How To Get What You Really Want


Last week I hosted a fun contest to give away my Frequent Flyer Miles to one reader. I expected a few hundred comments, and I got a few thousand.

Wow. I tried to publish as many as I could; the rest are backlogged in WordPress-land—we can see them from our side, but they’re not up for public viewing due to the site being overloaded.

First lesson: if you want your site to run very slooooow, just get hundreds of people to comment all at the same time.

In this post I’ll share the winner’s name and story (it was a very tough choice for my biased judges and cat), but I also want to look at a broader issue.

Lots of Worthy Entries, Only One Winner

So much interest! You’re all awesome. But here is the problem: I can only give away one free plane ticket with this contest, and there are hundreds of worthy entries. The Travel Hacking Cartel, which launches tomorrow, will also help a lot of people learn about travel hacking and undertake their own low-cost adventures. We’ve done our best to maintain the high standard that this great community expects.

But really—and this is important—you don’t need to win a contest, or even join a cartel, to pursue an adventure. Many of the commentors mentioned that it was their “life dream” to go to the place they mentioned. Hmmm.

If it’s your life dream, you don’t need me or anyone else to make it come true.

Please don’t misunderstand me; contests are fun and I’m thrilled to share my mileage wealth with one of the many great members of our community. No problem. But even better, if we can work to help many people have fun adventures of their own choosing, the rewards will go much further than the one person who wins the miles.

With that in mind, here’s how you get what you really want:

1. First, decide what you really want. Studies have shown it’s hard to get something if you’re not sure what it is. If time and money were no object, who would you be? What would you do?

2. Never make decisions based on the perceived limitations in front of you.
There is almost always a way around perceived limitations; watch this video for a great example. Instead, make decisions based on what you identified in Step 1.

3. Take small, immediate steps toward getting what you want.
Don’t wait long; take the first step right now. Possible small steps toward traveling where you want include reading a guidebook at the library or bookstore, saving $2 a day, scheduling a date in your calendar even if you’re not sure it will work, etc.

4. Review the steps on a regular basis.
If it’s your life dream to go to Destination x, write it on a post-it note and put it where you’ll see it everyday. Then always think, “What’s next? How can I make this happen?”

A long time ago, Barbara Sher wrote something that made a big impact on me:

Whatever your dreams are, start taking them very, very seriously.

I loved this philosophy when I first read it years ago, and have been actively applying it ever since. Dream big! Then follow the dream, step by step.

The Winner

As mentioned, it was extremely tough to choose a winner. In honor (honour) of my recent Canadian tour, we finally decided on Nicholas Luff from Vancouver, B.C. I often hear from folks in Canada and elsewhere around the world that travel hacking is more difficult from their countries. Well, Nicholas will be our example of someone from outside the U.S. putting travel hacking to good use as he brings his 79-year-old father over from Toronto, courtesy of my miles and some useless stickers from 2009.

Big congrats to Nicholas (and dad) for winning the miles! He’ll report back to all of us after the trip. And remember: just because Nicholas gets my miles doesn’t mean you can’t get your own 25,000 miles, or your own money to pay for the trip. I hope that many of the other people who posted will also follow-up on their trips, albeit without my miles.

If you publicly stated your intention to venture into the world if you won a contest, why not follow-up by doing it even without winning?

Cartel Launch Plan: Tomorrow at 8am PST / 11am EST

The Travel Hacking Cartel launch will take place tomorrow morning (Tuesday) beginning at 8am PST / 11am EST. During the preboarding phase, we’ll take the first 1,000 members who sign up, before shifting to regular registration. Each group will have a $1 14-day trial which then converts to a choice of three billing options—First Class, Business Class, and Economy class. I’ll also be producing a special live webinar for the preboarding group on “8 Ways to Travel for Free in 2011.”

Important disclaimer: this is the first product launch I’ve produced in a loooong time—I’ve been busy on book tour and everything related since last August. Lots of new folks have subscribed since then, so I should explain the AONC “really, no pressure” sales practice.

If you’re new here, my business model is to do 90% of my work for free. The other 10% is for sale for those who are interested. The Cartel won’t be for everyone, and that’s OK. Mostly I’m grateful to have you out there reading the blog. Don’t feel like you need to join this program to support AONC; you should join it if you’re interested in exploring the world and need a helping hand in the world of travel hacking.

Oh, and in other news, I just finished my 63-city Unconventional Book Tour Saturday afternoon in awesome Vancouver. I hope to reflect more on the whole experience soon … but first I have a cartel to launch.

Have a great week wherever you are, and be sure to do something that gets you closer to what you really want. Don’t wait on me or anyone else.

– Chris


Image: DesignMonitor

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  • CountryDreaming says:

    “If it’s your life dream, you don’t need me or anyone else to make it come true.”

    Once upon a time, I had a life dream to visit the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Picked out the bed & breakfast inns, took vacation time from work … then fractured three toes really bad the night before the trip. Any normal person would have gone to the emergency room. But I knew that would mean the end of my life dream. So I simply went ahead and traveled on a broken foot. Very glad I did! Although the hospital sign on the highway in Kentucky did look mighty tempting along the way.

