I'd be lying if I told you that making the decision to take off for a year and travel through Asia wasn't scary. Some people don't worry about such things; they're my heroes. They are the true adventurers.
What was I afraid of? There was fear of the unknown, of living off my savings, of leaving my job and home behind (and the prospect of finding new ones) – the sensible part of my brain put the worries into my head. Taking a year off to travel seemed irresponsible at first. But why? I had the perfect lifestyle to become a global vagabond: I'm not married; I have no mortgage; I have no children. In short, I didn't really have many responsibilities. Still, I was nervous – I appreciate a paycheck and rent control and I was going to leave this to live out of a backpack... initially, this scared the shit out of me. Not to mention the fact that traveling for one year just didn't seem possible: it seemed a monumental task... all the way down to worrying about the mail. Oh yeah, and saving enough money: impossible! And anyway, how much money would it take?
One day I made a mental list and tackled each concern before moving to the next. After some time, I realized my fear was only a product of feeling overwhelmed. There's a lot to consider when planning a year on the road and when thinking about it all at once, my brain exploded with stress. I wasn't afraid of leaving home, after all, I just couldn't comprehend how it could be done. And, I was afraid of the financial consequences. But after planning to make the trip and then saving for it, there could be no chance for financial ruin: the trip would be paid for before I even left home. And as far as my job and my apartment were concerned, I realized that I've changed both throughout previous years without issue: why should this be any different?
Deciding when to go is a tough one because it's less complicated to decide when not to go. It's easy to find reasons: "I don't have enough money", "I'm at a great place in my career", "I can't live without my hair stylist", and so on....
"I don't have enough money."
People always ask me how it's possible to take off for a whole year... they think I'm rich, but I'm not. I just set my mind on the trip and saved the money, month by month, until I had enough to go. It actually took me several years to save the cash for the trip – it's not easy to save money. But like any goal – with a little dedication and sacrifice, it's possible. And when the numbers are right, you'll know when to go.
"I'm at a great place in my career."
I had a hard time with this one at first, but then I thought, 'When am I not in a great place in my career... Or at least, an interesting place in my career?' At first I worried about getting a new job upon return home, I worried about titles and salary and lost connections. But a year is not really that much time and my goal to travel was too strong to sacrifice for the 9-to-5 workaday world. I figured: it'll be there when I come back.
"I finally found the best hair stylist EVER."
I know, this sounds kind of silly... it's a metaphor. I found lots of reasons that could have waylaid my trip, but I also found ways to ignore them. Looking at photos and guidebooks and chatting on travel-related discussion forums was a great way to revitalize the commitment I made (to myself) to go.