Setting SMART Travel (and Other) Goals

Travel is personal, and we all have our own motivations and reasons why we want to travel, and what we want to see and do.

Once I took my first major international trip back in 2014, the travel bug bit me hard and I realized how little of the world I had seen. I didn’t want more years to go by without getting out and exploring, so I set a goal to visit at least one new country every calendar year. My one country a year goal had been working out well, until 2020 that is, and no I’m not meeting it this year, and that’s okay. Under normal circumstances, this goal allows me to stack on other complementary travel goals, such as taking a number of domestic trips, traveling to a music festival, visiting family, attending a destination wedding, etc.

Some friends have had goals like monthly museum trips, visiting every lighthouse on the east coast, traveling to every state, touring every state capital, going to every national park, etc. Another good friend and travel buddy has the goal of visiting 50 countries by the time she turns 50, which is very cool.

No matter what kind of goal you’re interested in setting, travel or otherwise, the best goals with the most chance for success fit into the SMART framework: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-oriented. For example, my “visit at least one new country per year” goal may seem simple, but it’s also SMART: 

  • Specific – there’s no confusion as to what “at least one new (to me) country” means. I’ve either been there, or I haven’t, and no, most layovers don’t count.
  • Measurable – at least one new country per year is easy to measure, and to quote Peter Drucker, “what gets measured, gets managed.” I also have the flexibility of visiting more than one new country, exceeding my base goal.
  • Achievable – deciding to visit at least one country pushes me to travel while ensuring I have a goal I can manage. Even if money happens to be tight in a particular year, an affordable international trip is always a possibility. I also have some wiggle room to revisit favorite cities abroad, or explore other parts of a country that I’ve already been to, as long as I get one new country in along the way. 
  • Relevant – This goal will always be relevant to me because it ensures I’m on track to see more of the world. 
  • Time-oriented – I have 365 days in which to accomplish the goal before it resets for the next year; there is a deadline. 

If you’re not already setting SMART goals, pick something you’ve been struggling with, set a SMART goal, and let us know how it goes in the comments. Maybe I’ve been part of too many volunteer organizations over the years, but I drank the entire pitcher of SMART goal Kool-Aid and use this framework in all of my personal goal-setting. By setting your goals and continuously tweaking them to ensure they truly fit within the SMART framework, you can accomplish almost anything. Cheers to setting – and attaining – all of our 2021 travel goals!


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