This weekend I had a great time celebrating my former college housemate’s wedding and catching up with college friends. The food, drinks, and camaraderie were refreshing.
You see I had no complaints at all once we arrived in Missouri. I loved it!
But I didn’t love the long road trip there and back. So during the 9-hour drive from Ohio to Missouri on Friday and then the 9 hours back on Sunday, I thought about everything I wish I had brought in the car.
And since you will likely take a few road trips this summer, I decided to turn my reflection into an article about things to bring on a road trip.
Because the problem is no one thinks about what to bring until it’s too late, including you and me. Let’s change that by learning from my mistakes this weekend so you’re prepared for your next road trip.
Below are the 33 things you must bring to do a lengthy car ride the right way.
1. Relaxed clothing
Being cramped up in a car with no room to stretch is bad enough on its own, so don’t make it worse by wearing stiff clothes. Instead, let your body breathe in some relaxed clothing that gives you room to move and adjust as you do. Think exercise apparel from Lululemon, Nike, or Under Armour. And if you plan on napping, a helpful sleep tip is to wear a hoodie that can cover your eyes.
2. Comfy shoes
Even if you’re taking a road trip straight to the wedding, do yourself a favor and don’t wear dress shoes in the car. Once you arrive at the wedding or formal event, then you can change into your formal shoes in a minute or less. Give your feet a break in some sandals (Rainbow Sandals are my favorite) or slip-ons that don’t squeeze your feet—gym shoes are often a culprit of this although they’re comfier than dress shoes. Or take your shoes completely off in the car (as long as your feet or socks don’t stink).
3. Glasses and or contacts (plus contact solution)
Bringing glasses or contacts applies to the driver, co-pilot, and backseat passengers. The driver clearly needs to see where he or she is going, and this need is magnified on road trips that consist of winding roads in the mountains or driving at night. When the driver asks the co-pilot for insight, they need to have vision to decide if this is the right exit to get off of. And the backseat passengers will want their vision if they’re reading or need to relieve the driver. Be safe and bring eyewear.
Remembering sunglasses so the driver’s vision isn’t impaired on a sunny day is critical. Depending on where you are and are traveling to, the sun can be blinding for long stretches on the highway. If you’re wondering, I have a pair of Ray-Ban Sunglasses and love them for their quality plus appearance.
Excluding the driver, having a pillow to put against the window or your headrest can be the single difference between a solid nap or the frustration that comes with struggling to nap. Cars aren’t designed for people to sleep, but bring a pillow and you can at least get your head comfortable—it’s the most important part. This travel pillow is brilliant for sleeping in the car.
Like peanut butter and jelly, a warm blanket is the perfect match with a pillow when you’re trying to nap or get comfortable in the car. Besides being a sleep aid, the blanket protects you from the nutjob in the car who blasts the air conditioning. And it’s nice to have a blanket in the chance of an emergency where you’re stuck outside over the night.
7. USB phone charger
All that time spent on GPS, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook is going to take a toll on your phone battery. That’s why it’s a no-brainer to bring a car charger on any trip that’s more than an hour out. Maxboost’s car charger is a #1 best seller and pretty cheap for two USB outlets.
8. Music playlist
You can make do with the radio for about an hour, but then the stations get fuzzy and start to change. And then you’re stuck listening to country music all afternoon if you’re driving through the midwest or south. Old-school CDS also get old because they only carry 15 to 18 songs on them. Instead, listen to the music you want to by updating your iTunes, downloading Pandora, or buying Spotify. The time you spend making a road trip playlist will be well worth it when you’re cruising with the music up and the windows down.
I love books! If you’re not a regular reader of Take Your Success, I consistently write about the benefits of reading: 15 Best Books For College Students, Book Reading Challenge, and Are You Reading Enough Books To Be Successful? On this past car ride to Missouri, I read How To Make Millions With Your Ideas and The Girl On The Train. Shop on Amazon or stop by the local library to grab at least two books for your next road trip. I can’t think of a better way to get out of the trapped in a car feeling than to escape in a book.
So you’re not a big reader or you’re one of those people who immediately get a headache when trying to read in the car? Don’t worry, there’s another solution: audiobooks. If you’ve never listened to an audiobook in the car, then you’re missing out. Music gets boring as the same songs play over and over. But listening to a narrator go chapter by chapter in an audiobook can be a thrill! In case you wondered, my two books The Golden Resume and Freedom Mindset are available to download as an audiobook.
