My husband Thom and I love to travel almost as much as we enjoy rightsizing. But the two ideas are not mutually exclusive. In fact, because we rightsized our lives some years ago, we can now travel more and in better form than ever before. So, if you’ve always dreamed of traveling more, but never seem to have the time or money, perhaps what you need is to rightsize your next trip.
First, I must recommend that you rightsize your entire life. What do I mean by that? If you are new to this website and unfamiliar with rightsizing, here’s a short definition: Rightsizing is taking the time to focus on what really matters to you and brings you happiness—and at the same time reducing and then eliminating everything that brings you down and sucks the joy out of you.
Many people start on the rightsizing journey by getting rid of superfluous stuff. Sometimes getting rid of what you don’t want (or need) is easier than trying to figure out what you do want. A big part of it is usually debt—a car with big payments, a house larger than you need with a stressful mortgage, and buying habits that keep you working at a job you dislike just to pay for those items. For example, when Thom and I moved from a large expensive home into a more modest one, we saved over $30,000 a year. Then as people gradually say “No!” to the things that bring only temporary happiness, they can then begin focusing on those things that bring peace, contentment and wonderful memories. Slowly but steadily they rightsize.
Of course, in case you can’t tell, rightsizing is an individual path. That’s because what brings me peace, contentment and wonderful memories is likely very different from what does the same for you. Still, one of the biggest issues to watch out for is making sure it is something you personally love, and not something that you’re doing habitually or unconsciously striving to do or have just because your neighbors or society says you should want them.
How we approach travel and vacations are similarly individual to each of us. With that in mind, here are my top five suggestions for rightsizing your next trip or vacation:
#1 Avoid going on any trip or vacation if you don’t have the money. Like so much behind rightsizing, going into debt to buy anything when you really can’t afford it is madness. I learned the hard way that the payback is hell. Even when you have a great a vacation, coming back to the debt that will take months (sometimes years) to pay for, robs you of your present moment. Living happily and peacefully in the present moment is a key to rightsizing
What you might want to explore is a way to experience travel that doesn’t cost much. Visit friends or family that you enjoy being with and can put you up. Drive, don’t fly. For some years the only thing Thom and I could afford was to rent an inexpensive cabin in the mountains. Remember I said inexpensive. Because the cabin was only an hour away, we could enjoy the mountains and still commute to work. Best of all, the cost of the cabin was a fraction of what others spend by taking a two-week vacation.
#2 Attempt to discover what kind of traveler you are as soon as possible. Back when I was younger, I so wanted to travel that I would say “Yes!” to just about anything. That’s when I learned that I’m NOT a camper. I’m also not an RV person. Now I realize that some people (my parents were a great example) love the experience of getting in the motorhome and traveling with friends. It wasn’t so much the idea of going to a new place; they mostly enjoyed the camaraderie of putting their RV rigs in a circle, and then socializing, eating and playing games with friends in a community.
Some people absolutely adore going on cruises. We know people who have been on over 50 cruises in their lifetime and hope to cram as many more as they can into their lives. It sometimes doesn’t even matter where they go; they love being pampered, fed and entertained as they while away their leisure time.
Other friends prefer to go on tour groups. They find it fun and relaxing not to worry about where they will be sleeping, where they will be eating, or figuring out what it takes to get there. That type of travel suits them just fine, and the thought of renting a car or making their own arrangements is not appealing.
Others like Thom and I, are very independent travelers. I spend months figuring out where I want to go and then plan most of the details myself. We typically rent an apartment in a couple of different places. We also either rent a car or figure out all the public transportation options. We primarily travel by ourselves so that we can select where, when and how we go from place to place.
Rightsizing continually reminds us that we are all different. Finding what makes each of us happy and satisfied is not only the journey but the point of rightsizing. All travel and vacations cost money, so when we take the time to figure out what it is that brings us the most joy in advance, we maximize both our money and our time.
#3 Know your traveling style. As I mentioned above, Thom and I are very independent when it comes to travel. But I’m aware that not everyone else finds that as desirable. One of my sisters likes to travel as a group. The more the merrier is her motto. I also have a couple of women friends who prefer to travel alone. They find that when they strike out as a single, they can go where they want, when they want, without having to take anyone else’s needs or wants into account. Again, it all depends on what makes us most content.
Rightsizing also recommends that once you find out how and with whom you like to travel, that you make sure you are compatible with those on the trip. A good friend of ours went on a trip to Vietnam with another couple. The other couple liked to do everything first-class and fortunately had the money to do it. Unfortunately, our friends not only didn’t have the same finances, but they also didn’t really care to pay top dollar for every experience they encountered. Neither was happy.
