This week, I took some time to catch up on overdue return calls to friends. For those of you who are wondering why your phone didn’t ring, I will get to you; I have been busy exploring the world… but I digress. A couple of my friends shared how they look forward to “possibly” taking a trip later this year, and we’re envious of my adventures in Asia. In addition to economic concerns, they questioned safety with all the global uncertainty.
As I reflected on these conversations, I thought to myself that these are some of the exact comments people made to me when I left the US six months ago. While some people may say that anytime is the right time, there are many people who wait for the perfect time to travel.
In a world full of ups and downs, we never know what will happen tomorrow. Is there really such a thing as a perfect time for anything, let alone travel?
As a teacher, psychologist, and world traveler, I can tell you that this excuse is the same excuse people use about most goals. Just like anything in life, there is no perfect time to travel; if you wait for it, it may never come.
In this article, I’m going to share some personal thoughts and insights from my personal passion for travel, my six months living on the road out of a backpack, and as a professional who has heard people say that they were waiting for the perfect time to travel when the perfect time to may be right now!
Why the Perfect Time for Travel May Never Come
The world is constantly changing, and something is always happening that can affect travel plans. Geopolitical tensions, natural disasters, and pandemics are just a few examples of things that can disrupt travel. Even if you wait for a year or two, the situation will not be guaranteed to improve. In fact, it might be worse. If I told you five years ago that the world would come to a screeching halt and everybody would be locked into their homes for months, you would have laughed at me. Certainly, that was an extreme and unlikely event to happen again; however, it is a real-world example of how we really don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
If you keep waiting for the perfect time to travel, you might miss out on opportunities to see and experience the world. The older you get, the harder it becomes to travel. You might have health issues, family responsibilities, or financial constraints that make it difficult to travel. Don’t wait until it’s too late. We all have places to see and check off of our bucket lists. Be mindful that some of these places may not be there forever, nor may your ability to visit them.
In the late 80s, I took my first trip to Europe with some friends. We separated, and I went solo for about a week, during which time I met a group of exchange students in West Berlin. The students were on the German leg of their trip; half the group was from the US and the other half from Germany. I had just arrived in Berlin that day, and I started to ask about their favorite things they saw or experienced in the city.
I was fascinated when they spoke about the graffiti on the Berlin Wall. This was a complete mystery to me; they were surprised to hear that I had not seen it or knew nothing of it. I had traveled to West Berlin on a night train from Amsterdam. When you entered West Berlin from the east, you only saw a giant white wall and East German troops on guard, with dogs, tanks, and barbed wire, no graffiti.
Later that night, after a few German beers, I convinced a small group to take me to the wall to see it for myself. I am most certainly happy that the wall is gone. However, there is and was massive historical significance around the structure, and the graffiti was a peaceful, political, and artful statement to the world. It was amazing to see, and it is gone forever. If you have not seen it, you never will. Many things in this world will disappear one day and you may never get to see them if you don’t go now.
Travel is not just about seeing beautiful places or relaxing on a beach, though that is a good thing too. It’s also about personal growth and learning. Travel can help you broaden your perspective, challenge your assumptions, and develop new skills. It can help you learn about people and culture from a different perspective and teach you things you never imagined. If you keep waiting for the perfect time to travel, you might miss out on these opportunities for growth and learning.
Traveling is an incredibly humbling experience. It allows you to see the world through a different lens and appreciate the diversity of people and cultures. While some may say that traveling and living in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language is overwhelming, and it can be, it is also an incredible learning experience. I constantly have growth moments on my journey, and am just starting. By immersing yourself in a foreign environment, you are open to new experiences and challenges that can help you grow and develop as a person. If you wait for the perfect time to travel, you may miss a growth moment that would have changed your life forever.
The dreaded comfort zone
One of the most significant benefits of travel is the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. This is especially true for solo travel when it is just you in the world. Whether it’s trying new foods, exploring unfamiliar places, or communicating with people who don’t speak your language, travel forces you to adapt and be flexible. These experiences can help you become more confident, resilient, and adaptable, which are all valuable life skills.
A new outlook on life
Travel can also give you a fresh perspective on your life and the world around you. By experiencing different cultures and ways of living, you may gain new insights into your own life and values. Travel can challenge your assumptions and biases and help you see things differently. This can be incredibly valuable in fostering personal growth and self-awareness.
I have always been a student of culture and enjoy the diversity of many and how we sometimes blend them to make something new. However, like most people, I have mostly experienced cultural diversity in my home country. It is vastly different to experience cultural diversity when you are in the minority.
About three months ago, I was traveling in southern Thailand. I flew to a town called Nakhon Si Thammarat, located about 600 km south of Bangkok on the western side of the Sea of Thailand. From there, I rode a motorbike about 200 km south to an area called Songkhla, an experience I highly recommend; more about that one later. While many locals in Bangkok and large tourist towns in Thailand speak English, you will find this to be less common the further south you go.
After a full day of driving on a motorbike, I stopped at a beach park just before the hotel around dinner time. There were several small restaurants right on the beach. I was there just a few minutes when a small group asked me to join them. None spoke English very well, and my Thai still needs much work now, let alone months ago. Regardless, I had an amazing time, connected with my new friends on social media, and they even picked up the bill for dinner and drinks. The perfect time to travel to Songkhla, I think so!
