This blog post was updated on April 24, 2017.

For the select few, travel is a way of life. And although it sounds pretty glamorous and exciting – not all of us can afford to drop everything and travel. And it’s not just the money. Career goals, family obligations, illness, and a host of other responsibilities keep us grounded in one spot – leaving us time to travel during our three or four weeks off a year.

Finding the balance between “normal life” and wanderlust is a tricky task. It can be frustrating to watch others spend their days exploring new places while we’re working our 9 — 5. It can be even more frustrating when you don’t have the funds to travel even when you have available time off from work. Getting bit by the travel bug is a real thing, but finding balance with our real life isn’t always easy. Still, there are practices that have helped me relieve the sting – at least a little. Here are a few ways that have helped me to find find balance between “normal life” and travel aspirations.

Explore Where You Are

We were living in Glendale Arizona a few years ago and I complained to my husband Kevin about how we never had time to travel since he was in medical school. As a student, he had about three weeks off a year from school but most of that time was over Christmas when we typically spend time with family. He pointed out that the Super Bowl was coming up, and it happened to be in our own backyard – just a few miles from where we were. Big deal, I thought. I wanted to go to Japan.

Beautiful girl in the Christmas market, back view

But one Saturday he had some free time, and we spent the day at a Super Bowl festival put on for locals the week before the big game. We perused the booths, ate hot dogs, and took a mini tour from a drunk guide about the infrastructure the city of Glendale put in for the event. It was, surprisingly, a wonderful day. It wasn’t Japan, but it was still something new. Since then, whenever we feel frustrated by our lack of time/funds, we try to do something close to home. A cooking class at a nearby restaurant, a quirky museum, a cool restaurant. Chances are, people come to your hometown to do things that you haven’t even done.

Take Day/Weekend Trips

Don’t have a week off to go to Singapore? Use the weekend and take a mini vacation. It could be at a hotel/spa near your home, a campground, or just a couple of sleeping bags and the back of your car. We do this a lot when we have a free weekend. In Arizona we would drive to Palm Springs, Sedona, or The Grand Canyon. Now that we live in Florida, we use our weekends to explore places that are within a reasonable driving distance (>5 hours is our general rule). Orlando, Jacksonville, Hilton Head, and Savannah are all places we’ve visited when we have a weekend off. These weekend or day trips help because you return home refreshed from a new experience. And the packing and planning gives you something to look forward to – the same way a true vacation does.

Female legs on the vechicle door with casual shoes

Make a Bucket List

Make a list of all of the places you want to go. Me and my husband do this every couple months. We write down our top ten places we want to go. Most are far away — Jerusalem, Prince Edward Island, Ireland. But others are close to home — or at least in the United States. I had Newport, Rhode Island on my top ten bucket list when my husband told me he had to attend an anesthesia conference that year. He ended up attending one in Boston. Newport was just a few hours away by car and we had a few hours before our flight to visit after his conference. It was totally unexpected, and so much fun. Making a list helps you establish your priorities. You get to decide which places are the most important to you so when it comes time to get away — you already know where you want to go.

Friends Searching Location Relax Vacation Weekend Concept

Plan Your Next Adventure

A TripAdvisor survey found that 64% of participants felt excitement just booking their travel. Compare that to the 69% who feel excitement upon arrival to their destination, and the booking is almost as fun as the actual trip. To find balance between “real life” and your next adventure, book your next adventure. Just knowing you are going somewhere, even if it’s a year in the future gives you something to look forward to during your daily grind. When you see others traveling, you may feel less jealous since you, too, are going somewhere soon. Besides the high that comes from booking, planning ahead gives you plenty of time to make the most of your hard-won vacation days. You have time to plan excursions, classes, everything you need to make that trip the most enjoyable for you.

Back view of adventure woman near the canyon. on rock

Frank Sonnenberg is credited with saying, “Paradise is not a place, it’s a state of mind.” But I think travel could easily be swapped with paradise and it would still be true. It’s not a point on a map or a collection of stamps on a passport. Instead, the true travelers live their day-to-day lives in a continuous state of wanderlust — ready for any adventure, whether it is near or far from home. Travel is who, not where we are. And we alone are responsible for inciting those aspirations.

Now we want to hear: what do you do to reconcile real life with wanderlust? Any tips and tricks welcome.

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About The Author

Hey I'm Mandy. Writer, traveler, wife, mother, author, woman, over-sharer. I like to talk about the grit of travel, the beautiful, and the people that I meet. Oh yeah - and traveling with kids.