#4 Learn to pace yourself to maximize your travel. I learned this one the hard way. When we were younger, anytime I was able to travel anywhere I attempted to cram as much as possible into the available hours. Not only did I exhaust myself, but I was so busy running from place to place that I missed half of the experience. Fortunately, as I’ve matured, and with Thom’s help, I’ve learned to slow down, take the time to enjoy the now of the location, and remember it is the experience. As our friend Mohammed Famey said during our recent trip to Egypt, “Don’t make your travel a checklist where you go from site to site saying to yourself, check, check, check. Rather, pause and be present in the moment.” Rightsized travel is not a contest where the person with the most locations wins. Instead, it is the person who manages to enjoy and then remember each moment in the now.
#5 Research and psychological studies have uncovered different ways we determine the memory, value, and enjoyment of our vacations. They are:
- What we will remember from any trip is a couple of the peak moments and especially how it ends. I recommend planning a couple of “Wow!” experiences along the way plus a “highlight” at the end. That way you’ll always remember it fondly.
- People who spend time planning and anticipating their vacations in advance usually hold on to more intense and satisfying memories than those who simply remember their vacation after they return.
- Because the anticipation of a trip often brings as much (if not more) pleasure than the journey itself, longer vacations are not as important as frequency.
- After it is all said and done, most of us end up with the “rosy view” of vacations. Precisely because most people tend to believe in advance that a vacation is supposed to be enjoyable, what people usually remember is a “rosy view” of the experience regardless of what occurs.
- If following your trip you immediately plunge yourself back into worry, catch-up mode, or debt, you can negate the positive advantages of your vacation.
- Having autonomy on a trip increases its benefits. Being able to get up in the morning when you want and control the events of the day, allows you to feel better about your travel.
- Learning or pursuing new experiences will also help to heighten positive memories of the trip.
Because rightsizing is such an individual experience, it’s likely many more ways exist that would help us choose the type of experience that will bring us the greatest pleasure. As usual, the SMART approach is to take the time to think them through in advance and then stay true to a happy, meaningful and peaceful experience, 365.
Question: What about you? Do you have any “rightsized” ideas that you use to plan and then enjoy your travel? Please share in the comments below.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Amin! If I ever get near visiting Pakistan I will definitely contact you as a guide. I am sure it is beautiful country and worthy of a visit. And it NOT a problem that you have to stay in the mountains as long as you enjoy your work and your life there! ~Kathy
Rena McDaniel says
I travel the same way. I find that the planning of the trip is half the fun of going. We travel by ourselves and once in a while with a certain couple who have the same travel habits as we do. We don’t like to stay in the same place long and tend to make trips into bit circles around the country. Haven’t made it out of the country yet. Maybe one day. We also pay for everything in advance. Put the money in a savings account and we know each week how much we have to put back. When we get back we don’t owe anything and we’ve traveled to 48 states so far. Same thing for Xmas.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Rena! I think you have rightsized your life in so many ways Rena. Thank you for sharing some of the things that have worked for you. And especially good for you for being frugal with your plans. I don’t think we have to give up travel, we just have to find a way that works for us, don’t you think? Thanks for adding your perspective on this! ~Kathy
Gary Lange says
Great points Kathy as usual. My mother used to say that planning was half the fun. Being spontaneous and connecting with real locals is also very rewarding. My husband and I enjoy nature, walking and ice cream. They are always part of our travel plans. No wonder so many like to have a great experience at the end. It makes the possible travel home hassles much more bearable.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Gary! Thank you! And are you home from your travels yourself? I know we have been missing each other this summer….did you go to New York yet? One of these days we will have to get together and compare notes. And I’m hoping that the “ending” of all your trips has been great. I hope to see you soon. ~Kathy
Tom Sightings says
Hi Kathy, As you know, Rightsize has now become my middle name. Anyway, this is great advice . . . and I also agree about camping and RVing — not for me! — besides, with all that equipment, how can you possibly be rightsized?!?
