I love to hear about the travels of others but I have to admit that there are times when a touch of travel envy makes me want to stop listening. And recently I had an extreme example: I was teaching a community education class on travel writing as a hobby. I asked the participants to introduce themselves by telling about their favourite trip and the next travel they had planned. Since the typical student in the class was both retired and wealthier than average, you can imagine the kind of responses I received. Numerous tales of Antarctica, of long, leisurely trips through South America and of exciting African safaris surfaced. If envy really made you turn green I would have been Kermit-colored by the end of the introductions.
But I soon decided I need to turn this travel envy into something better. If you need help to get out of a similar situation, here are my five steps for getting over travel envy:
#1: Remember Your Own Travels
Sure, I have never made it to Antarctica (yet). But I have traveled to some amazing places that not many people have visited: I’ve backpacked around Tunisia; I’ve lived in a small German town; and I’ve ridden the Trans-Siberian train across Russia. I tried hard to remember these travel experiences, some of my favourites, in the face of hearing all the amazing travel plans of my writing class students.
But what if you haven’t been able to travel as much as me — yet? Consider some of the unique trips you’ve taken and unusual places you’ve seen that others haven’t — perhaps in your very own backyard? I grew up (and now live again) in Perth, Western Australia, a city famed for being the most isolated in the world. That means that the weekend trips we used to take to a spot south of Mandurah (about ninety minutes away) took me to places that hardly anyone in the world has ever visited.
#2: Take Notes
The next best way to deal with travel envy is to realise that these people are offering a wealth of information, if only you tap into it in a way that can help you out. I’ve actually written down the names of hotels, tour operators, towns, and other titbits of information about trips to Africa when I’ve chatted to people about their experience, because of course getting recommendations first hand from someone who’s been there is far superior to blindly searching online.
#3: Adopt Other Travelers for Future Advice
You can also take the “taking notes” strategy one step further and use the people you meet for future advice and consultation. The smartest travelers keep in mind where the people they meet have been and then, when they start to plan a trip there, know exactly who to call or email.
I’m hoping to make it to Hong Kong in the next couple of years. Just as I was planning this trip I had two friends head over there, and most significantly they both went with young children — putting them in the same boat as me. As soon as they returned I emailed them for tips and advice (while it was fresh in their mind) and have filed this away for future planning.
Of course, asking them later on is not bad either. But I figured that since I was already making a draft plan in my head, I’d strike while the iron was hot, before they forgot all the details.
#4: Write Your Life Travel Goals
I’m not suggesting a “bucket list”. I’m suggesting a concrete plan for what places you could reasonably expect to visit, and when — taking into account all kinds of things like work, marriage, having children, retiring, your health, and so on.
I once had a very long list of places I wanted to visit — or ideally, live in — but I soon realised this bucket list of sorts was impractical and therefore somewhat depressing. (After living in a few different countries, I realised that I’d want to live in new places for two years to really get a feel for them — and that even with long-living genes on my side, there are only so many stints of two years you can fit into a lifetime).
So instead, think about travel goals for your life in a practical sense, and try to lock in the next couple of trips, even if they may be four or five years away. Get concrete enough for the near-future goals to look up important dates — school vacation times, for example, or festivals that you want to coincide your trip with. Narrow down your goals to the places you really, really want to visit rather than a list of all the famous places you can think of.
#5: Plan Your Very Next Trip
An extension of your travel goals, of course, is to get your very next trip planned out. It’s much harder to be envious of other travelers when you know you’re soon to get the chance to travel yourself — even if your trip is only a few days in a neighbouring country rather than a month-long cruise to the Antarctic. Sitting down and researching some of the exciting things I’ll be able to do on my own trip always helps to make me feel better!