How To Go Abroad In One Easy Step: Get A Freakin’ Departure Date.

by Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical on December 14, 2010

NOTE from Matt: Today I’m serving up an awesome guest post from Ryan of Ryan Goes Abroad. Ryan is just days away from departing on a 3 month adventure to Columbia. To follow his adventures make sure and check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.  So without any more delay I’ll turn it over to Ryan.

When it comes to going abroad, there is a moment at which everything you are thinking about makes a sudden move forward from the theoretical to the actual. That moment is when you set your departure date and buy the plane ticket. 

Dreams Finally Set In Motion

When you click “buy” or “purchase” on Expedia, Orbitz, Cheap Tickets, Kayak, Delta, Spirit, Southwest, or wherever, your traveling dreams are finally set in motion. You now have made a commitment with your pocketbook, and as a result, the rest of you will follow. 

Getting a confirmed departure date will work wonders for you. Seriously. It sets everything else in motion which otherwise would still be NOTHING by the simple force of inertia. 

NOTHING moves until you ACT. So ACT… Get that departure date. 

The Benefits

There are at least 3 benefits that immediately come your way when you get an actual departure date (besides the fact that you are actually going to go somewhere). 

1. Your decision to go abroad changes from an uncertain MAYBE to a definitive YES.

Instead of hemming and hawing about where you are going, how you are going, and when you are going, etc., the moment you finally purchase the ticket, your mind instantly switches gears. It changes from a pattern of considering the indefinite (“Where and when can I go?”), to believing the affirmative (“I’m going to this place at this time.”) 

An interesting thing then happens: your psyche takes on an entirely different character. Instead of wishing you had the time to go abroad, you suddenly start altering your life to meet the departure date deadline. You start acting on relevant considerations: What do I now have to purchase? What arrangements do I now have to make? Who do I now need to contact? What documents do I now need to secure?

Suddenly, instead of planning your travel around your life, you begin to plan your life around your travel

Suddenly, instead of planning your travel around your life, you begin to plan your life around your travel.

2. You are enabled to move forward where you couldn’t before.

With your basic itinerary intact, you can now attend to a lot of the planning that wasn’t moving anywhere. For instance, you can now begin to make key contacts in your targeted country. Instead of blindly selecting from 6 billion people to contact, you now have your arrival city. 

Where are you going? Bogotá? If so, begin to look into who is in that city… Is there is a good couchsurfing community? Are there online social networks to join? Can you people who live in Bogotá and Skype with them? You can have a leg up on your trip if you hit the ground already knowing some folks there. (I am actually going to Bogotá, so talk to me for sure… ) 

You can also begin to gather other information on the city… For example, what will the temperature be like when you get there? Is it rainy season or dry season? Will you be able to get around via bus or subway? Are there major holidays or parades going on? How close are you to famous landmarks or wonders of the world? 

If you’re getting shots, the medical clinic will recommend your vaccinations based on where you are intending to go. Now, instead of wondering where you might go, you actually have something to tell them. (Quick tip: Make sure to call the travel clinic at least 2 months prior to your trip!

All of these questions mean relatively little to you until you finally settle on a departure date and destination. What happens is that your desire morphs into an intention and your plans begin to take shape. 

3. The countdown forces you to make the leap.

Consider going abroad as like standing at the back of a diving board looking towards the front edge. Jumping off the end of the diving board is your trip abroad. But standing at the back of the diving board, you can look and look and look, but not move. 

But once you have a departure date, suddenly the diving board begins to move you forward like a moving sidewalk. Now, you know you are headed for the edge, and you know you are going to jump. You’re going to have to. It’s only a matter of time. 

This is the experience of buying that plane ticket. 

The departure date is now moving towards you, and everything will straighten itself out in the process.




Setting that departure date and buying that plane ticket is like signing a contract with yourself. You’ve signed on the dotted line, you’ve committed, so it’s going to happen. 

So, tell me… when is your departure date? 

About the author: Ryan decided to go to Colombia on January 5th, 2011. You can follow his travels and his attempts to learn Spanish–holler at him on twitter @ryangoesabroad

Photo: adapted from Reyes


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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Srinivas December 14, 2010 at 12:56 pm


I heard this from Jenny when I interviewed for her BlogcastFM and it made so much sense to me. I realize that Tony Robbins famous words “the road to someday leads to nowhere” really were true. I know you and I have kind of chatted on twitter about my own surf sabbatical. I’ve set a date for Jan 2012. I noticed just by setting that date a few things happen

1) I decided to start a new blog: my surf sabbatical, which will be up soon
2) I started immediately researching what it;s going to take to make this a reality
3) I’ve already started making lifestyle adjustments (i.e. embracing minimalism, and getting religious about my expenses)

Fortunately Matt will be in Bali a good 6 months before me, so I’ll be able to pick his brain for that portion of my plan. When people tell me that they plan to do this in 5-10 years I tell them that time is the most precious asset you can’t create more of, it should be used wisely.


Ryan December 14, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Right on, Srini. Thanks for the thoughts… Great quote by TR, don’t think I’ve heard it before.

And I’ve so totally “got religious” since I got my departure date! Haha! That’s a great way of putting it… I’ve reduced my possessions significantly, updated my travel gadgetry, and increased my Spanish. And, in fact, just because I know I’m leaving in 3 weeks I am killing Spanish right now. The deadline just makes things happen.

