As you’ve probably noticed, travel has become a priority in my life. There are number of reasons for this. For one, I love it. I love visiting other cities, other states, other countries. I love seeing how different people live, and how they do things. Here in the U.S., we are so myopic — we tend to focus on just our way of life, so that it becomes difficult to imagine that there are billions of people in the world living in completely different ways.

But there are other reasons, too. For instance, I worry about my mortality. I don’t know if I’ve shared this here at GRS, but my father’s side of the family tends to have short life spans. Very short life spans. I don’t want to find out at age 49 that I only have a year to live, and then not be able to do all the things I wanted to do. (That’s another reason I’m so focused on fitness lately: My father’s side of the family also tends to be unfit. I’m hoping that by becoming — and remaining — fit, I can kick the “Roth men die by 50” trend.)

As I’ve begun to travel more, I’ve also started to read more about the subject. Not just blogs (though certainly I read those), but also books. I’m looking for ideas about how to travel frugally, of course, but also tips on smart travel in general. That’s one reason I’ve become obsessed with packing light.

One of my travel goals is to backpack across England. The U.K. has a number of designated walking trails with varying degrees of difficulty. I’d love to spend a week or two walking from one side of the country to the other. (This doesn’t appeal to Kris in any way, so it’s something I’d do alone, or with a friend or two.) In fact, I had tentatively planned to hike Hadrian’s Wall next summer, although that may change if we go to South Africa.

All of my rambling is just prelude to an article I read last week at The Art of Non-Conformity. Chris Guillebeau took time to interview Jodi Ettenberg, who retired from life as corporate lawyer to backpack across the world. I particularly liked her discussion of how she saved to be able to do this:

What were some of the things you did to make your dream a reality? (Did you open a second bank account, post your goals on your mirror, etc.?) What advice would you give others with a similar dream?

First and foremost, I thought of every purchase in terms of a plane ticket’s value. “I could buy this, but it’s basically a plane ticket from Bangkok to Bali” or the like. I felt a bit like a salmon swimming upstream with my “means to an end” mentality in a fast-paced, results-driven city like New York. But you do what you have to in order to stay focused, and for me that meant concentrating on the eventual travel as a way of pushing past the city’s obsession with material things. I did open a second bank account, and dumped a set percentage of my salary into it each month.

I was also fortunate for two reasons. The first is that I went to law school in Canada, meaning that as a Canadian resident my tuition was extremely reasonable by North American standards. As a result, I was able to pay off my school debt entirely in my first year of working in New York. The second is that I was in a profession with significantly higher salaries than most. However, the end result regardless of positioning is the same: you put your head down when you can and you work toward your goals. For me, that meant buying kids’ clothes to wear under my suits (I’m small, so it’s a bonus), hiking in Harriman park instead of weekends in the Hamptons and spelunking for cheap eats in a city known for extravagant food options.

None of these were true sacrifices. The true sacrifice was the time spent at my desk, and the nights where I fell asleep under it waiting for a deal to close. But I was bolstered by my goal of seeing the world, and wanted to make sure I saved a sufficient amount to take my time doing so when I finally did quit my job to travel.

Stories like this inspire me. Even though I’m doing well on my own journey, there are times I do get discouraged or slip into old habits. But reading about Jodi’s attitude and choices gives me renewed resolve to travel while I still can. So, yes, that means making South Africa in 2011 a priority. And maybe backpacking across England, too. (That’ll be tough. We’ll see.)

In any event, I have another travel blog to read now. Jodi writes about her experiences at Legal Nomads.

Remember: A rich life is all about conscious spending. We choose to skimp on some things so that we don’t have to skimp on others.

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