Seven or so years ago, I was at university and severely depressed. I could barely peel myself out of bed in the morning, I didn’t have the energy for anything. Going to the kitchen to make breakfast was like climbing a mountain, so most days I didn’t bother. It was easier to starve. Eventually, the hunger would become too painful and only then would I stumble to make a sandwich. I was completely unmotivated.
I was completely unmotivated.
What is Motivation?
Motivation is an internal process that moves a person towards a goal. That’s the simple part. The complex part is where motivation comes from.
One idea that a million self-help gurus agree on is that we are motivated towards things we believe will be enjoyable or meaningful and away from things we deem to be painful or pointless.
We can easily motivate ourselves to do things that we think we’ll enjoy. We want to do these things as we know they’ll make us feel good. It’s much harder to do something we think we’ll hate.
At the same time, negativity can motivate us just as well as positivity. We motivate ourselves away from painful things. Many of us hate exercise and find it hard to do it. Mostly because we think of the negative impact the exercise will have. It’s hard to go running when all you can think about is how pathetic you’ll look, how much your legs will hurt and how it’s so cold and wet outside. But if a monster was chasing you, none of that would matter, you’d easily find yourself running.
But this idea can’t be right, can it? We don’t weigh up the positives and negatives of everything we do. Some things are so built into our routines that we never think about doing them. Such as brushing our teeth. We do this every day and never consider the motivation.
These activities seem effortless on our parts. We know how to do them so well that we don’t even need to think about them. They’re things we do subconsciously so they’re really easy to do and take very little motivation.
But I’m sure we’ve all been lying in bed one night, just about to fall asleep when we realise we’ve forgotten to brush our teeth. Suddenly it’s impossible to do this simple thing because it now feels like it’ll take much more effort than it usually would. So motivation still plays a part, even in these simple everyday activities.
Why can it be hard to motivate yourself to travel?
Now I’ve talked about motivation and where it comes from, I’d like to focus on motivating ourselves to travel. For many this is hard, especially if they’re going alone.
Back at home you have your work, your routine, you know what to expect in most circumstances and there are no surprises. You have enough knowledge to weather most storms and solve most problems. You’re comfortable.
In comparison, travel can seem horrible. Here is a world, which you know nothing about, unknown territory. We can easily imagine ourselves having a negative experience. Being in a place where we struggle to communicate, where we are lonely and alone. We’ll have no routine or knowledge and we know life will be harder.
It seems to be a no-brainer to me. Why would anybody want to leave comfort for discomfort? This is what puts many off, but still that voice might be there in the back of the head wanting to travel.
By saying to ourselves that we want to travel, we are challenging our confidence and self-esteem. We’re asking if we’re good enough to travel or have the strength. Many of us who are otherwise confident may think we don’t have it in us because we see this situation in our mind of struggling, this whole new world we know nothing about and it’s easy to say we can’t do it.
But travel doesn’t take any amazing skills to do. Any skills we don’t have are quickly learnt. Often the hardest thing is deciding to leave home.
Motivating yourself to travel
Still you may be on the fence. It sounds easy, but with all that doubt in your head it won’t feel easy, so here are a few tips that may help motivate you.
1. Be positive.
If we think of the positive consequences of doing an activity and imagine it to be fun, it’s going to be so much easier to do.
Going back to when I was depressed, why was it so hard for me to do anything? Even to make a sandwich.
Well, at that time in my life I was so depressed that I didn’t have a positive bone in my body. Everything I thought about was tinged in negativity. I literally couldn’t see the point in eating, so I thought why bother? It was only when the pain of hunger got too much that I would eat.
If I felt the sandwich was going to taste amazing, that it’d be a life changing sandwich of epic proportions, I would have possibly walked a thousand miles to get it.
Now let’s think about travel. In order to motivate yourself to do it, it’s good to be positive. Start to get excited about travel and imagine all the fun you’ll have. Start reading blogs and looking at travel photos to inspire you.