I forgot many things on this list, but I did bring my laptop to write a blog post this weekend. If you have a blog and aren’t driving, utilize the road trip to write a blog post. Get this out of the way and you’ll feel great once you arrive at your destination. (If you’re trying to write in the car, use Google Docs offline mode or Microsoft Word and save it until you regain wifi connection.) A laptop is also great for playing games, making Sticky note reminders, and watching movies.
12. Playing cards
Best used by backseat riders, a deck of playing cards is perfect to get the competitive juices flowing with blackjack, poker, spades, or war. These cards will also come in handy when you reach the hotel for continued card games or drinking games. Sometimes the most classic games make for the most fun!
13. Air freshener
Spending long hours in the car with people who haven’t showered in a while, smelly food, or the occasional roadside skunk makes having an air freshener critical. An air freshener is also versatile because you can take it out of the car to improve the smell of your funky hotel room or cabin. Get the classic air freshener that hangs on the rearview mirror or try a Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag.
14. Muscle roller stick
It’s not good and doesn’t feel good for your body to sit still for extensive hours on the road. Your muscles and joints will ache and there’s nothing you can do about it. That is unless you get a muscle roller stick. I’ve used this baby before and felt less stiff after it. Order one to see what you’re missing when traveling.
15. Phone/GPS mount
It’s hard enough for the driver to navigate new highways and roads they’ve never driven before. But the task is more difficult when they’re holding their phone in their hands looking back and forth between the road and the directions. A simple fix is to order a car mount for your phone. This mount attaches to the windshield for the iPhone 6 and Samsung 6S. And this one attaches to the dashboard for the iPhone 6s/6 and Galaxy S7/S6.
16. Screenshots of your directions
To protect yourself from the nightmare of losing wifi connection and your turn-by-turn directions during the trip, take screenshots of the directions while you have wifi. It’s not common, but you don’t want to risk losing connection in a tunnel, country road, or in the mountains and not know where you’re going until it’s too late. A successful road trip means avoiding problems; and screenshots of directions go a long way in that regard.
17. Water and healthy drinks
Stay hydrated by bringing water bottles and other healthy drinks not named soda. First, soda is going to make you more thirsty so you have to drink more and thus go to the bathroom constantly during the trip. Avoid it all together by drinking water and keeping your bathroom visits to a minimum. Second, this will help you save money instead of splurging at the gas station on drinks.
18. Healthy snacks
Trust me, you don’t want to put the wrong food (Chinese or Mexican) in your system during a car ride. By consuming healthy snacks, you’ll feel lighter and better about yourself. Specifically look for foods like yogurt, fruits, dark chocolate, and almonds. And avoid the messy snacks that could spill when going over a bump. Eating for energy applies in the car, too.
19. Travel size cooler
To keep your drinks and snacks cold, bring a travel size cooler. This cooler allows you to cut travel time and save money by not having to stop for fast food. And you don’t have to eat the refrigerated food right away when you bring a cooler, like you would if you didn’t have one.
20. Big garbage bag
It’s a pain to clean out the car during the trip and after when you finally arrive at your destination if you don’t have a garbage bag. Wrappers are on the floor, tucked in door handle, and in between the seats. Keep your area clean with a cheap garbage bag that everyone in the car can use to dispose their drink and snacks. The car owner will be grateful.
21. Dollar bills and quarters
Small bills and change are essential for bribing your way out of speeding sticks, just kidding. In reality, bring one dollar bills and quarters to avoid any issues at tolls or city parking meters. It’s always good to keep cash and change with you in the car, and this fact is more true on a road trip.
Tissues are another simple yet underrated travel item. With them, you’ll be able to blow your nose so you can stop sniffling just like that. Without them, you’ll be the most annoying person in the car if you sniffle all day. Being trapped in a car with someone who sniffles constantly is never ideal.
To liberate yourself from listening to another passenger’s below-average playlist, take a pair of headphones with you. These headphones come in handy as earplugs when you’re trying to nap, too. And they send the message that you don’t want to be talked to, which could be an amazing relief depending on the people around you.
24. Ibuprofen/motion sickness medicine
A bumpy road, a hilly valley, or a bad driver could give you a relentless headache that feels like it will never go away. Have an outlet to relieve the pain by bringing Ibuprofen or motion sickness medicine like Dramamine. When you’re prepared, you can handle a lot of things in your way.