    As to your list for getting what you really want, thanks Chris, it’s very helpful to see this. I take so many small steps with my art. There are small successes that I am in fact truly grateful for. I appreciate your encouragement that it’s worth continuing.

  • Brett says:

    I’m a little bit shocked in the number of comments. That’s great. Glad to hear the book tour is finally over. If I can, I hope to try out your new cartel 🙂


  • Andrea Schmitz says:

    Wow, Congrats to Nicholas and his Dad! That is special and I wish them a safe and joyous time together! Wonder if your Dad has ever been out west before?

  • Aaron G Myers says:

    Congrats Nicholas! Thanks for the fun Chris! Enjoy the down time??? now that the tour is over.

  • Maggie Dodson says:

    Congratulations Nicholas L…………….have a fabulous time with your dad. And Chris, yes I’ll be doing all the things I said I’d do anyway!

  • Jocasta says:

    Yay that is so awesome, I love who you picked! I will still do what I said I was going to. I think another tip on how to get what you want sometimes is as simple as actually reading the instructions…

  • s.b.Lyngo says:

    A big congrats to Nicholas! Guidance and light on your journey. I am presently working on my personal version of baby steps. Pushing through the wall etc. I wish you an inspired and productive week! One Love, more life and laughter…

  • Olga says:

    Hey Chris and AONC crew,

    I love the reference to having an adventure. I have come to understand that an adventure is not like we are taught in the movies. It doesn’t have to be a ‘James Bond’ type of experience. I have adventures everyday…like the one last week of decreasing my emails down to 35 from 250. This week the adventure is getting to zero! Travel is just one of the many adventures that I have in my life.

    Congrats on finishing the tour! Couldn’t have ended in a better city. Since you did the spoiling last week with the contest, I think you are due for a spoiling yourself. Hope you get some adventure in this week!



  • Sean says:

    Great tips Chris!

    I love that you pointed out not to make decisions based on the perceived limitations. I think too many people don’t go after what they truly want because they don’t see how they can get it…or believe they can.

    I think that in order to get what you want, you just have to go for it. The way will open up but only AFTER you’ve started moving. I think it’s a bit of a paradox but one I know to be true.

    Congrats to Nicholas!

  • Gibson Goff says:

    A very valid posting on the Law of attraction, Chris. Not following the herd and non-conformity will serve you well in these endeavors. next time you find yourself quickly exclaiming ‘BUT!”, stop and say “hmmmmmm, that could work . .”. It’ll open your mind to at least something coming to you by way of the LOA.

    Enjoy all your writings, Chris. Good stuff!

  • Thomas says:

    I’ve been thinking about his for the last couple weeks. I’ve discovered that why is a very good question for clarifying what you really want. Often, stepping back and asking why can change the what drastically. Congratulations on your site growth and to the recent winner. Happy ad venturing!

  • Patricia Barlow-Irick says:

    Your video link is dead. YouTube pulled the video.

  • Chris says:

    It’s working now – I switched it for another one, thanks to @andytraub.

  • Linda says:

    Yay Nicolas and dad–may you have an awesome adventure!

    I love these visualization reminders. This weekend I created a mindmap of what my big plan will look like. It’s so inspiring to see progress by little things done each day to further the process.

    I made a goal to volunteer time, money, experience helping someone every month for 2011. Thankfully, January’s giving back is set in motion.

    Thanks for the Monday morning lift Chris!

  • wilson usman says:

    Congrats to the winner Nicholas. And I must agree all the people who didn’t win, this is just a time to realize that you can still go on that dream trip you’ve always wanted.

    Oh and Chris thanks for the short version to get what you really want…nice and simple. the way life should be.

  • Delores says:

    Congrats to Nicholas and his dad.

    And thanks so much for not picking me! While I will be going to Vietnam, it will probably be next year. I learned this weekend that I need to do more research, decide exactly why my daughter and I are going, and focus on the experiences we want to have. No point travelling around the world to sit in your hotel or worse, end up on someone else’s tour!

  • jermaine lane says:

    Thanks Chris for the contest and congratulations to Nicholas, I hope he enjoys the time spent with his father. I really enjoyed the quote “Whatever your dreams are, start taking them very, very seriously.”

    I’ve started taking those baby steps toward the reality of my dreams. Thanks for the encouragement and God bless.

  • Tana says:

    Thanks for encouraging us to continually pursue our traveling endeavors regardless of a contest or not. I like that you brought up Barbara Sher’s point about taking dreams seriously. I think some times we are looking for external approval for our dreams (which kind of blows my mind away, though I’m partly at fault with it too.)

    I literally had to buy a piggy bank so I can start my travel fund about 2 years ago. I didn’t put it $2 but whenever I remembered I’d put in a $20 or $10 (from tips I earned when I was working at my mom’s salon). I think I finally have enough to at least cover my food costs when going to Barcelona this year. I think simply entering you contest gave me an extra push to go forth! Thank you!

