When Jason and I were first looking to step out of our comfort zone in 2008 there was little information out there about leaving a ‘regular’ life behind to travel. Sure there were people who were doing what we wanted to do but blogging was in its infancy and we just couldn’t find them. We didn’t need much encouragement though; we found as many travel blogs as we could and devoured their archives as quickly as possible.
Turns out that Betsy and Warren were on the same path at just about the same time; figuring it out, working through their fears, and stepping into uncomfortable. They are still out living in the world and have written an ‘action plan’ that will help anyone who wants to make a big change but feels completely overwhelmed by the thought of it.
I had a chance recently to ask Warren and Betsy some questions about their decisions, the outcomes, and their book.
1. Dream Save Do is very much a retrospective book in that you talk of what you did, how others can now learn from that and hopefully move forward without making the same mistakes you did. Did you have such a plan when you were dreaming, and saving, and doing? Or did you just stumble through it blindly, hoping for the best?
One of our best traits is enthusiasm. We’re both quick to jump in and try something new even if we don’t know how it will turn out or all the steps to make it happen. That being said, we’re both oldest children and high achievers, so we do match our actions with a bit of planning. It doesn’t always go the way we want it to, but when you make it a habit of continually moving forward you can easily recover from any wrong moves. You don’t have to be a type-A go-getter or a fearless wonder to do big things as the best indicator of success is simply the willingness to keep moving forward and figuring it out along the way. This is what we learned as we took action on this dream of ours.
2. What are the most common ‘excuses’ people give as to why they can’t achieve their dream?
Time is the biggest excuse of all. People say they don’t have enough time to devote to their dream, but the truth is that we all have the same amount of hours in a day. It’s how we choose to use them that is the differentiator. And that comes from putting yourself on your to-do list and making your dreams a priority in your life. People often use the caveat “some day” or “I’ll do that later”, but there is no guarantee of some day or later. Time is not a renewable resource. You can’t save it or make more of it. And once you realize how precious the commodity is, you’ll find it impossible not to start taking action to create the life you crave.
The second big excuse is money. People blame their lack of money for not following their dreams while spending that precious resource on things that have nothing to do with their dreams. We meet wannabe business owners who buy a new car every 2 years, or out-of-shape people who say they can’t afford a gym membership when it is absolutely free to take a walk outside every day. Money is typically an excuse, not a reason. We travel on $25,000 per year, using long-term rentals, slow travel, and house sitting as a way to make it affordable. We found an unconventional way to make our dreams of seeing the world come true. Many money concerns can be lifted by simply looking for a cheaper way to do it. You don’t have to spend what someone else did or do it the way they did. Your dream is fully customizable, you know!
Third, we’ve seen again and again people using others as an excuse. “My kids need me.” “What will he do if I go off and do that?” It’s a way to make us feel valuable to other people and take a martyr role, but it’s a false vanity. What better gift to give your kids than showing them that dreams are important? What better way to be a good partner than to satisfy your biggest dreams? We often use other people as an excuse when we’re scared to move forward — it’s easy to put it off on others.
3. I think sometimes people are scared to dream. They see you, or me, doing something adventurous and state how they ‘wish I could travel like you but I have kids/a mortgage/job’. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction to my dream rather than a studied response to what they might want to do themselves. What is your reaction to this inevitable response?
You’ve hit the nail on the head. One of the best lessons we’ve learned is that a person’s reaction to our news or decisions is more revealing of them than it is about us. It helped us let those negative reactions just roll off. But before we had time to get all high and mighty about it, we took the flip side and realized that OUR reactions to other people had more to do with our own fears and beliefs than it did them. It was a head-spinning moment when we finally learned to analyze our own reactions. Why did some people’s decisions make us uncomfortable? What was scaring us…really? Once we began analyzing our fears this way we got to the core of our fears and began to work through them. It’s never about what you think it’s about on the surface, and getting to the bottom of it will greatly help you in whatever you do in life.