25. Dry shampoo
I’m sure the girl readers know about or already use dry shampoo. For the guys or those who don’t know about it, dry shampoo absorbs the dirt and oil in your hair to make it look fresh and clean—like you got out of the shower, not out of bed. When you don’t have time to shower because of any early wake-up call or a demanding travel schedule, use dry shampoo to get rid of bed head. This Dove Dry Shampoo does the job well without leaving any white residue in your hair, which is the goal.
26. Gum or Listerine strips
Just because you can’t brush your teeth in the car doesn’t give you an excuse to have stinky breath for the other passengers to get a whiff of. Stay cool and buy a pack of gum or Listerine strips so you’re not “that guy/girl.” Then pick up friend points by passing your gum or strips along.
27. Car emergency kit
You won’t have to use it 99% of the time, maybe never, but a car emergency kit can potentially save your life if it comes down to it. The one I linked to contains one 8 gauge heavy-duty booster cable, an emergency poncho, a safety vest, duct tape, a screw driver, a flashlight with batteries, 4 cable ties, first aid supplies, and more. God forbid you ever need it though.
28. Spare keys
How does it sound to be 12 hours from home and lose your only car key? It sounds like an awful nightmare, for sure. But it happens. A smart travel hack to ensure this disaster never spoils your trip is to pack a spare set of keys. That’s another thing to bring on your expedition that will save the day if things go wrong.
29. Flashlight with fresh batteries
There are countless scenarios where a flashlight would be helpful and you’d be far worse off without one. For example, maybe you need to change a tire at night or you get in a car wreck on an off road and need to find a main road. Just stick a flashlight with fresh batteries in your glove box or trunk, because you never know when you’ll need it—hopefully you don’t.
30. Baseball hat
I always bring a baseball hat for the road. You can use it to cover your bed head, as a replacement for dry shampoo. And if you want to nap, put the cap over your eyes to block out the light and sleep in the dark. Not to mention you can wear it when you arrive to your location, so it has use inside and outside the car.
31. Deodorant and perfume/cologne
In the chaos of last-minute packing, some people will ridiculously pack a fifth pair of swim trunks and forget to bring deodorant! Please don’t force the other people in the car to have to smell your body odor the whole ride because you forgot it. Perfume or cologne is also something to bring to smell good.
32. Toilet paper
You might laugh at this item being included on the list, but weird things can happen on a road trip that require toilet paper. And in an emergency, it might be a lifesaver compared to a leaf, or the poison ivy leaf. Plus, it takes up little to no space, so that’s not a concern.
33. Gas card
Maximize the most out of all the gas you’re going to buy on the trip with a gas card. These offer cashback, reduced gas prices, and other options if you do your homework in advance to get one. You can sign up to get the rewards through your credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, etc.) or a specific gas station company (BP, Sunoco, Speedway, etc.).
How you feel during a road trip largely depends on what you bring and fail to bring. So the key to a successful road trip is thinking ahead to pack what you need, and might need.
I hope this list helps you remember to bring the essentials when you hit the road. If you prepare in advance, you can be comfortable, be productive, have a good time, and make the trip go faster than you realize.
How To Minimalist Pack Like A Pro
Why should you want to minimalist pack like a pro in the first place?
Doesn’t that mean you have less clothing, technology, and toiletry to choose from when you’re traveling? More options is always better right?
Not so fast, old sport.
I’ve been both a traveling hoarder and minimalist, and I’d pick the minimalist lifestyle every time.
Here’s a painful experience that changed my perspective forever.
Back in 2013 as a college student, I had to pack for a six-week trip to the South Pacific island Fiji.
Since I had no experience traveling anywhere for longer than a week, I got a little (very) carried away packing.
No joke, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I packed every single t-shirt, muscle shirt, and pair of shorts I owned. I even added some sweat pants to be safe—this is Fiji we’re talking, where the average temperature is 75°F and the coldest it gets is 70°F.
Yeah, I’m an idiot.
Not to mention I had the biggest suitcase I could find, which also persuaded my monkey brain to bring as much as I could.
I also threw in completely random items like a construction worker’s neon vest, a cowboy hat, and a football—in case I might need them.
Yeah, I know, not so smart.
