How to Overcome Scarcity Mentality in Travel

Scarcity Mentality Ruins Travel

I think we can all agree that a Scarcity Mentality is the last thing we want to bring along with us on our travels. The trick, of course, is that it’s so easy to slip into a Scarcity Mentality, that it can become a default in our travels.

To overcome the Scarcity Mentality, we need to work to cultivate an abundance mentality. That is the mirror opposite of a scarcity mentality. It doesn’t require that any circumstances are different. Only that we behave differently within those circumstances. Here are four great ways to refocus ourselves from scarcity to abundance.

1. Use Limits as Leverage

Use Limitations as Leverage

Scarcity Mentality is not about limits, but about how we orient ourselves toward them. We can accept that there are limits (time, money, etc.) without feeling a sense of scarcity. In fact, recognizing that there are limits is great skill. It allows us to focus those limited resources. If we are approaching them without a feeling of scarcity, we can make wise choices of how to harness the time, money, company and location that we have.

The key is to use an awareness of limits to sharpen our focus, instead of consume us with a sense of lacking. “Once in a lifetime” should be a term that helps us be more keenly aware of what we’re experiencing. But, too often, it gives us anxiety, highlighting the one-shot nature of a trip. It doesn’t need to be that way.

Every trip is a once in a lifetime. Even if you repeated the exact same itenerary, you’re not the same person and neither is anyone you’re traveling with. That should feel powerful to us. Use the knowledge of our limits to deepen your experience, instead of create fear about it.

2. Recognize the Lies that Scarcity Mentality Tells

Scarcity Mentality tells us all sorts of lies. It’s good at proliferating and disguising them. Here are just a few, that, if we will recognize as the lies they are, will improve our travel experiences immediately.

Scarcity Myth: Limits Are Static

Scarcity Myth: Limits are Static

Scarcity Mentality tells us that we will only ever be able to do what we can do right now. Deep in the middle of a Warsaw winter, I’m most susceptible to this. It’s easy to believe the dark, grey days are forever. But, the blue skies I wake to every morning now argue a different story.

Our experience tells us that limits change all the time. What I can afford today may be drastically different from what I can afford next year. My available time for travel will fluctuate. So will the cost of travel and the places that are available for me to travel. Even the limits of my own interests are always changing. This is an easy lie to conquer if we simply expose it to the truth we already know. Our limits change, and we have a great deal more control over them than Scarcity Mentality would have us recognize.

Don’t believe me? Try this quickly. Grab a piece of paper and set a timer for 3 minutes. Write the name of the next trip you’re planning at the top. Now list all the limits of that trip. There are the obvious, of course. Budget. Time available. But, don’t stop there. List things like ages and physical capabilities of you and travel companions. Interests of all the parties. What accommodations are available. Just write until your timer rings. Now look over that list. If you were to take this trip in 3 years, how many of those limitations would be different? What if you had taken it 3 years ago? You see, life is not static, and neither are the limitations that we take with us into travel. Remembering that helps quell the feeling that we’ll always be limited in the same ways we are now.


Scarcity Myth: Travel is a Zero-Sum Game

Scarcity Myth: Travel is a Zero-Sum Game

Scarcity mentality would like us to believe that we’re in the way of one another. This is a lie that leads to such heartache. Anything that pits me against someone else is damaging. Worse still, if we ascribe to this paradigm, it begins to become true for us. The more we believe that someone else’s happiness is impinging on our own, the more it does.

The less there is to go around, the more this is obvious. Think about being on a plane, certainly a test of anyone’s ability to overcome Scarcity Mentality. How many battles have been waged over the 3 inch plastic expanse of an arm rest? Why? Because we feel that we don’t have enough. Our legs are cramped. There’s no where to move. So, when our seat mate begins to take more than their fair share of the arm rest, we are already primed to feel affronted.

The question is, can we really argue that an airplane isn’t a zero-sum scenario? I think yes, and I think that because, even when resources are limited, we possess our infinite creativity. We can create something that was not there. In the airplane scenario, we can take a walk to stretch our legs. We just created space for ourselves and our neighbor in the process.

Scarcity Myth: All ThingsAre Limited

Scarcity Myth:  All Things are Limited

To show how truly ludicrous this one is, I need to take a bit of a personal detour. When I was in labor with my oldest, my poor husband was trying very hard to do whatever he could to be supportive. He dredged up everything he could remember from our childbirth classes. He snuggle in close and tried to imitate the breathing that I was supposed to be doing. I looked right at him, told him to back off, with the explanation, “You’re taking all my oxygen!”