I have had countless opportunities to meet new people and make new connections. You can better understand different cultures and lifestyles by interacting with locals and other travelers. These connections can also provide a sense of community and belonging, even when you’re far from home. Some have called me “family” and invited me to stay at their homes, and I still connect with them on social media. It is awesome, to say the least; again, it tells me this is the perfect time to travel.
Make the Most of Your Travel Experience
To make the most of your travel experience, it’s important to prioritize safety, plan ahead, and do some research before you head out. While anytime may be the perfect time to travel, it does not mean that you should not be prepared for your journey.
Do your research
First, and most important, is always to do some research on the destination you plan to visit. Take note of any travel restrictions that may impact your trip to that area. As we are still living in a post-pandemic world, there may be some restrictions out there that limit or even prevent some experiences or even access to the country.
When I first left the US, our country had largely reopened with a few restrictions. However, as I traveled to Asia, many people were still wearing masks, and some travel requirements in place needed preparation. Make sure you are clear on any travel documents as well; you may have to apply for a visa or get your passport renewed; just be prepared. If you find a pocket of the world that still has some restrictions that won’t work for you, there are many other countries out there where it may be the perfect time to travel; no time like the present.
Booking early to secure the best deals
Embrace the simple fact that now is the perfect time to travel. In fact, in terms of cost, there may not ever be a better time. In the aftermath of the global pandemic, many countries reopened much later than in the US. International travel has been slow to return to pre-pandemic levels, and thus some of the best deals are available to us right now.
For example, the most expensive hotel I stayed at over the past six months was a resort right on the beach in southern Thailand for about $27 a night; it was a five-star resort and included breakfast. The least expensive place I stayed at was about $6 dollars a night. There are many deals to be had worldwide, no time like the present as this is the perfect time for travel for sure, and you want to book now. You can take advantage of early-bird discounts and special promotions by booking early. You can also avoid the stress and hassle of last-minute planning.
While it may be the perfect time to travel, it may not be the perfect time to travel to every country in the world. As I’m sure you are aware, the war between Russia and Ukraine has been going on for the past year; there are ongoing conflicts in the middle east, and as much as I want to see the entire content of Africa, there are a few hot spots for sure. There is a civil war in Myanmar; the country right next to Thailand and North Korea is a no-no for sure.
However, I had an amazing time in South Korea about six months ago, and Myanmar is just 300 km from us in Chiang Mai; we have not been impacted here at all. Regardless, there will always be conflict in the world, but with 195 countries out there, there are always peaceful ones to visit as well.
As I’ve already shared, if you wait for the perfect time to travel, it will never come, and opportunities may be lost forever. Having said that, there are places in the world with seasonal changes that you may want to avoid. Utah is amazing in the spring, but you may want to avoid the winter season unless you’re there for skiing. Florida and Hawaii are awesome for the sun; avoid August, as it can get crazy hot with massive humidity.
Oh yeah, and for the trip I mentioned above in southern Thailand, I recommend avoiding the area in November. That is the rainy season in Sothern, Thailand, as I experienced when it rained for three days straight with no break. Nonetheless, I still had fun but was very wet the whole week. Perfect time to travel to the South, no, so I headed north and it became a perfect adventure.
Get the insurance
I think, like most travelers, I have had my fair share of cancellations over the years, but it has always been something I could easily work through along the way. However, some unprecedented travel delays in recent months, unexpected cancellations, and other challenges sometimes leave travelers stranded. Some people may use the news of these cancellations as an excuse to put off travel or avoid it altogether, insisting that it is not the perfect time to travel. However, getting travel insurance will bring peace of mind that you are covered worldwide for cancelations and unexpected challenges.
Embrace the unexpected
Researching and planning your travel is always best to maximize your experience. However, despite your best effort to plan out your journey, the unexpected can and will most likely happen, sometimes a lot. Travel is unpredictable, and things may not always go as planned. Instead of getting frustrated or upset, try to approach these situations with curiosity and an open mind. You may discover something new and unexpected that is the highlight of your trip. The perfect time to travel does not always mean that your trip will be perfect; that is to say, free from all challenges.
One of Thailand’s most iconic tourist attractions is the Royal Palace. I attempted to visit the Palace just after I arrived, and for the first couple of weeks, I was in the country. However, a storm, a Buddhist holiday, and a cultural celebration all got in the way of my plan. The Palace has a flexible visitation schedule, some of which is not always easy to learn about in advance.
Being flexible and adaptable to unexpected changes in your travel plans is important. Whether it’s a flight cancellation, a change in itinerary, or unexpected weather conditions, travel plans can often change at a moment’s notice. By remaining flexible and adaptable, you can make the most of any situation and ensure that your travel experience is still enjoyable.
Some Final Thoughts on When to Travel
I started this article by sharing some parts of a phone conversation that I had with some friends who were avoiding some travel goals and instead waiting for the perfect time to travel. I suspect by now you have an idea of my response. There really is never a perfect time to travel or virtually anything in life. No matter what you want, what goal you want to achieve, or where in the world you want to visit, there will always be something that will get in the way and keep you from what you say you want in this world.
Be careful and carefree. Do your research and make your plan but be spontaneous and adventurous in your travels. At times you may be conservative, but most of the time, you should be curious on your journey. It may not always be the perfect time to travel, but whenever you choose to go and whatever happens, it will be the perfect time for you.
Now is absolutely perfect, so what are you waiting for?
Let me know where you are headed.