Is travel important to you? It is for me. And I’m not alone.

Statistics show that most people add “travel more” to their retirement plans. Most people list it in their “top 5” category of things to do once they have more time.

I recently traveled to New Zealand. I spent one month touring both the North and South Islands.

And I don’t consider this to be a once in a lifetime trip.

I’m not independently wealthy. I’ve been self-employed for most of my life, so I don’t have a large pension waiting for me. I don’t have relatives who are going to leave me millions someday.

But I’ve made travel a priority. And this is how I do it.

I Wish I Could Travel Forever

I was comparing notes with a woman in my workout class about our recent trips.

She spent two weeks in Italy.

“I loved it! I just need to find a way to do it more. If only I were independently wealthy.”

“It’s so expensive! But the food. Being waited on. The sites. Ah, a life of luxury!”

I went back with:

“I just returned from New Zealand. I spent a month touring the islands.”

She had this “wow” look on her face. A month? I get that a lot.

She wasn’t alone.

Leading up to my trip, I frequently would tell people about my plans. And the reaction was always the same. A month? How is that possible?

Our Culture Says No To Vacations

Americans have this drive to work more. No matter how technology grows, how much more efficient we become, we fill our days with more work, work, work.

I have a slightly different perspective after watching my dad die of a massive heart attack at the age of 54, thanks to work-related stress.

The studies prove that taking time away does a body good. A University of Helsinki professor recently presented the results from a study following male businessman’s lives. The study found that nothing beat taking vacations every year. Even the control group that made a concerted effort to improve their lifestyles died much earlier than the control group who took regular vacations.

Still, Americans don’t believe in time off.

  • Nearly one in four companies offer no time off to their workers.
  • The average American receives 10 days per year. By contrast, Europeans receive at least 20 days, with many now requiring a minimum of 25 to 30 days per year.

But I think that’s changing. Retirees are making it a priority. Even millennials are changing the status quo and heading out of town as much as they possibly can.

I think a lot of that stems from easier travel. I have this conversation a lot with my daughter. When I was her age, I’d never even heard of studying abroad. Now it’s available to almost every student in college.

And many countries were closed off from travel, even just a few short decades ago.

Spreading democracy has made it easier. Cheaper travel has made it easier. Which is why more than half – 56 percent – of all millennials will tell you they are planning to travel this summer, compared to just 35 percent of Gen Xers and 22 percent of Baby Boomers.

How To Travel More

I’m a Gen Xer that has made travel a priority. I sold my forever home and downsized for a chance at slow traveling the rest of my life. I got rid of two-thirds of my stuff. I currently rent a little place down by the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.

And I’ve never been happier in my life.

I had the 3300 square foot home in the suburbs. The quarter-acre of property took all my time in the summer. The upkeep of the house took the rest of the time – adding a new roof, replacing the furnace, remodeling the bathrooms. It cost a lot of money.

Now I live in 1100 square feet. If it’s in my house, it has a purpose.

And I have multiple trips on the calendar at any given time.

This year:

  • A weekend in Seattle
  • Six days in Austin
  • One month in New Zealand
  • A weekend in Bainbridge Island
  • A weekend in Las Vegas
  • Another weekend in Seattle

And that’s all in the first five months of the year!

I look at my travel schedule as my life – it’s the lifestyle I’ve chosen. Because every time I go someplace new, or even revisit places I’ve been to trying out new things, I learn a little more about me and how I fit into this great big world.

You can’t travel and not change who you are. It makes you a better person. It connects you to others in a way you never get sitting at home on your couch watching the news. It brings out your creativity and drives you to become somebody new.

What I Learned In New Zealand

I stepped off the plane in Christchurch. I never expected the unthinkable to happen. But as I wandered around that beautiful city, I saw a different approach to a worldwide problem.

 

We drove from Christchurch to Queenstown. We hiked. We took in Milford Sound. We walked in an area a portion of The Lord of the Rings was filmed. The beauty was indescribable. In much the same way you can never really convey the size of the Duomo in Florence, Italy to someone who has never been there, it’s impossible to tell someone about the vastness of the hills and valleys in New Zealand. They left me in awe as we spent hours driving through this majestic countryside.

We flew to Auckland and explored the city. The restaurants – the parks – even the museums and the zoo had us falling in love with the culture.

Napier is completely worth the drive. Every turn left me breathless – speechless – as we pulled into this magical town at dusk. We had several days to explore a place that time seemed to forget. It’s the only place in the world that was completely rebuilt during the Great Depression. When the rest of the world had no money to build, Napier had little choice after a devastating earthquake. So the Art Deco period lives on in the buildings and homes.

A drive north had us discovering Whangarei. We explored a subtropical rainforest. I found one of the best Airbnb’s I’ve ever stayed in.

A drive to the east coast had us discovering the Coromandel Peninsula. I collected seashells every morning on my walk, thinking, dreaming, planning. We visited Hot Beach – a place where you can dig your own hot tub in the sand during low tide. We took a ferry to Ferry Island, and had one of the best meals on our trip. We spent a day searching for one of the top beaches in the world, and once again turned a corner and said: Whoa!!! It was the most breathtaking view I’ve ever seen. I’m almost embarrassed by the photo because it can never compare … (And I’m NOT including it here!)

And right before we left, we stayed in a fun, eclectic hotel right by the airport. The vegetarian options were perfect for a couple of weary travelers.

There’s a lot more in this world I want to explore. But I’d return to New Zealand in a heartbeat.

It may have taken over 15 hours of flight time from my Portland home, but the final destination was worth it on every level possible.