Well besides having to haul this giant, overflowing suitcase to the airport, I also had to sweat out my luggage making the 50 pound weight limit.
And I shouldn’t have been surprised since I packed like an idiot, but it came out as 52 pounds!
Mind you that I’m a guy. I didn’t bring a straightener, hair dryer, makeup back, or anything else that many girls have to bring. It was 99% all clothes that I drastically overpacked.
The long story short is I had to put on a few extra shirts on top of the shirt I already had on and I took a sweatshirt out to carry it (so not comfortable for 19 hours of flying) to get my luggage under 50 pounds.
But once we landed in Fiji, my problems didn’t end.
I didn’t enjoy carrying this heavy luggage, packing it into the bus, taking it out, and hauling it up the steps. And during the day-to-day trip, it meant I had to do more laundry and manage more clothes each day. I also faced the weight limit on the plane ride back.
The bottom line is I learned my lesson: Overpacking because “I might need something” is not the answer.
And this Fiji experience is just one scenario of many stories from my life where minimalism would have saved me.
Because minimalist packing and traveling light is now a God-send in my life. Here’s what you’ve been missing if you don’t pack light.
Benefits Of Minimalist Packing
Travel comfortably – A clear benefit for traveling lighter is it’s easier and puts less strain on your body when you’re moving to different locations.
For example, when you have to carry luggage to the airport, then to the boat dock, then on the bus to your hostel, do you want a 45-pound beast or a light 12-pound backpack by your side?
If you’re backpacking through the countryside day to day, it’s crucial you pack light for your sanity and lower back.
And you also don’t ever have to worry about the airline losing your luggage if you only bring a small piece of luggage that fits in the overhead compartment or under your feet on the plane, or getting your luggage stolen if it stays on your back the entire time.
Little things like that make traveling lighter all the better. (Read this article to see why you should travel.)
Save money – Practicing minimalism can go longer than you think to save you money.
For example, you will save money on baggage fees by only bringing a carry-on luggage.
You can skip out on storage fee costs.
You can cut taxi fees by having more people fit in the car and splitting the bill.
And you’ll buy less unnecessary clothes, travel items, and toiletries in advance of the trip. That could mean saving thousands of dollars right there.
Plus, if you continue to practice minimalism when you come home, now we’re talking about $100,000 or more of savings over a lifetime.
Manage and keep track of less – This benefit also doesn’t take a genius to understand. The less stuff you bring means you have less to keep track of during the trip.
Specifically, that’s less to pack, less to organize, less to wash, less to dry, less to fold, and less to transport.
It’s truly an underrated benefit to know everything you have and where it’s located.
Plus, you don’t face regret for bringing heavy items that you never use and know you’re not going to in the future.
Feel accomplished – While minimalism makes your trip easier, it’s not easy to pull off at first—especially if you’ve gone through your entire life as an overpacker and hoarder.
That’s why you’ll feel accomplished when you’re efficient with your luggage and traveling.
You stepped up to the challenge, made difficult decisions, and achieved what you set out to.
Feeling good from trying a different way to travel and coming out on the winning side is another benefit of minimalism. For Type A personalities like me, we love this stuff!
Be happy for the right reasons – This is the final and most important reason: When you travel minimalist, you’ll feel content because of where you are, who you’re with, and who you are—not what you have.
This reason exceeds all of the others in my opinion. Because you truly will have a happier trip as a minimalist.
You won’t be mentally or physically tied down by worrying about your belongings.
You won’t be upset about carrying heavy luggage, you’ll feel relieved your luggage is so light.
You will spend less time mentally and physically dealing with your clothes and gear, providing more time to enjoy life.
The idea that minimalism improves your outlook on your trip is powerfully real.
How To Minimalist Pack
Use a travel backpack or hardshell suitcase – Depending on your trip, aim to fit everything you need into a backpack or one hardshell suitcase.
Using only one of these will push you to minimalism based on the limited amount of room.
You can just use a school backpack like I did. Or if you’re a frequent traveler then you may want to invest in a travel-specific backpack.
And I wouldn’t go with softside luggage because it gives you the option to overpack based on how it’s designed to stretch for more room. Hardshell suitcases offer these nice benefits:
- Push you to minimalism because you can’t stretch it for more room
- Waterproof for any environment
- Last long-term
- Easier to navigate with four wheels instead of two
You can go here to get a good idea of a quality hardshell suitcase.
