Mark Danger Powers

drummer • educator • author

Want To Travel? Do It NOW.

We didn’t travel much when I was a kid. Maybe to Indiana a time or two to see the grandparents. But no Disneyland, no Grand Canyon and definitely no trips out of the country.

My first time off of US soil was exactly seven years ago, when I got this hairbrained idea to go study drumming for two and a half months in a small Ghanaian village that lacked both running water and electricity. By almost anyone’s standards- after paying for all the necessary supplies, vaccinations, malaria pills, room and board, four hours of percussion lessons five days a week, buying and air cargo’ing home an insanely huge pile of instruments, and getting suckered out of a few bucks here and there- the trip was freaking expensive. That very well could have been my one and only foreign adventure. The first and last. The big one that I relive over and over in my head until I finally have my own grandkids to torture with its tales.

It might have been. If it weren’t for meeting William. And we’re going to call him William because I don’t ever recall actually getting his name.

Near the end of my stay in Ghana, I decided to take a short break from the village of Kopeyia and check out some of the other sights and sounds that the rest of the country offered. One of my first stops was Big Milly’s in Kokrobite. Certainly the most touristy area I’d been in. By that I mean, there were tourists. Having just come from weeks of being in a place where I was the only non-African, seeing the faces of other travelers was both exciting and weird. On top of that, there was a beach, incredible food and electricity (which translates as: ice cream!).

Enjoying a [for once, cold] drink at the edge of the waves after dinner, I struck up a conversation with a white-haired English gentlemen doing the same. William and his wife had been married for over forty years! He shared with me that they had spent their entire lives making a neverending list of all of the amazing places they were going to visit when they eventually retired. And then she died.

William told me that, amidst struggling with the loss, he had realized that their “smart” decision to work hard, work hard, work hard, until they could one day [hopefully] take off and see the world, was the stupidest decision they made in those 40+ years. His life was changed immediately. Partly to honor her, and partly to keep himself from continuing any further along that path, he quit everything, left home and had no clue if and when he might return. He informed me of things I’d never heard of . . . the shadow puppets of Bali, the Trans-Mongolian Railway, the ridiculously expensive Maldive Islands.

And he begged me to not make the same mistake they had for so long. Ultimately, too long.

I was strongly impacted by the short chat with William that evening in Kokrobite. While his story isn’t the reason that I want to travel, it is the reason I choose to travel NOW.

Where do YOU want to travel?
What sights have you always told yourself you’ll check out . . . someday?

I’m here to tell you that most destinations are not nearly as difficult or pricey as you may think. Get your butt onto SideStep (or you other travel broker of choice), put a revised, tight budget into effect for the next couple of months, get your passport and get outta Dodge.

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Want to save some serious money? Check out CouchSurfing or WWOOF’ing.

Ready to go super hardcore? Buy Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek, read Chapter 14 and, like my new friend, Matt Koenig, take a 1-year sabbatical!

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Okay- where are you going? And when? I want to hear all about your plans in the comments below!

Check out these related travel posts:

17 Comments

  1. Mark,

    Thanks for telling this story!!! We all need this kind of reminder because there is nothing worse in life than regrets.

    I’ve been to Europe, Scandanavia, China, and Australia. Still want to visit Chile, New Zealand, Tazmania and a few other places….checking my passport 🙂

    • I couldn’t agree more, Maria. “William” was already regretful enough that they had missed out on sharing that dream together. He was determined not to make that mistake twice. I really took that to heart. Keep me posted on your next adventures- I’ll do the same!

  2. Great stuff! Thanks for the inspiration! I’m saving up for 0ur first trip.

    1st step…get a passport!

  3. Good reminder Mark! When my Grandma passed away this year it really hit me how fragile life is. We need to get out there and live our dreams now, not delay them because tomorrow may not come.

    My first time out of the country was 2001 to Indonesia when I got married. I went back for 2 months in 2005 and will be going back for a longer period of time in 2011. We also have plans to stop in Cambodia for a few weeks, maybe make a journey into Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. We’ll be living in Indonesia for at least a year and there are so many places I want to see and photograph there. There is Mount Bromo and Lake Toba that are high on my list. I just plan to live in the moment and see what develops around me.

