For 9 months now, Misha and I have been speaking with friends, family and strangers about our impending adventure to travel the United States. The typical reactions we hear are: “I’m so jealous,” “I wish I was brave enough,” and “This is the time to do it; I regret not having done it myself.” Instead of wishing or regretting this idea, you can make it a reality. Here’s how:
Step 1: Daydream
This is the easiest step, as we are already experts at this. That’s the beauty of being human – we are born with the innate ability to daydream. You’ll catch yourself daydreaming about various topics throughout a day. Need be, guide these thoughts towards more productive ones – thoughts about traveling the country. The more you do this, the more you strengthen your desire to travel. Misha and I had no issue daydreaming. Eventually we got tired of daydreaming and decided to make our dreams reality.
Step 2: Ease Your Worries
We are also born with the innate ability to worry. Worrying can interfere with taking risks. The best solution to ease your worries is to talk about them. Make a list of all your worries and discuss them with someone able to give realistic advice. This was the most challenging step for me as I was born a worrier. I was lucky to have Misha and his bullshit to ease my apprehensiveness.
“How can I just quit my job?”
-Your job will always be there. You got hired with no experience. Next time you apply for a job, you’ll have experience. You have your entire life to work.
“If I don’t have a full time job, how will I have insurance?”
-Fortunately, if you’re under 26 years old you can stay on your parents’ insurance until December 31 of the year you turn 26. The following year you’ll probably have to purchase insurance from the government. But it’s not forever and this shouldn’t prevent you from fulfilling your dream.
“How can I afford this?”
-You can do what I did and date an accountant. Or you can come up with your own budget plan. Take out a sheet of paper and a calculator. Pull up your bank account and see how much money you have. Then calculate how much money you expect to make each month while traveling and deduct your estimated monthly expenses. Make sure to be conservative so not to unexpectedly run out of gas and money while stuck in the middle of nowhere. The goal is to avoid digging too far into your savings account.
“How will I make money while I’m traveling?”
-Find an odd job such as serving, babysitting, coaching, tutoring or substitute teaching. This may take some planning and coordinating. I have everything set up where I can literally begin subbing in San Diego the week after I arrive. Since substitute teaching merely requires a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited College or University, even Misha, who has never taken an education course in his life, is considering it. Best part about subbing is the need is always there and you can choose when and where you want to work!
“What if it doesn’t work out?
-Then you return home. You gave it a chance and you’ll have no regrets.
Step 3: Be Vulnerable and Commit:
Vulnerability breeds happiness. Make your daydream a reality. Realize that there is no better time to do it. Get out of the bubble you’ve been living in and go discover diverse cultures and perspectives. Open your mind and live in a different way; at least for a little while. Misha and I didn’t want to make any rash decisions so we gave this idea some thought for a couple months. Being young and not having the responsibility of a family, we keep reminding ourselves that this is the perfect time for us.
Step 4: Tell Parents
If your parents aren’t in favor of the idea, they won’t disown you. Part of being a parent is loving your kid unconditionally. Despite disagreeing with his decision, Misha’s family still invited him home for Thanksgiving. I gradually introduced this idea to my parents. I planted the idea first as a possibility and answered their endless questions about how this would work. Once I eased their worries, I informed my parents that Misha and I have committed to going on this exploration.
Step 5: Start Saving Money
Remember, every little bit adds up. Instead of spending 5 dollars a day at Starbucks, brew your own coffee. Go to Trader Joe’s and get the new $3.99 bottle of organic wine instead of spending your entire paycheck on poor quality wine at a restaurant. Stop buying unnecessary items. Trust me, if you have to refrain from buying a designer purse or hundred dollar eye liner, you’ll survive. The money spent on your travel experience will contribute to an intrinsic happiness, unlike these materialistic purchases.
Step 6: Come Up With a Time Frame
This can be tentative, but can also give you the comfort of having a plan. Your time frame may vary depending on your current situation. We decided on a year. A year seemed perfect to us as it was long enough to satisfy our travel bug, yet not too long to where it would affect our careers. Just because we decided to go for a year, doesn’t mean you need to do the same. Pick a shorter time frame. Maybe 6 months. Or a longer one. Maybe two years. Whatever suits you best.
Step 7: Quit Job
The prospect of speaking to your employer may seem extremely nerve-racking, but once you’re done you’ll feel relieved. Find a good time to quit and be respectful so as to maintain a reliable reference and to not screw over your colleagues. Having both notified our employers of our imminent departure, Misha and I feel a huge weight lifted off our shoulders.
Step 8: Pick a Location
Now it is time for the more enjoyable steps of planning your dream. Think of a place that you have always dreamed of living, but never thought you actually would. Misha and I have lived our entire lives on the East Coast (aside from Misha living the first four years of his life in Russia). As such, the West Coast was an easy decision for us. Southern California was an even easier decision, since we’re leaving in December. We considered the fact that Cali has high cost of living, so while we still have some cash saved up from working 3 years, we figured we’d start here and reassess before our next destination. We decided on spending approximately 4 months here. Subsequent locations are still tentative, although we have a few places in mind. It’s crucial to maintain some spontaneity.
Step 9: Find a Sub-Lease:
Best resource ever: Craigslist. Misha and I searched for and signed a sublease within a week. Find a property that is fully furnished and includes most essentials (bedding, towels, cleaning and kitchen appliances). We found a very reasonably priced guest house with our own parking spot, washer and dryer and pull out couch. Did I mention it’s in the heart of San Diego, with nearby popular bars and restaurants, a park, and 10 minutes from the beach? It’s possible! All that’s left is to pack a suitcase of clothes and you’re good to go.
Last but not least:
Step 10: Start a Blog
You don’t want to completely leave our family and friends behind, do you? Misha and I have decided to bring our families along (metaphysically) to experience all the joys and anxieties of this journey. Further, it’ll be nice to reminisce in your later years.
Oh wait, there’s one more thing:
Step 11: Get in the car and go!