Pack 7 days in advance – If you’re in a rush and packing the night before or the morning of your trip, the odds of you being efficient go down the drain.
Your brain will default into overpacking, because it’s easy to, instead of minimalist packing, which takes some brain power.
I recommend you pack 7 days in advance.
This gives your subconscious brain time to think over anything necessary you might be forgetting. And if you do need something for the trip you don’t have, then you still have a few days to buy it.
Most things in life are better executed through preparation, minimalist packing included.
Only bring essentials – The time has come to decide what clothes, technology, and toiletries make the cut and what ones are left behind.
This is where it gets difficult, especially if you’re new to minimalism. My advice is to not overthink it. Check this out.
For packing clothes, first consider the climate you’re traveling to. Then only bring your regular clothes that you would normally wear in this weather.
Pack items you will 100% wear, you aren’t repeating (like two watches would be bad, only bring one or none), and that add specific value to your trip.
For example, if you’re going to a tropical island, don’t bring the tank tops that you didn’t wear all last summer. Why would anything be different here? Bring the essentials and move on.
And if you have a washer and dryer where you’re staying, you can pack less knowing you can wash your clothes at any time.
With technology, determine if you need to work on this trip or not. If you don’t need to work, then I’d only bring your phone (that doubles as a camera). If you’re working, then bring your laptop and charger but leave the iPad at home.
And to decide your toiletry, again only bring the essentials. A toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, maybe makeup, and sunscreen is about all you need. The rest you can buy on the trip.
You can consider this exercise a free practice in developing your strategic thinking ability.
And this goes hand in hand with the next minimalist tip.
Don’t bring something “you might need” – My mentality that I might need something once I get there is the reason I overpacked for Fiji. Please don’t repeat my mistake.
If you’re trying to prepare for every scenario, you’ll pack a bunch of unnecessary items that weigh you down mentally and physically.
Like I said in the video above, you can always buy something once you’re there. After all, locals live where you’re going and they have their needs met through local shops. Just bring some extra money to account for this.
Or you can borrow something you need from a fellow traveler, which could be the start of a new friendship.
Whether a weekend road trip or 12 months in a foreign country is your destination, I challenge you to pack and travel like a minimalist.
The only hard part is deciding what to bring before you go. But after you do this, the payoff is huge during your adventure:
- You travel easier and lighter
- You save money
- You have fewer materials to manage and keep track of
- You accomplish a more difficult challenge
- You feel more content because of where you are, who you’re with, and who you are—not what you have
Getting more out of the experience is reason enough to practice minimalism.
So throw out those extra shirts that you packed. Don’t bring three hats, narrow it down to one. And, most importantly, leave home everything you consider bringing because you “might need it.”
The argument you might need them is not a legitimate reason. Either you do need it or you don’t, most of the time you don’t. And worst case scenario, you can borrow it from another traveler or buy it when you’re there.
If I can pull this minimalism stunt off on my trip to Hilton Head and already fall in love with the advantages, then you can and will, too.
Minimalism isn’t the normal way to travel. And the results also aren’t normal.
Related: Want Less Stress? Be A Minimalist
Travel Hack: Set Up A Travel Fund
What’s the first move to push yourself to explore the world? It’s creating a travel fund.
We will get into what this is and how to set up an automated travel fund.
But real quick, I want to set the scene of why you need to save money before you go for an extensive trip on your own dime.
Rolf Potts, author of one of the best travel books Vagabonding, has a knack for travel (what he calls vagabonding) and inspiring others to visit new places.
Read this quote from Mr. Potts:
Thus, the question of how and when to start vagabonding is not really a question at all. Vagabonding starts now. Even if the practical reality of travel is still months or years away, vagabonding begins the moment you stop making excuses, start saving money, and begin to look at maps with the narcotic tingle of possibility. From here, the reality of vagabonding comes into sharper focus as you adjust your worldview and begin to embrace the exhilarating uncertainty that true travel promises.
There are a lot of gems in that excerpt, but I’m going to focus on this: “vagabonding begins the moment you stop making excuses, start saving money.” Because he’s absolutely right!
Now I believe that you can travel for cheap and get scrappy. I’m all for that. But unless your daddy is bankrolling your trip, you still need to have some money saved—whether that’s a few hundred dollars for a short road trip or a few thousand for a three month stay abroad.
