"I don't have time" is the most overused excuse in the book. "Too many people sit passively, waiting to get enough time off to travel," says Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (Villard). "But it will never happen, because the American corporate world isn't set up to reward you with free time." Potts's strategies (below) will help you create your own. (For added inspiration, bookmark these sites: Take Back Your Time and Vacation Campaign)
> Take all of your vacation time: Studies consistently show that Americans rarely take all of their allotted time off even if it's a measly two weeks. It's yours. You've earned it. What are you waiting for?
> Negotiate a sabbatical: "These can be paid or unpaid, depending on the situation. The bottom line is, an unpaid leave of absence is better than none at all."
> Fine-tune your career to create more natural pauses: "Many people are getting more creative at doing seasonal or contract work, which frees you up to travel."
> If all else fails, quit (but first devise a solid six-month financial backup plan): "Make strategic use of a time-honored personal-freedom technique popularly known as 'quitting,' " says Potts. "It doesn't have to be reckless." Second opinion? Travel writer Pico Iyer refers to quitting as "a step in a better direction."
SPREAD THE LOVE
If you feel too guilty to take off for no good reason, try combining it with an altruistic mission or a self-improvement goal. The opportunities are endless, from developing a portable library system in Vietnam to assisting at a school for the deaf in Brazil. And there's nothing wrong with a self-help mission to perfect your surfing in Mexico or partake in Ironman New Zealand, either. Keep in mind, however, that altruism doesn't always equal inexpensive: A volunteer trip to Brazil might run $2,500 for two weeks, not including airfare. And take this tip from Doug Cutchins, co-author of Volunteer Vacations (Chicago Review Press): Check out the U.S. State Department's Web site (travel.state.gov) for travel warnings before you sign on. A few good sites: Cross-Cultural Solutions (crossculturalsolutions.org), Globe Aware (globeaware.org), Global Volunteers (globalvolunteer.org), Active.com.