A few years ago I kept on coming back to this fantasy in my head of WWOOFing and hiking in America. I just kept imagining how fun it would be to live a simple life, working outside all day and how happy it would make me. Eventually, I’d daydreamed about it so much that I decided I had to do it.
So I did.
If you truly want to do something, not much will stop you. Think of your travel positively. It’s no coincidence that every optimist is also highly motivated. That’s because they know that whatever they do it’s going to have positive consequences, which is a great motivator.
2. See the negative
Ok, this might make you incredibly depressed, but this was one of my chief motivators. I’ve always thought that if I stayed at home I would be in that comfortable bubble of routine that I mentioned. It might feel good, but I don’t think it’s very challenging. Getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing because it allows you to grow as a person. By staying at home in the same routine, you’re just going through the motions a lot of the time. There’s no challenge.
One thought I always come back to is of progress. If I stay at home I’ll be making little progress as I’ll just be living pretty much the same days over and over again. I don’t think giving up some of those days to travel will have many negative consequences. You have more to gain from travel than you do from doing the same things over and over.
I used to always be afraid that if I didn’t travel I would regret it. Picturing myself at 80, staring out the window, wondering what stopped me.
From this perspective it seemed like it was worth facing my fears so I could have no regrets. Otherwise you may always wonder what could have been.
3. Get Real
Every bad experience is worse in your head than it is in reality.
Before travelling, it’s easy to worry about how all these negative things could happen to you. I won’t lie, negative things do happen when you travel. But they also happen at home as well. When you have a bad day it’s never as bad as you’ll think it’ll be. Travel is no different.
You can easily think of yourself stranded in the middle of the night in a scary new city. This can make you feel anxious. But look at the reality, if this ever happened, the most you’d probably feel is some discomfort. The majority of bad things that happen during travel aren’t that bad. They’re just uncomfortable, which isn’t the end of the world.
To get real about a place. Do your research! By doing travel research we can gain knowledge about a place, and this can counter our fears. If we know how a place works and what to expect of it, then it’s far less scary. We have less reason to worry because we know what problems may arise and how to tackle them.
4. Ask Yourself: Do you want to travel?
Many people believe they need to travel when really they don’t even want to. Maybe you’ve bought into the idea that travel will solve all of your problems. Or maybe all your friends have gone away so you feel you need to, too.
It’s important to realise though that there’s a difference between not being able to do something and not wanting to. Question whether you even want to travel? It’s not for everybody and there are a thousand other ways to have fun and do new things.
Maybe you have the perfect life at home and don’t want to spoil it, and that’s what’s putting you off. If so, question what you have to gain from leaving that life behind.
Yes, this sounds stupid. But travelling is a great motivator to travel.
If we go back to brushing our teeth, why is it so easy to do?
Part of it is that it’s a habit built into us. We’ve done it so many times that we don’t have to think about it. It’s so engrained in us that we fool ourselves into thinking it takes no effort to do it.
The more you travel, the easier it becomes as you have less doubt in your mind and you gain confidence in what you’re doing.
At first, travel may be hard, but everything in life is hard when you first learn. Just remember that eventually you will master travel, it will become easy and take very little effort. Which gives you more energy to spend on enjoying the positive side of travel.
6. Book Your Ticket and Worry Later
If you book your travels way in advance, you’ll save money but you’ll also not be thinking too much about the consequences. Travelling will seem like something happening far in the future so you won’t really worry about it.
That’s not to say you won’t worry when it comes closer to the date. You will. But by that point you’ll already be so financially invested in the trip that you’ll have to go. Not wanting to lose the price of your flight is a great way to motivate yourself.
When travelling, I believe we have much more to gain than we have to lose. Travel can challenge us, giving us confidence and new skills. Allowing us to prove to ourselves that we can survive alone. The alternative is we can stay at home in comfort, without making much progress.
But more than anything travel can let us experience new things, new cultures, and new activities.