This is just basic supply and demand: If you want to travel, then you need to pay for the transportation and cost of living to do it.
And that’s where the travel fund comes in to save the day.
What’s A Travel Fund?
What’s a travel fund? Good question. It’s just a separate savings account that is dedicated solely to travel.
It stores every single penny that you’re eventually going to use for transportation and living expenses. And by keeping this travel money in a separate account, you protect it from being spent on regular day-to-day expenses.
That means you’re not mixing your checking account balance with your travel fund. You’re not mixing your regular savings with your travel savings.
No, the travel fund is its own savings account that’s only purpose is to save money for travel.
Now as much as this travel fund is used for function (which we’ll get into in the next section), it’s also a powerful symbol of your adventure. The more money in there, the closer you are to takeoff.
This symbolism will inspire you to save more money because you’re in control now of how soon you get to leave. For example, that expensive dinner won’t be as appealing anymore, because you’ll want to eat at home to save money and leave for your trip sooner.
Maybe most important, a travel fund gives you the freedom to have a great time overseas without going in debt or regretting your spending.
It’s much more enjoyable to spend an extra two weeks in Portugal to do more sightseeing than end your stay early because you don’t have the money.
I hope by now you see how powerful it is to set up a travel fund.
All that’s left to do is check out the best way to set up your own travel fund.
How To Save And Set Up A Travel Fund
Like I wrote in my post titled Best Savings Account for 2017, if you want to get serious about saving your money, then you need to set up an automated system.
Nothing can compete with its efficiency. Set it up once, and then it’s a 100% hands off system that guarantees you’re making progress to save money.
Plus, it requires no willpower—where manually saving money is decision-heavy and often ineffective.
And here’s how this automated system specifically works for you and your travel fund. Once it’s set up, it goes like this:
- Your checking account receives income.
- The next day, your checking account automatically transfers money to a separate (different bank) savings account—aka your travel fund.
- Transfers repeat every month.
- You end up with a big, fat travel fund to see the world.
To get this automated travel fund set up, I personally use and recommend you set up a savings account through Capital One 360.
What I love about Capital One 360 is they have the highest quality customer service I’ve ever experienced with a bank. Plus, there are no fees or minimum balance required, their 0.75% interest rate is higher than most bank interest rates, and you can name your account.
The screenshot below shows my Capital One 360 travel fund and other funds.
Once you have an account and name it Travel, the next step is to go check the calendar date you normally receive your paycheck. Then schedule an automatic transfer for the day after you get paid (or two days after to be safe). And that’s it! You’re all set up.
I think too many people overthink travel and take some enjoyment out of it in the process leading up to and during it.
Let’s make your life easier. This is all you need to do.
Do some research to figure out where you want to go and for how long (could take as little as 30 minutes). Roughly estimate how much you have to save to get there and live there (could take 30 more minutes). Save money (could take a few months or more). Go travel!
As a final send off, I’m going to highlight three more quotes that will get you to fall in love with travel:
- “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
- “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
- “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury
Why You Must Travel While You’re Young
I’m always reading, but I never read about traveling. That’s until I stumbled upon the book Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts.
This book blew me away! It addresses all the concerns about traveling and then solves or massages each concern.
After this read, I felt like a fool for not enjoying more of (arguably) the greatest treasure in the world, travel. I’ve visited a few countries, but not nearly as many as I want to.
Vagabonding also challenged my thinking.
I love routines and systems, which is perfect for being productive but not so much for getting out of my comfort zone. And maybe that’s the reason why I haven’t traveled as much as I’d like to.
What about you? Did you study abroad in college? Where have you visited and for how long?
For those who haven’t traveled out of the country much, or at all, what’s holding you back?
If you’re hesitant to do an extensive road trip or international adventure, consider this article a pep talk that’s just as much an excuse killer to travel while we’re young.
Why Travel When You’re Young
There are thousands of reasons to travel: get out of your comfort zone, increase global understanding, become cultured, gain new geography and history lessons, learn humility, and practice communication skills. The list could go on and on.
But depending on the topic, I’ve found that a few quality reasons are more persuading than a large quantity of reasons. And for why you should travel as a young adult, I want to focus on three main reasons.
You Build Self Awareness
At home, you can go through your days without reflecting much to learn about yourself.