  • Rhiannon says:

    Four little steps – and you don’t need me to tell you they really do work. I hope a lot of people read this and then set their own plans in motion, not waiting for anyone else to give permission !
    Congrats on completing your book tour – that deserves a bit of a celebration too 🙂

  • Austin L. Church says:

    You’re right, Chris: taking dreams seriously begins with the dreamer. The same holds true for art. Of course, having a community of cheerleaders and firebrands to hold you accountable also helps.

    What would a outbreak of dreaming posses do for their broader communities? That’s a nice thought.

    To Nicholas and your father: Thanks for sharing your adventure with all of us quasi-strangers.

  • Steven says:

    Great article and congratulations to our winner!

  • Angela says:

    Looking forward to hearing about the trip from Nicholas’ future post and very excited about the Cartel!

    I love small immediate steps! Putting a date on the calendar can be all it takes, but sometimes with travel adventures the biggest hurdle can be figuring out how to get there – which airline, which city to fly into, an approximate cost…

    Once that’s worked out, you can find a hotel and restaurants in virtually any price range. Well, except maybe in Equatorial Guinea. 🙂

  • Aggie says:

    Congratulation to Nicholas and his dad! I look forward to reading about your adventure. As for myself, I’m still planning my trip but I moved the date so I can focus on launching a project. Definitely eager to see what tomorrow brings with launch of the Cartel. my traveling will be my carrot this year. Thanks Chris!

  • marianney | A Life Set Free says:

    congrats to Nicholas! and thanks for Chris for the opportunity!
    i will still be traveling this year regardless 🙂

  • Barak Rosenbloom says:


    The kinds of steps we take to get what we want depend on the attutude that we have.

    Your steps are taken with an attitude of generosity–I read it in your posts, see it in your 90%-10% principle, and heard it when you were in Seattle a few weeks ago on the book tour.

    When you get what you want while adding greatly to the lives of others, life becomes much, much more meaningful.

    Thanks for another wise and thoughful article, and again, congratulations on the book tour!


  • Tiara the Merch Girl says:

    I’m not entirely sure that it’s accurate to say you don’t need anybody else for your dreams to come true. No man’s an island, and often it’s someone else around you that has the opportunity or the key to the door that you need. Let’s all help each other out.

  • Kerri says:

    That’s fantastic that you picked a Canadian, Chris, and that you used the word ‘honour’ in your post 🙂
    I really appreciate how big your vision is and what a world citizen you are. Also, I have loved Barbara Sher for years and it was great to see her powerful quote here.

  • Miriam Moriarty says:

    I think the best thing about the competition is that it has encouraged a lot of people to articulate their travel dream. As this article says, defining what you want is the first step. Congrats to the winner, I hope you and your dad have a fantastic trip! As for me, I’m still going to New York!!

  • Emily says:

    Congrats Nicholas and Dad!
    Chris, I’ve been reading along for a bit now and wanted to say that after entering your contest last week, I went out and applied for my passport and passcard and am in the process of making plans to travel to the Galapagos THIS YEAR.
    So, for that – thanks!
    Your post today summed it up – don’t wait on anyone else – to live your (my) life!

  • Ayna Ray Garcia says:

    I didn’t want to let the opportunity go by without saying thanks for the opportunity Chris! It was fun!!

  • Luinae says:

    Knowing what you want is incredibly instrumental to how you get there. I always tell the kids I teach that you can’t just waft through the dance- you have to attack it, and you have to mean every move, every leap, ever sweep of the arms. I think life is the same way- you can’t waft through it. You have to know what you want, and you have to attack it, and mean every movement, every decision.

  • Maria-Conchita says:

    Congratulations to Nicholas and his dad and great good luck to you Chris in your trip!!!

  • Jake at Big Picture Framing says:

    We love the idea behind your whole blog, and this contest in particular. One of our missions is to embolden our readers, but you’ve definitely done that in spades!
    – Safe travels

  • Amy Nieto says:

    You know what helps in getting a chance to win these nifty contests? If you actually READ the email before the comment-deadline. {face_palm}! Congratulations Nicholas!!!!!

  • Justin Hamlin says:

    Thousands of comments. Love it. Have to love a rabid fan base.

    I hear a lot of cubicle dwellers that are so focused on traveling, yet their “life dream” as you put it, is to travel to one destination. I think we all deserve a LOT more than that, and your quote of taking your dreams very, very seriously is so true.

    Not enough people pursue their dreams with the vigor they need to achieve them.

  • Jason says:

    Congrats to Nicholas and I can’t wait to read all about it!

  • Trisha Carter says:

    Thanks for the post Chris. When I read your invitation my thoughts were exactly what you said above.

    “I don’t need Chris’s points to make my plans come to reality -instead I need to get myself organised and prioritise the travel expenses in the spending list. And focus on making it happen!”

    And I thought there might be someone who needed it more than me. So I’m not one of your thousands of entrants.

    Instead I’ve written PNG in 2011 into the goals for the year (as well as NZ, Melbourne and Brisbane) and I’ve joined the cartel as part of the things I need to do to make it happen.

    Congrats to Nicholas and his Dad and as another non USA follower (you can tell by my spelling!) I’m looking forward to seeing how he uses those points.

  • Paritosh Mukhija says:

    Congratulationsss Nick. Bon Voyage

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