I’m excited to hear of your plans and will be watching for updates… If I crash the party in Bali, will you teach me how to surf??


matt December 15, 2010 at 12:57 am

Srini! This is awesome! I’m excited for your journey and looking forward to meeting up in Bali in 2012. I’ve found that when I set plans too far out in the future inevitably I let something get in the way of realizing that dream. They key is to set the date within a reasonable time period and then do it even if all the stars are not lined up perfectly because if you wait for that to happen you will never do what you want to do. It sounds like you are well on the road to making it happen my friend!


Nick Laborde December 14, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I will say that setting a date really starts to kick things up a notch. I haven’t bought a plane ticket but I did spend some money to go to The World Domination summit. I’m using that as a kick off event.

Clicking the buy button really makes a huge difference in your commitment. Since I’ve made that commitment I’ve moved beyond talking about it to actually doing something about it.
Nick Laborde recently posted..11 things you probably don’t need in 2011 and a kick ass mullet


Ryan December 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm

World domination is a great thing to commit yourself to, Nick… as long as it’s a kind of benevolent world domination. 🙂

I’m sure WDS is going to be cool, so it’s great you’ve already committed. I’ll be following your updates!


Michael December 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Excellent Post and very true. That’s a great TR quote. It seems like such a simple concept too but one that is easy to put off. Why? I guess the fear of starting because indeed, once you book it you are really on your way. I will use this to push me forward, thanks 🙂
Michael recently posted..MAN-GOO-LIAA- Fishing in the Land of the Khan


Ryan December 14, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Totally, Michael. I think fear masquerades as procrastination. Kill the procrastination, kill the fear.


Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World December 14, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Oooh, clicking that button… sounds scary, especially for a commitment freak like me. I can see myself losing sleep over making that first ticket purchase. Many good points and I can’t agree more with all of them.
Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted..Jakarta – A city only its residents can love aka What’s to love about coming home


Ryan December 15, 2010 at 12:29 am

Here’s hoping you don’t lose one more wink, Jill! Set it, click it and go! 🙂


matt December 15, 2010 at 1:01 am

Jill I know exactly what you mean. I’m a commitment freak as well and spend way too much time analyzing things over and over. I’ve always noticed though that once I click that button the monkey is off my back and I have total mental clarity to start kicking things into high gear.


matt December 15, 2010 at 12:45 am

Hey Ryan! Thanks so much for writing this great post. I know that when my wife and I sat down and talked about a date for our departure and then finally decided on one it was a great moment of relief. To be able to set that date and have something tangible to work toward is huge. It really is a motivational force. We’ve got our date set, now we just need to get those tickets purchased.


Ryan December 15, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Glad to do it, Matt. Thanks for having me… And you’re right– a departure date is such a motivational force. It just sets everything in motion. Excited to hear about the developments in your story!
Ryan recently posted..The Paradox of Motivation


Ayngelina December 15, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I remember the feeling of booking my flight – nausea. After a year of planning I was locked in and wanted to throw up! Best thing I ever did.
Ayngelina recently posted..Not a change of heart but a change of plans


Ryan December 15, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Yesssssss! Good word, Ayngelina.


Ali December 15, 2010 at 2:04 pm

I have a date in mind & right now I’m researching some things I need to get squared away before I can buy that plane ticket. Even having the date in my head is helpful but I’m sure once I’m able to buy the plane ticket, I’ll be even more motivated. Good inspiring post!
Ali recently posted..A Day in London


Ryan December 15, 2010 at 8:14 pm

You’re right, Ali. The fresh wind comes just after getting that plane ticket, doesn’t it? All of a sudden the trip becomes a reality.
Ryan recently posted..The Paradox of Motivation


GutsyWriter December 15, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Just had the pleasure of meeting Chris Guillebeau last Friday in L.A. on his Unconventional Book Tour. What a great guy and fun group of people to hang out with. Ryan, I’m happy for you, and agree with what you say. Our family spent a year researching Belize with a scouting trip first, before my husband and I moved with our three sons, (including a 16-year-old.) Once we set the date for our move, I couldn’t wait to leave the U.S. and move. Good luck, have fun and I shall follow you. Sonia.


matt December 15, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Hi Sonia! I’m going to the UBT in Portland tomorrow so will get the opportunity to meet with Chris. Really looking forward to it. What was the age of your youngest child when you moved to Belize? It’s nice to hear from you again.


Ryan December 16, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Sonia- I have heard a “scouting” trip is a really wise thing to do if you’re considering moving to another land… Sounds like it turned out really well for you, and I am considering something similar. We’ll see how it goes… Thanks for the comment!


Mark Powers December 17, 2010 at 10:07 am

“Suddenly, instead of planning your travel around your life, you begin to plan your life around your travel.”

I so agree, Ryan . . . setting the date in stone is crucial to really making it happen. I was guilty of not doing this myself just this fall. All year, I talked about my “plans” for the next trip coming up. Well, October/November came and went, and here I still am. I’ve always been one to make the decision to go, set the date and BAM, I’m off. Not this time. Now that I’ve got my head screwed back on straight, it will be happening this coming March.

Ryan and Matt- thanks to both of you for this!
Mark Powers recently posted..The Slump


Ryan December 17, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Right on, Mark! Glad to hear you are making it happen… Have you divulged where you are going?


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