    • Matt, I think what you’re setting out to do is absolutely incredible. More of us should make the commitment to make those types of dreams come true for ourselves. And now that I’ll have a friend in Indonesia, perhaps I should start watching flight prices myself!

      • YES!! You gotta make a trip over. You have a place to stay if you do. We should have a bloggers meetup in Bali. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about heading that way. Thanks for the mention in this post. Appreciate it!

  4. Mark, I was lucky to grow up in a family that traveled every summer, mostly camping in Colorado. Three different times we went to Mexico for two to three weeks each time. Since we lived in Texas, these were driving vactions so we were able to visit a lot of non-tourist places, like the mountain villages on market day. My parents always did a lot of travelling until my mom died. Long range, I would really like to go to Brazil and visit the Amazon River. Short range, I’m hoping to take Dylan and his brother to visit the “exotic” locale of Lubbock, TX during Spring Break to visit my dad. Is it considered couchsurfing if I stay in my old room?

    • Haha- I suppose we could still label that couchsurfing! 🙂 Awesome that you got to travel a bunch in the past. And here’s to those Brazil plans! Thanks for reading & dropping a line on here, Laura!

  5. Great post! I’ve never thought the whole “work hard for the first 3/4 of your life to enjoy the last 1/4” idea never made much sense. My next destination is San Francisco (my husband has never been!), and after that, who knows? I have a feeling that Thailand, Shanghai, and Buenos Aires are in my not-too-distant future. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    • I agree wholeheartedly. Gotta git while the gittin’s good!

      Ooh yes, Buenos Aires . . . definitely on my list, as well! Hope you two enjoyed SF. Thanks for reading, Robin!

  6. Love these constant reminders to keep my butt moving. Our 8-year old son now has the travel bug too (he’s been to 30+ states and 10 countries.) Last year we hit up Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey & Egypt over a month-long trip. Next year consists of Argentina & Chile in January and a trip out to Portland, Seattle & Vancouver in the summer.

    We could all die tomorrow, today is the day to make memories.

    • Brad Knapp- great to see you make it by here! Thanks for dropping a line and sharing your list. Sounds like you and the fam have been logging some serious miles! Keep in touch about your Pacific Northwest plans; I’d love to connect when you’re out this’a’way!

  7. I am in Juneau, Alaska right now because I can be. Lived here some growing up and I’ve always wanted to come back. I work freelance so can be anywhere, and my parents have a place here they’re not using right now, so I’m here for three months. Simply because I wanted to come here, and I made it happen.

    And then last week on a whim I hopped on a ferry up to Haines with the numbers for two hotels in my pocket, and had an absolutely wonderful time in the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I love to travel, I love to meet people and find places.

    I realized early this year that if I ever plan to really make a go at living life the way I want to and being completely freelance, I just had to get started or I’d never do it. The plan was to use my time in Alaska to figure a direction and get going, which I’ve kind of done. And I’ve gotten a lot more out of this retreat than I expected. I head back to Chicago in about three weeks, and will most likely begin planning my next adventure.

    • Haines, AK . . . I was through there just about a year ago, on tour with a musician from the Yukon! What a beautiful area, indeed. Good for you for taking the time to get away from the windy city and sort through things. Thanks for the comment, Kaari. Enjoy the rest of your northern retreat!

  8. Hey Mark- This is a great post. We all just need to get over the “deferred life plan” strategy and realize that life has begun and is happening now. It is why everyone should do something now. And, as you say, travel NOW.
    So I am in it with you– I am going abroad in January to Colombia. Bought the plane ticket. Here we go. Though I have been out of the country before, it will be my first time out of the country for an extended period of time. I am really excited, and as the days get closer, I can feel the moment of “the jump” approaching!

    • Good for you, Ryan! How long will you be in Colombia? I seem to have run across several people recently headed that direction . . . perhaps it’s a locale I need to look into more myself. Thanks for reading- keep me posted on your upcoming adventure!

      • Mark- I’m going to be in Colombia from January 5th to April 4th minimum. If I can stay longer, I might, depending on how I adjust to everything… Who else have you heard going down there? You should definitely come! Join the party!

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