Nineteen years later, he still loves to tell that story. And, I love to tell him, that, in that time and space, that is exactly what it felt like. In normal circumstance, the idea of a scarcity of oxygen sounds ludicrous. But, I wasn’t in a normal circumstance. And, having him that close very much felt like a threat to my oxygen supply.

That’s exactly how Scarcity Mentality warps our perception of travel. It tells us that, because some things are limited, all things are in short supply. The answer to this is, just like the other lies, to expose it to the truth.

Yes, there are a limited number of spots to spread out on the beach. But, the sun is unlimited, the options of where to spend your time in that sun are unlimited. Yes, you have a limited budget for any trip. But, the ways that you use that budget are infinite.

There are literally an infinite number of wonderful ways to experience a location. Don’t buy into the idea of things you must do, or that now is the only time you can experience things. If you run into that language, reject it. The information shared under that banner is often wonderful in itself. I just don’t buy into the underlying emotion of lack.

3. Focus on the Possibilities in Uncertainty, Instead of the Lack

Focus on the Possbilities of Uncertainity, Instead of the Lack

The first time I set foot in Japan, it was for a four hour layover in Narita. At that time, I had every reason in the world to believe that that would be the only time I was ever in Japan in my life. I took the chance to slip out of the airport and walk to a nearby temple, just so I could see a bit of that country. I assumed at the time that that may be all I ever saw of it.

Just a few years after that, we moved our little family to Okinawa and lived there for two years. I’ve since transited through Narita countless times. I’ve visited Northern Honshu and traipsed around Tokyo. It is safe to say that that first layover was a very tiny sampling of what I would get to experience in Japan.

But, you see, either scenario was possible. That first, brief encounter, could have been my only experience with those islands. Or, I could move and travel there at length. Knowing this empowers me to change the way I approach any travel experience. I can focus on the possibility that this will be the only time I ever experience this particular city. Or, I can focus on the possibilities that are right in front of me right now. I can take a couple hour layover to see what I can. I can experience what is available, without any worry about what’s not available, or what might not be available in the future.

My mind wants to remind me of all the limits. This chance may not come again. This might be my only time here, and it’s too short. But, that is just as uncertain as me moving here within a few years. I can use the uncertainty of the future as a powerful tool or as a source of fear. It’s entirely up to me.

The future and the present are always full of both possibilities and limitations. My choice is in where I orient myself. If I focus on the lack, I will create fear. If I focus on the possibilities, I will create powerful opportunities.

This is why I prefer Travel dreaming instead of lusting. Lusting is all about lack—what I want that I don’t have. Dreaming is luxuriating in all there is in the world to explore. You don’t have to experience it all right now. You don’t even have to experience it all ever for it to be inspiring and exhilarating. The very fact of this world should make us feel enormous.

4. Cultivate Contentment

The secret to having enough is believing you already do. 

It’s phrase repeated so often, it’s become a platitude.  But, there is so much truth in it.  And, I would argue, this is the most powerful change we can make to escape a Scarcity Mentality.  We can choose to believe that our experienced is enough. 

This is about gratitude for what we’re experiencing.  It is about curiosity in the very moment.  It is about being present where we are exploring right then.  It is a intentional choice to fill full.

Not sure, how to feel full?  Open up.  Open more fully to this one experience you’re having right now.  I know, if I’m always rushing on to the next experience, I don’t allow myself to become full.  The same goes if I’m so busy trying to capture every moment with my camera, or am always mentally planning for the next thing.  All of these keep me from being open to what’s actually going on around me.

Cultivate an Abundance Mentality

I consider travel as though it were a waterfall.  If I have a vessel with a very closed neck, it can sit under that waterfall for hours and still not be full.  But, if I go with one that is open, it will be full within a matter of seconds.  Our job is to be that second vessel.

Open up to this new place.  Open up to these new smells and textures and sounds.  Open up to the people you’re sharing this space with.  Open up and it will fill you, in glorious and unexpected ways.  Open up, and you will find enough.

Travel is far more pleasant when we approach it with an Abundance Mentality

This really is as critical as booking flights and packing our suitcases. It has potential to impact the way we travel and the way we think about travel. There will always be more places you could go. You could always spend more time in those places. You could always have more experiences. Let that be powerful to you. We can turn the very source of our discontent into a well of contentment with a change of perspective.