choice for me and this is what I need to know. I am now living in North Carolina for the last 10 years and I love it. I am not trying to run away from myself or any problems. I have many good friends and attend a church that I love but right now the choice is: staying in my house until I may have to go to a senior living complex and wait to die, or take a chance at a dream that may still be possible. Waiting to hear from you.
This was probably one of my favorite emails that I’ve ever received. The part that really stuck out to me was the last line, “now the choice is: staying in my house until I may have to go to a senior living complex and wait to die, or take a chance at a dream that may still be possible.”
Her email made me realize the difficult choices that we’ll all have to face one day in our old age. Do we take a chance at chasing our dream while it’s still possible, or do we simply wait to die?
Before anyone takes a risk like traveling, there are always difficult questions sifting around in their mind. Should I quit this job I hate and finally go and travel? Should I wait until we have some kind of financial security before going on a trip?
Before we hit the road last year, I felt all of these questions haunting me. The choice to venture to all 50 states was one of the scariest decisions I ever made, hitting the road four days after my wedding with no job security (literally) and a big dream. It would have been so easy to stay and not go. Nobody would have blamed us if we had backed out.
Now, 14 months later and having experienced all the joy and adventure we did on the road, I couldn’t imagined not having went. It almost seems crazy to me that we would have stayed in Austin and kept at business per usual.
It made me think, what were those huge scary things that almost held me back from the adventure of a lifetime? What was I thinking before we hit the road that might have caused me to stay?
- Fear. I was afraid. Afraid of the unknown. Was it safe out there? I knew I really wanted adventure in my life, I really did. But what would happen if we hit the road and something happened to my new wife? I wouldn’t forgive myself. Also, what about my career? Maybe it’s irresponsible to up and travel around, my career will probably take a hit and I’ll be behind the eight ball. What happens if I run out of money and have to come home with my tail in between my legs?
- The opinions of others. I was afraid of what people would think about me. My boss. My parents. My in-laws. What would they think of me traveling around the country? Nobody would take me seriously as an entrepreneur. Or even worse, what if I kept traveling and my friends became too envious of me? Then all my friends would hate me. What happens if I fail and have to come home, what will everyone think of me?
- Freaking logistics. Okay, so say I got over the fear of failing, running out of money and having an awful career. Also, assume that I could somehow get over the fear of what others might think of me. What about the logistics of travel? How would we travel? Would we need to buy an RV, a dependable car, or what happened if we were in the middle of nowhere and we broke down with no cell phone service? Also, how would we make enough money on the road? How would I pay off my student debt?
All of these questions haunted me before we hit the road. They dared me to challenge them. I was nervous and terrified. But ultimately it came down to one question that helped me overcome all of these irrational and childish fears. This one question helped guide me to the answer and clarity that I needed in order to make the first step and hit the road.
What if I don’t go?
What if I don’t go?…I kept mulling over this question in my mind. I closed my eyes, and imagined myself at 76 years old like the woman who recently emailed me. I tried to imagine my fingers wrinkly, my body growing old, and I literally tried to convince myself that I was an old man. Then I asked myself another question, what do I regret in my life at this age? I would regret not living a life that felt true to myself. I would have regretted not chasing after what I wanted most in life because of something as petty as the opinions of other people.
And if were able to give advice to the 23 year old version of Heath, what would I say?
I would tell him to go.
I put in my two weeks, we planned, we bought an RV, we found a sponsor, and in the past 14 months we’ve traveled to all 50 states (including an epic RV road trip to Alaska). After all, we had the energy and the time to adapt to the traveling lifestyle.
The “means” that I had been so afraid of figuring out, ended up working out fine in the end. We found freelance work and discovered our passion for writing and online marketing. And we DID end up breaking down in the middle of the desert in Arizona (just like I was so afraid of), but it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life and a highlight of our trip. And we DID almost run out of money 5 months into our trip. That caused me a bit of a nervous breakdown, which I then recovered from and it gave me a ton of perspective on how to appreciate the rest of my journey and not be so damn afraid.
My favorite all-time book is The Alchemist, and I love this quote about the fear of suffering.
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
Some of the things I had been so afraid of when I thought about traveling to all 50 states, like breaking down and running low on money, actually happened. But they hadn’t happened like I imagined. When I imagined them happening as a possible scenario, it seemed like all hope would be lost, I would look like a miserable failure, and everyone would be pointing and laughing at me.
It seemed like that because our minds try to convince us that things will be so much worse than they really are. Our mind plays out the worst case scenario that could possibly happen and it scares us to the point of inaction. But in my own story when the “scary parts” actually happened, they were the moments Alyssa and I grew closer and matured. And in hindsight each one of these scary moments helped give Hourly America a flavor it wouldn’t have had if everything was peachy.
This is because we don’t grow when things are comfortable and easy, we grow in adversity.
I still agree with the first quote I shared at the beginning of this post, there never really is a good time to travel. No matter when you decide to hit the road, you will face problems. You’ll face mechanical obstacles, mental obstacles, financial obstacles, and social pressure from your friends and family when they’re telling you that you might be crazy.
The stars will never align and the travel fairy is never going to show up at your doorstep, telling you it’s time to sell all your things and hit the road. There will ALWAYS be something holding you back and a reason to stay. So the question you should ask yourself, isn’t WHEN is the right time to travel? The question you should ask yourself is, what if I don’t go?