Travel While You’re Young

This is the time for small paychecks and big memories. This is the time for travel. We are about as attached to one location as we are to our favorite Chinese take-out place. We know what we like about it, and we take comfort in the familiarity, but that’s about it.
Jessy Tapper

Last June, Jeff Goins wrote an essay for Converge Magazine titled, “Why you should travel young.”

Spoiler alert: Jeff is a staunch supporter of travel.

Although the message is not new, I found myself nodding in fast agreement as I reached the heart of his writing:

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 Michelangelo. Walk the streets of Paris. 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. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. 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, having seen that two-thirds of humanity struggle to simply get a meal each day.
While you’re still young, get cultured. Get to know the world and the magnificent people that fill it. The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it.

I’ve had these moments and I’ve felt these emotions.

The Khmer Rouge killing fields?

Two years ago I stood there in silence, unable to talk to two of my closest friends. I stood in sadness, moved by the terrible crimes and atrocities that occurred on the ground in front of me.

I stood frozen, thinking of the men and women and children and the pain they suffered. I thought of my Grandfather and his family, my family and all they suffered through during World War Two–fighting and struggling and persevering to survive persecution of their own.

I stood in disbelief, selfishly considering the site’s affect on me. I was painfully aware of just how ignorant my world view was. I realized that growing up just north of Chicago I was never taught about the crimes that were committed here or in many other areas of the world.

Through that naivety I became aware of just how large the world can be.

I was a witness to how much there is to see, experience, and learn.

And I promised myself that I would continue to value travel and exploration.

One lifetime is not enough to experience all cultures. But travel, especially while young, is an essential step to becoming more aware of other cultures and people (in addition to see the beauty of the world around us.)

I’ve heard countless excuses as to why people do not or cannot travel.

Many of my young friends believe that it’s too expensive. Others argue that they can always travel later in life. Some suggest that it hinders career advancement.

Let’s immediately take the expense question out of the equation.

I have a good friend who traveled the world-–from hikes out in the western United States to South American trips to an adventure on the Siberian rail-–on a grad school budget. I have friends who have actually financed travel while traveling, they worked remotely or found local jobs.

I’ve crossed the Vietnamese/Laotian border by van, driving over a road that was literally being built as we traveled.

Did it feel cheap? Yes. Was it scary? A bit. Could I have paid for it with the proceeds of a lemonade stand? Definitely.

Simply put: Finances are rarely a prohibiting factor to travel.

To the second point, that many people put off travel because “they will get to it later.” The Jeff Goins’ piece provides a fantastic answer.

To summarize: 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?

Finally, people believe that any travel will limit career advancement potential.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I have worked in two fairly corporate cultures to start my career. Both organizations stressed the importance of international experience. You need to have experiences in foreign culture in order to advance at these successful, global companies.

International exposure makes you valuable. It will fast track you within your own company or give you the opportunity to pivot into a new position (often with greater responsibilities.)

A final point about excuses…

I have heard these excuses used for more than long trips and opportunities to live abroad.

I have many friends that hesitate to take a week or long weekend off of work. Believe me, short trips won’t hurt your career or wallet for every reason listed above and many more.

Take that quick 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.

As the world becomes increasingly connected your excuses become increasingly futile.

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. Spend 12 weeks backpacking. Travel for a month straight. Take a road-trip. Plan a weekend getaway.

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.

Do it while you’re young; set a precedent.

Small paychecks and big memories…right, Jess?

16 responses to “Travel While You’re Young

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  11. Agree 100%. Been there, done that. Nothing like waking up in the shadow of Mt. Everest, being charged by a Rhino in the Chitwan, scuba diving the Great Barrier reef, surfing in Tahatii, visiting Ankor Wat and the Killing Fields in Cambodia, running with the Bulls in Pamplona, rafting the Grand Canyon. Yes, these memories are worth more than any money you can earn in your 20′s. So let go. You live only once. You can and will, earn lots of money. You won’t have a chance to have memories like these when you get older.

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  14. I could not agree with every single thing you have said in this post more, as a 19 year old university student I have also heard every single one of these excuses and more come from someone’s mouth. Travelling allows us to discover ourselves and it is at this age that doing so is so important, before we can settle down, find a job and start a family we need to fully understand who we are, our dreams and what we want to accomplish in life and I solely believe that the best way we can do this is through travel. I recently travelled to Vietnam myself and found it to be one of the best experiences of my life, seeing the culture, the beliefs and the way they live everyday life in such countries definitely opened my eyes to how big the world is and how vast cultures can be. Travelling the world with friends, family or even by yourself is an excellent way to get to know the history of different places and understand the people that occupy it. I agree 100% with everything you have said in this post and would like to hear more from you as you have more travelling experiences and memories.

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