4. One piece that resonated with me was the idea that you should stop seeing your dream as a full blown idea; that it’s really an infant that will grow and evolve over time. When we were first thinking about moving overseas we had in our mind that we had to take this life and recreate it there; great jobs, fabulous apartment, close friends etc. It became overwhelming and too big to manage. Somehow we made the leap and realized that we just need a job, a home, etc and that the rest would fall into place. Small steps, just open the door and put a foot in, that’s what we needed. It was an epiphany. Do you think this is a common barrier to taking the first steps to realizing a dream? How can someone over come this and make the mind shift?
To some degree we all have this faulty way of looking at the future. The college graduate imagines sitting in the corner office or driving the luxury car, not the years of working in a cubicle and driving a beater while renting a room in a house with 3 other people. The wannabe traveler focuses on the grand experience he or she will have, not the prep to get there or the inevitable days of travel that aren’t glamorous, like doing laundry or battling diarrhea on a long bus ride. We focus on the end result and gloss over the process to get there. So when we can’t immediately get to corner office or step into a perfectly organized traveling lifestyle, we think it’s impossible. We leave out all the middle steps from start to finish. Once you realize this and anticipate those middle steps, you’ll be a lot closer to getting to the finish line and enjoy the process along the way. (Let’s face it; for most of us the dream morphs as you do it, so having your eye on a “perfect finale” is a sure way to miss the great opportunities and diversions along the way).
5. I think the ‘saving’ part can be the most overwhelming. As you note it can be difficult to imagine this $10 or $20 making a dent in the $50,000 that needs to be saved. What’s the one piece of advice you would give that would have the biggest impact on someone feeling overwhelmed in this way?
Our favorite saving strategy was the Phrase to Save. We stopped thinking about our overall number because it was just too mind-numbing. Instead, we broke it down to a smaller goal. In our case, it was $100/day. This was the budget we projected for our travels, and instead of thinking about tens of thousands of dollars needed to leave, we simply focused on how to make or save $100 at a time. Every $100 saved was a day on the road. Every time we spent $100 we were giving up a day on the road. It made our goal immediate and relatable every single day, and it kept us from feeling like we were giving things up because we could immediately imagine what that $100 would give us. Anyone can do this by the day like we did or by components of their dream (for example, square footage/meters for a house you want to build/buy).
6. I remember, when I was younger, looking up to women who seemed to be living their dream (whether it be travel or something else). I admired and respected them but didn’t seem to know how to be like them. My life has evolved since then and I remember, quite recently actually, driving down the highway and suddenly realizing that I now am just like those women I looked up to. It was an amazing revelation and left me with a massive swelling of pride. Is this the case for you also? Do you think you now live the life of those that you used to look up to?
For us it has always been about freedom. Not necessarily freedom to see the world, but freedom to be who we wanted to be, to hang out with the people we liked, and to spend our days doing the things we wanted. That seemed like the ultimate dream, and today we’re living it. We still pinch ourselves a bit when we realize how perfectly this life suits us and how many of our dreams we get to experience because of it. It’s the small things every day (rising with the sun instead of an alarm clock) and the big things achieved over time that remind us we’ve “made it” in terms of personal goals. We haven’t done everything we want to do in this world – not by a long shot – but we have that confidence and experience to know that there is not much out of our reach. Achieving your dreams gives you that mindset and guarantees you’ll keep dreaming and achieving til the day you die. And we can’t think of a better way to live than that.
At its heart, Dream Save Do is about not letting roadblocks get in the way of realizing your dream. Instead it’s about planning your way through them, being realistic, and taking small steps toward that dream every single day. The steps and advice outlined in this book mirror our own experiences very closely; if they, and we, can do it then you can do it too!
Authors Warren and Betsy Talbot help people turn their life dreams into reality. After 20 years of playing by the rules, they charted their own path to achieve their dream of traveling the world. Their books include Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers. Visit www.marriedwithluggage.