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Tom! Yes! You are the latest rightsizing convert for sure! I’ll have to have you do an update at sometime in the future to let my readers know how things have progressed. And yes, that you for pointing out that when you are a camper and/or RV person, you end up with storage issues. Where to park the RV when not in use, what to do with all that camping equipment. We don’t have room in our small house (or garage) for all that extra stuff. Unless you LOVE that experience, best to rent or figure out another way. Thanks for adding that perspective. ~Kathy
Great points Kathy. When traveling with other people it really is important to have some separate time. Just because you are together doesn’t mean you are tied to the hip and must do every activity together. We traveled with another couple once and although we knew they are the kind who are always running late for some reason we thought when on vacation they would be different!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Haralee! That is certainly something we all learn the hard way huh? We once took a three week trip with people who had two kids. But even though we liked the kids, we didn’t realize that the kids would be able to stay up (and sleep in) as long as they wanted and that our (all of our) schedules had to accommodate that. That was a bit of a wake-up call for Thom and I. We had envisioned putting the kids to bed at a relatively early hour and sitting up talking late into the night with our friends. Needless to say THAT didn’t happen. So I completely get how we can sometimes overlook something in our everyday life but when you are with people on vacation all that comes to the surface. Good to know huh? Thanks for the reminders! ~Kathy
Terri Webster Schrandt says
Kathy, this is such important information! I love to travel, too, and luckily my hubby has already traveled the world. We both like camping, RV travel and I am open to anything, BUT, do not go into debt to do so. It would be simple to plan a January trip to Chile (we try to go south for the winter)…we have family there, so costs would be minimal, but the flights are rather expensive and long. We are paying off a HELOC on our room addition so I say “Stay home and enjoy the room.” Traveling with other family members can be challenging too, as we just experienced recently. I’m not used to being around young, energetic children or others who want to “do-it-all” in two days. Aargh! Thanks for another illuminating post!!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Terri! It sounds like you’ve “rightsized” your travel pretty well up to this point. And yes, a trip to visit family (especially ones that live in fun and exotic places is always wonderful. Of course, getting that Home-equity paid off soon will give you even more freedom right? And isn’t it also another benefit to growing older when we realize what we can tolerate and what we find challenging? One of my mottos is that nothing is a failure or a mistake as long as we learn from it for next time. Have a great rest of your summer no matter what you do! ~Kathy
Kathy Marris says
I agree wholeheartedly with your travel points, particularly the not trying to cram too much into one holiday. I like the idea of staying in one place for a few days at least rather than rushing from one place to the next. It is exhausting and then you don’t enjoy the experience as much. I would also add that you should approach a holiday in a foreign place with an open mind and really try to experience as much of their culture as you can, such as cuisine, customs, language. Also don’t be afraid to divert out of the main touristy areas and immerse yourself into the “real” community.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Kathy! Yes! You are absolutely right about approaching holidays in different countries with an open mind AND a willingness to learn and be curious about all that makes them unique and special. Plus, as you say, getting away from all the tourist spots to enjoy the “real” community is so richly rewarding. Thank you for adding those very Rightsized perspectives to this post! ~Kathy
Beth Havey says
Ah, John and I love to travel, but now within our budget, most trips are back to Chicago to
see our son and visit family. We had a wonderful time last month doing that. The good news is
that living in California, we can take many smaller trips up the coast and see and explore. So
those will fit our budget and are certainly on a future list. John always plans. He loves doing that.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Beth! As long as your trips are going to where you want to go and doing what brings you the most fun and happiness, then it doesn’t matter where you go right? As I said, just going because you can isn’t the best way either. And yes! Those of us who live in California have such variety so close and near. We are very fortunate for sure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! ~Kathy
I enjoyed this article. Since we have right sized our lives I find that I can afford things that were a struggle before. We are planning a trip to Ireland in August, and I am enjoying the process and trying not to over plan. I want to find a balance between knowing where we are going and where we will sleep and leaving room to explore things we find along the way.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Michele! Yes isn’t it such an advantage not to have to struggle to pay for a big lifestyle and instead put the money on experiences that you enjoy? While we typically stay in nice places (but not over the top) but do splurge on business class flights when we go overseas. I would never have felt comfortable spending that much for air tickets if we weren’t saving so much on basic living expenses. It all depends on what you find important and feel good about, right?
And yes to the “right” amount of planning. I know some people just don’t like to do it and I’ve had some people say it “ruins” the trip for them. But I’ve learned that by researching all the options in advance that I can then pick and choose what I want to do “along the way.” Of course there is no one right way to do it, but finding a way that works for YOU is what rightsizing is all about. Have a BLAST on your trip! ~Kathy
We’ve been thinking about a trip for a while – it’s just finding the right balance for us that’s the problem – my husband is the active, go-go-go person who can’t sit still and needs to be doing something every day. I’m the feet up, eat up, read up and occasional do-er. I’m sure we’ll come up with something soon – and as you say, planning it and thinking about it is almost as good as the trip itself.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Leanne! Good luck planning your adventure! It sounds like your husband and I share a bit of the FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) energy! But I am getting better as I age so maybe he will too! One thing that worked for Thom and I was when Thom said, “I can’t and don’t want to see EVERYTHING. Just show me the WOWS!” So what I do when I’m planning is come up with the highlights of every location and let go of the “nice but just okay” things as a compromise. It does work really well for us. He doesn’t feel like he is running from site, to site, to site, and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything important. You might try that and see how it works for you. ~Kathy
Laura Ehlers says
Great suggestions. My husband and I knew from the start that we prefer independent travel. We have since found another couple who is fun to travel with. And as you pointed out, sometimes planning the trip and anticipating it is nearly as fun as the trip itself!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Laura! Glad you liked my suggestions. And good for you for finding another you enjoy traveling with because that’s not always easy. We did take a cruise to Tahiti for our 30th Anniversary (with so many islands it’s a good way to see it) and found that cruising REALLY works when there are a bunch of you. Plus, with the cruise line providing the food and where you sleep, it made those choices easy. So cruising is a great alternative when you want to travel with a group. And yes, nice to see others like planning them as much as me. ~Kathy