Quite often, people ask us how we made our current life a reality. And I think many of those same people are surprised when I tell them how we did it. The fact is, changing your life is hard work, but it can be really rewarding and easy work at the same time.
For me, an important initial step to changing (whether that is implementing changes in your current life or going for bigger changes or larger dreams) is to decide you want/need a change, even a small one.
But the biggest step is to take the first bit of forward momentum towards your dreams, because you not only have to decide, you have to act on your decision. It is very easy to say you want to do something, or that you wish it was so, or to dream about something. It is much harder to take the steps to make those dreams or wishes reality. It takes courage, focus, faith, dedication, hard work, sacrifice, and lots of other smaller steps and changes that add up along the way. The momentum that first step can create is huge.
Here are a few steps you can take to move forward towards your dreams:
Figure out what you want
If you don’t know your final destination, how will you ever chart a course to get there? Nothing can happen if you don’t figure out what you want. So take some time to brainstorm, storyboard, journal, or just discuss what you want. Put it down on paper. Be specific and then own it. This is the most important step because if you don’t know what your final goal is then there is no way you can figure out what steps you need to take to get there.
We spent a great deal of time talking about travel and how much we loved it. But we also sat down and figured out what we wanted a life of travel to look like. And we were very specific about what we wanted. We wrote it down, created storyboards, journaled about it. Spent time talking about and visualizing what it would be like. Then we did more research, talked to a few trusted people, and then refined the goals.
Be the architect of your own life
If you don’t design your life, someone else will. So decide what you want to build and then make mindful decisions with intention. When we were planning for our life of long term travel, every single decision or choice we made was done with our goal in mind. If a choice or change didn’t serve the overall goal then we didn’t make that choice. Did that mean we made a lot of sacrifices that maybe we didn’t originally anticipate? Yes. But we had the opportunity to design our own life just the way we wanted it to be. Realizing goals and dreams is worth the sacrifices we made.
Figure out what it will cost you
What will your dream cost you? It is important to understand what you will have to pay (both financially and emotionally) to realize your dream. And you need to be willing to pay these costs in order to get where you want to go. So sit down and figure out what the costs will be in time, money, sacrifices, and lifestyle changes. Talk to people who have done something similar or who are where you want to be. Ask them what the costs were. It’s the best way to get a good idea of what you will need to pay or sacrifice in order to realize your dream.
We talked to several long term travelers about what sort of sacrifices they had to make in order for their travels to start. We also discussed day to day costs with them so we could budget for our daily lives once we started traveling.
Set a timeframe and declare it publicly to friends and family
Nothing like declaring to the universe and all your family and friends what your intentions are. A public declaration is a very powerful tool for getting something done because it makes you feel accountable to more than just yourself.
We had the dream of long term travel for years and years before we announced it. But when we were finally ready to really put a deadline on realizing our dream, we made a public declaration to all our family and friends. And yes, it did have a date attached to it. A date that was less than a year out. And we met that deadline.
Devote some time every day to your dream
Now the hard part begins: you have to spend time every day working on your dream. Most people don’t realize their dreams (or other big goals) all at once without putting in a lot of time and effort. For pretty much everyone it is a slow methodical journey that involves tons of small steps along the way. But those small steps add up. By devoting some time daily to working on your goals and dreams, you’re making huge changes. You’re making consistent steps towards your dreams. You’re creating new habits. You’re changing the way you think. You’re starting to really believe that all you dreamed is possible. This is powerful stuff, and by making working towards your dreams and goals a daily habit, you’re setting yourself up for success in the long run. It’s your dream! You have to be willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen.
For us, we spent time daily discussing our strategies or working on smaller steps to our goals. Whether it was reworking the budget, analyzing another long term traveler’s strategy, learning more about travel & destinations, or just visualizing what it would be like to live an international life, we devoted time, thought, and resources to our goal on a daily basis.
Don’t be afraid to change course
People often get so tied up in achieving their goal as it was initially conceived that they miss out on great opportunities to dream even bigger. For us, the truth is that our dream of long term travel from ten years ago is not the same as that dream from 4 years ago. And our dream today is different too. People change. And, as we have experienced the world and worked towards our goals, we’ve changed a good bit. Our dreams have changed as well. What we once dreamed up as a 2 year trip before returning to our old life has evolved into something very different. Now the dream is to live full time outside the US and continue to travel. Has that shifted our goals and the plan to achieve them? Absolutely! And that’s okay. If we had stayed overcommitted to our initial goal, we would have missed out on so many wonderful experiences. By building flexibility into our plans, we’ve enabled ourselves to dream even bigger and realize those bigger dreams.
Changing your life and going for your goals is scary stuff. You’re daring to imagine a different life. But usually the things that are the most frightening to undertake are also the most rewarding at the end. Don’t be afraid to dream. Then go out there and make your dreams a reality.