A year ago, I wrote three words on a pink sticky note and posted it next to my computer at work: “2016 Machu Picchu.” My brother had recently returned from a five-day hike to the famed Inca site in Peru, which I jealously experienced via social media. I, on the other hand, was restless; it had been four years since I’d traveled beyond North America’s borders. I griped to anyone who would listen that I needed to get away—far away. Machu Picchu became my focus.

The travel deities must’ve heard my pleas: My best friend and her husband announced they would be spending eight months backpacking around South America, and they invited me to join them for a portion of their journey. Which is how, in late April, I found myself on a plane headed to meet them in Buenos Aires, Argentina; from there, my boyfriend and I traveled to Peru—and ultimately got our own photo ops at Machu Picchu.

What I’ve (re)learned in planning this trip is that if you want to travel, you have to make it a priority. While I was busy whining about budgets and vacation days, my friends were actually going places. There’s seldom an ideal time to miss two weeks of work, and sudden windfalls that provide you with the cash to set off on that bucket-list trip are unlikely. If experiencing new places is something you crave, then find a way to do it. Read travel blogs to find the best sites for comparing airfares (try skyscanner.com); sign up for websites and apps that alert you to deals (thank you, Kayak and Hopper); be flexible about your travel dates; and remember that no one ever said, “Gosh, that was a lovely week we spent working last year.” Instead of simply daydreaming about all the places you wish you could go, make up your mind where in the world you have to see—maybe Telluride, maybe Jackson Hole, Wyoming, maybe someplace farther from home—and make every effort to get there.

As you read this fifth edition of 5280 Traveler—a compilation of the best of the best of 5280’s regional travel coverage—it is my hope you’ll find that next must-visit destination. When you spot it, write it down and post it somewhere you will see it often. Trust me, it’s all the motivation you’ll need. I already have my 2017 goal tacked up in my cube: Ireland. Now I want to know: What’s yours?

Share your journeys with us on Instagram with #5280Traveler. 

This article was originally published in 5280 Traveler.
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.