How I Traveled To Over 30 Countries By 30: Changing Your Mindset Around Travel

Recently I was telling a friend about an upcoming trip to Morocco and Portugal and my friend told me that she hoped I had fun on vacation. That word "vacation" for some reason just didn't feel right and after I got off the phone I was left thinking about why this simple word "vacation" didn't seem applicable to my upcoming adventure.

When I thought even more about it I realized how little (if at all) I actually ever use the word "vacation" when talking about my travels...but why was that?

It hit me that the reason why the word "vacation" just wasn't resonating with me was that I wasn't going on vacation...I was traveling...there is a difference.

How I Traveled To Over 30 Countries by 30 - The Well Essentials

Vacations seem to imply a "break from our daily life" where we get to sit back, relax, and dread the moments when we have to pack up and head back to "the real world". That is not what traveling is to me, in fact, it is quite the opposite. Traveling to me is about jumping into a new culture, a new country, a new environment with wide eyes and an open heart ready for that new place to leave its signature on a little piece of my soul.

And these trips weren't always restful (they usually aren't), perfectly planned (they never are), or super luxurious (okay maybe a few on our honeymoon)...but they were a necessary part of my life, a necessary part of my husbands life, and a necessary piece of what makes us meant for each other. Traveling over the past decade (I really started traveling at 20) has been something that just needed to be a part of my existence, it couldn't be an escape from my life because I needed it to be a part of my life. 

This mindset around travel is what allowed me to make travel a part of my work, and a part of our life. Notice that the title of this post isn't "how I vacationed to over 30 countries by 30" it's how I traveled and if you want to travel more I truly believe that you have to change the way you view travel in your life. 

How I Traveled To Over 30 Countries By 30

o1: change your travel mindset

This is basically everything I have been talking about so far. When it comes to bringing more travel into your life you have to stop telling yourself the story that you "can't" or "it's too expensive" or "I don't have enough PTO" << I'm going to talk about this one in a later post because most of our travel has been done with limited PTO. 

Travel is about that next vacation you are taking at an all-inclusive resort...that is vacationing. Remember what we talked about earlier? Travel is different. Making travel a part of your life consistently is about changing your mindset around what travel means to you and the way you live your life. If you decide that it is something you truly cant live without you will make travel really is that simple. 

Gaspe, Quebec, Canada (2017)

Gaspe, Quebec, Canada (2017)

02: make travel a non-negotiable

If you want to travel more it has to be a deep desire, non-negotiable part of your life. For me it is literally part of what makes me feel like me, and the same is true for my husband so we make it a priority.

I'm going to talk about the nitty-gritty details of how we do this on a day to day basis in one of the following bullet points, but for now I want you to start thinking about all the things in your life that are negotiable and non-negotiable. This could be ways you spend money or how you spend your time. Making this list is going to help you get real clear on how you can make travel more available in your life.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia (2016)

Angkor Wat, Cambodia (2016)

03: be adaptable with your destinations

Sometimes that trip you have really been wanting to take just isn't in the cards, or once you start to really itemize everything out you realize that the time of year you wanted to go isn't right or it's just too expensive right now. This is when it is so important to pivot. 

We typically use a variety of sites to look for our next travel adventures and a lot of the time we end up visiting places we had necessarily intended to. 

My favorite sites that I check all the time are:

Secret Flying

Scotts Cheap Flights

Air Fare Watchdog

Google Flights



Travel Zoo

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam (2016)

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam (2016)

04: seek out the less "traveled"

If you only want to travel to this years "trendy location" you are probably going to spend more. Instead seek out locations that have some tourist infrastructure but are not on this years "Top 10 Places To Travel". To this day I thank god that we got to visit Bali before instagram was around.

Granada, Nicaragua 2014

Granada, Nicaragua 2014

05: immerse yourself with the local culture

If you want to really save money while also getting the best and most authentic experience possible you need to immerse yourself in local culture. Whenever we are traveling, my husband I do our best to learn parts of the local language, make friends with local people, and overall just be kind, considerate guests in the country we are visiting. 

By immersing ourselves in local culture while traveling we have been able to have so many amazing experiences that were discounted, or entirely free because a new local friend decided they wanted to show us something off the beaten path.

I also find that when you seek out more traditional activities, accommodations, etc. they will be far less expensive than the ones promoted at an American hotel or those that are geared solely for tourists.

Remembers there is always a tourist price and a local price, so it is in your best interest to be a nice human being and make friends with the local people while traveling in their country.

Hoi An, Vietnam 2016

Hoi An, Vietnam 2016

06: become a flight tracking wizard

One of the biggest misconceptions about traveling is that the flights are soooo expensive. They can be, and they can not be. We have flow round trip to Vietnam for $400 before, home from Dubai for $300, and to Ireland for $450. If you really want to start traveling you have to get good at watching for flight deals. 

I use the above flight trackers constantly and setup alerts based on the general time of year we are looking to travel. We usually don't have set dates in mind when we travel and are okay with booking off of price and going on a trip a little bit in the off season (when it usually is just as nice and has less tourists).

07: utilize airbnb, hostels, and home-stays

We very rarely stay at hotels when we travel and for the most part utilize guest homes (such as Riads in Morocco) or stay at AirBnB's, which is how we traveled all throughout Central America, Asia, and Europe. 

Occasionally we may stay at an American Hotel (mostly because my husband has a ton of Hilton points from work) but we much prefer to use those points for more domestic travel, and get a more authentic (and cheaper!) experience while traveling abroad. 

Marrakech, Morocco 2018

Marrakech, Morocco 2018

08: stop making excuses why you "can't" travel

Lastly, when it comes to traveling the world you just have to do it. Stop making excuses for why you cant and MAKE IT HAPPEN. Make daily compromises based off of that negotiable and non-negotiable list you made earlier and start making travel something that is a necessary part of your life. 

For us, this means that we really don't go out to eat very often, we don't buy excessive clothes or anything for that matter that hasn't been really thought out (it goes along with our sustainable lifestyle anyway). We don't go to a lot of concerts, or go out to bars very often. Instead we do a lot of outdoor free activities, cook nice meals at home for ourselves, friends, and family and basically prioritize the money we can put aside for travel over most other things. 

This is how we were able to continue to travel even when we were crazy broke just out of college and when I was in grad school...we maybe didn't travel as often, or go to the ideal place we had been imagining, but we made it work.

I hope you found this post inspiring and you are well on your way to planning your next adventure. If this post didn't resonate with you that is also 100% okay. Not everyone likes to travel, and there are also so many ways to travel...this just happens to be mine. 

All I hope is that you realize after reading this post is that traveling the world may be more accessible than you may think. You can travel on a serious budget, you can travel with kids, you can travel when you are young and when you are is up to you however to decide whether or not you are going to make it happen.