This is the time for travel. We are about as attached to one location as we are to our favorite Italian restaurant. We know what we like about it, and we take comfort in the familiarity, but that’s about it.
While you’re young, you should travel. You should take the time to see the world and taste the fullness of life. Spend an afternoon sitting in front of the Mona Lisa. Walk the streets of Spain. Climb Kilimanjaro. Hike the Appalachian Trail. See the Great Wall of China. Get your heart broken by the “killing fields” of Cambodia. Swim through the Great Barrier Reef. These are the moments that define the rest of your life; they’re the experiences that stick with you forever. Traveling will change you like little else can. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a newfound respect for pain and suffering.
Get cultured, while you’re still young. Get to know the world and the magnificent people that fill it. The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. One lifetime is not enough to experience all cultures, but travel, especially while young, is an essential step to becoming more aware.
I’ve heard countless excuses as to why people do not or cannot travel. Many people believe that it’s too expensive. Others argue that they can always travel later in life. Some suggest that it hinders career advancement. Take the expense question out of the equation. They say, “Travel is the only thing you buy that actually makes you richer,” so here are some tips on how to re-direct your investment. After all, traveling is just that—an investment in bettering yourself. Set a financial goal and timeline. Put 15 percent, or whatever amount, from your paycheck straight into a new travel savings account. Pick something you could live without and live without it. Spending $4 for Starbucks 365 days per year comes out to $1,460. That’s a round-trip flight to Europe! Take a break from purchasing brands; buy generic forms of items and shop at thrift stores. For several months, do not plan big weekend trips or events. When you get invited to go out, guess how much you would have spent on drinks and add it to your travel savings account. Wine and Netflix doesn’t sound that bad anyway. Also, ask for gift cards related to travel for your birthday, graduation and Christmas.
Many people put off travel because “they will get to it later.” It’s far more likely that someone will travel first and then come back to achieve great things (secure a graduate degree, fantastic job, start a new career, etc.) rather than the reverse. It’s now or never to make travel a part of your life. You say you’ll get to it later, but if it’s not important now — when you’re young and limited in your responsibilities — when will it be? People believe that any travel will limit career advancement. This couldn’t be further from the truth. International exposure makes you valuable.
I have heard these excuses used for more than long trips and opportunities to live abroad. Take a trip to another country when the fare drops. Jump at the opportunity to travel to a new city, domestically, or to an old location to catch up with a friend. Travel is an experience — it knows no limits of time or geography. There is more value to be gained by embracing travel opportunities than avoiding them. An understanding of the world — of other cultures, people, ideas and beliefs — has never been more important. Exploration — developing empathy and the ability to learn from and deal with the unknown — has never been more important.
Find the balance of travel that’s right for you. Take every opportunity to make that travel an important value in your life. Move abroad and spend 12 weeks backpacking. Go explore the neighborhoods around your city, travel to states that border your own, or take a trek to an exotic location halfway around the world. Travel with a plan, or make one up as you go along.
Some are right; travel can cause stress, exhaustion and be very expensive. So there really is no point, right? Wrong. Travel can teach you to budget more, spend less and seek out experiences that cost less, but are worth more. Travel can teach you to recognize and accept that even the best laid plans often go awry. Travel can help you realize that you don’t need 90 percent of the things you think you do. Travel provides the opportunity to learn to live in (and love) the moment. It can teach you to use your free time productively, rather than whiling it away on useless pursuits. Read a book, write a novel, or even just sit there and think. Consider yourself… Who am I? What do I want in life? How do I plan to get it?
5Travel is an opportunity that can blossom into an amazing, fundamentally life-changing experience. It can open up your eyes and your heart, not only to all the world has to offer, but also to your own limitless potential. At the end of the day though, it’s still only an opportunity. You are the only one who can snatch it up and use it for all it’s worth. You are the only one who can make it into something more. Travel will not improve your life. You will.
Travelers learn resilience; pushing your body to the limits by having one too many cups of goon (cheap nasty boxed wine) and getting only three hours sleep, then still managing to wake yourself up in time for your free hostel breakfast. It’s an unspoken cardinal rule in backpacker world that if there’s a freebie going, you take it! Aimlessly exploring the city, getting extremely lost and having to figure out how to get back to your hostel requires superior problem solving skills. Organized chaos, is a great backpacker trait. Sourcing out all the bars, that host happy hours, to have a cheap, but fun night on the town is worthwhile. It’s impossible not to acquire interpersonal skills when you’re sharing a room with as many as 19 people a time and having people in your personal space on a daily basis. You become so used to plans changing, and falling apart, that you become flexible.
Travel to the same place again, and let your soul sink into its soul. Or leave a little part of you in every new place and never return — the world is too big to tread upon the same path over and over again. Travel to a log cabin in the middle of nowhere and let yourself be at peace with the disquiet of your mind and disjoin from the cacophony of humans. Travel to cities and marvel at how the sun plays hide and seek with the skyscrapers and how everything is alive and bright even at 2 a.m. and wonder about the people living there and their everyday lives and stories.
Do it while you’re young; set a precedent.