You can travel to Italy… or wherever you want to go… or to make any other dream you can imagine come true.
My husband, Duane and I have been in Rome for almost two weeks of our four-week trip we’re taking to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. This is a dream come true, and what’s even more amazing is that we’re doing it all without borrowing any money. Nope, we won’t even have a big credit card bill greeting us when we get home.
Let me share some of the secrets that allowed us to take a pain-free, debt-free one-month trip to Italy:
We used delayed gratification. Two years ago we decided we wanted to do something special for our 25th anniversary and chose to travel to Italy, home of some of the most amazing art in the world (Duane is an artist and has always wanted to see Michelangelo’s work firsthand). In the past, Duane, an impulsive ADHDer, would have called a travel agent, booked our flights and figured out the rest later. We’ve learned that this is the hard way of doing things, after all, how can you enjoy a trip that is sinking you deeper in debt?
Instead, using the wisdom acquired from past mistakes, we estimated how much it would cost for such a trip in May 2009, and began to plan what it would take – knowledge, money, paperwork, and reservations – to actually make a month-long trip to Italy. It was quite a stretch for us and we wondered if it would be possible.
We created a plan. We began by identifying two or three steps we could take that would bring us closer to our dream. We looked at our options for travel and accommodations. We listed all the things we wanted to see. We started to figure out the financial requirements and did research. The more we learned, the more steps we could add to our plan, and sometimes we discovered we had to go back and make changes to our plan, but that was easy to fix, and it wasn’t stressful as we knew we had plenty of time to adjust. Too often, people put off taking any action until they have all the information, but if we had made that mistake, we never would have made this trip.
We fed our dream. It’s difficult for any ADHDer to maintain focus on some far-off objective, and Duane struggled to remain motivated without impulsively booking the trip right away. We allowed ourselves some instant gratification in seeking out art and travel information about Italy. We borrowed books from the library and purchased others, regularly consulting books, maps and pictures of Italy to make the dream more real. Duane consulted art books to map out what he’d go see first hand when we finally made it to Rome and Florence. We planned, discussed, and dreamed about Italy for two years. This allowed us to remain motivated and made us far better prepared for the trip when it was time. It was also a lot of fun!
We created a system. Duane’s standard approach to taking a vacation was to go; he’d run up the credit card bills and then deal with the fall-out upon his return. Sometimes it would be several years between vacations as we scrimped and saved to pay down the debt, and I’d be stressed during the vacation watching the charges mount, and we’d all be stressed when we arrived home, knowing the huge bill that was waiting.
We wanted this trip to be different, so even though it was the biggest trip we’d ever taken, we developed a plan and created a system to accumulate the required funds BEFORE we left. We opened a bank account and set up automatic monthly deposits. At first, we felt the pinch of the diverted funds but very quickly adjusted our lifestyle and avoided over spending. We changed our credit card to one that provided travel points and carefully managed our spending so that the majority of our purchases went on the credit card to accumulate points but was completely paid off each month.
For extras on the trip, Duane even started to accumulate his loose change. Each day he would carefully hide away whatever change was in his pocket. We weren’t counting on this money, but small efforts really can add up – over the course of two years, he accumulated $2,160 in loose change, a very nice bonus. You should have seen the teller when we staggered into the bank with his load of change!
I’m writing this article, sitting in my apartment in Rome. We’re taking the day off from sightseeing because we just spent three glorious days exploring every nook and cranny of Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and the only stress I feel right now is whether we should go to Venice this weekend, or if it would be less crowded if we waited until after the weekend. Does that sound like a dream to you? It did to us, and we made it come true. What dream will you make come true?
Arrivaderci from Rome!