Do you suck at emotional connection? You can think it’s your friend’s problem and not yours. Are you a bad communicator? You can believe the other guy is a bad listener and go on with your day.
In the same places with the same people, it’s easy to be on autopilot at home. You’re in a bubble.
But when you’re abroad, everything comes to the light. You’re forced to reflect, because even the simple things back home, like eating and going to the bathroom, are all new to you away from home. And because this situation is weird and unfamiliar, you grow.
A different area, language, and culture teach you about your likes and dislikes, your purpose, and what things give you meaning.
You learn you’re more capable than you thought you were when you navigate the streets of Spain to find your destination. You open your mind to new thoughts and joys by playing soccer in an African village. And you take all this experience with you back home.
Self-awareness is not only powerful for personal-development, it’s also a vital skill to develop in your career.
If you’re unhappy at work, the self-aware person will know why and what to look for in another job. The clueless person won’t be able to identify why they’re not happy and find themselves in the same situation at another job.
Self-awareness will tell you that your network is weak and you don’t have many people who will go to bat for you. So it leads you to spend more time helping people and building personal connections with your peers.
Self-awareness and traveling abroad go hand in hand.
You Become A More Valuable Candidate
The ambitious group will excuse themselves from going abroad because they need to focus on their career. Little do they realize that international travel only makes them more valuable as an individual.
For example, imagine learning Spanish in four months abroad and applying to grad school or organizations as bilingual? That’s a game-changer!
Or when your company wants to open a new location in Japan and promote someone in your office to lead the charge. If you’ve spent time teaching English there, then you’re placed at the top of the list.
Even if you’re a bartender in Argentina for a few months, you’ll have great stories during the interview round and will be an intriguing person right off the bat.
Let me be clear though. There’s a difference between a trip filled with only drinking and visiting famous monuments, and doing something valuable while abroad. You only become a more valuable candidate if you put your time overseas to good use.
Bottom line, traveling for an extended time abroad only makes you more valuable, not less. With a global economy, international experience brings you clout.
Do It Now To Eliminate The Risk Of Not Doing It Ever
Young adults procrastinate more on going abroad than they do getting a medical checkup. You say you’re too busy right now and hope to travel sometime in the future.
But then a full-time job, spouse, and kids come along. So now it’s not just your schedule to work around, but all of theirs. The difficulty of finding extended time to go abroad is multiplied by your family size.
That’s why you should have urgency to travel now before it’s too late.
Will you regret starting your first job out of school in September so you can travel abroad for three months instead of June? No, because those will be memories of a lifetime. You’ll regret starting your job in June and putting off travel.
And when you’re 30, you’ll wish you took that international trip before grad school instead of going straight to grad school. You’ll think what was the rush to go straight to grad school?
Lastly, God forbid this ever happens, an early death is not out of the question. So it’d be a huge mistake to wait to travel until retirement and then never get there.
But Isn’t Traveling Dangerous?
That question depends on context. If you’re going to a country with a corrupt government, heavy terrorists, or a hotbed for drug trafficking cartel, then yes it’s dangerous. Think of Syria, North Korea, and Iraq.
But if you’re going to an established country, then it’s a different story.
So as long as you’re not reckless (stumbling home drunk by yourself at 3:00am) and don’t travel to high-risk areas, you’ll be as safe as you are in the States. Driving a car can be dangerous too, but you do it every single day.
Crimes like theft, assault, and murder happen in every country in the world. But you can help yourself avoid that by being vigilant of your surroundings. Be extra cautious if you travel alone.
For assurance, type in the country you’re thinking about traveling to in the travel.state.gov search to see if there are any travel warnings or alerts. I’ve found that beyond avoiding dangerous areas, research also helps put anxiety of the unknown to ease.
And my last argument is that life is too short to live in fear. I’d say it’s more dangerous to live an unfulfilled life full of regret than any of the risks that go with international travel.
You only live once, you know.
What If Your Bank Account Is Low?
In my experience, money is the number one deterrent for young adults who want to go abroad.
But it shouldn’t be, and here’s why.
Not having a bunch of money to throw around doesn’t mean you’re unable to go.
It just means you might need to get creative and think more outside the box compared to the next person. Or sometimes you get lucky and the area is significantly cheaper than home.
For example, I lived more frugal in Fiji for six weeks than any six-week span in the United States. Cheap food plus free activities to the waterfall or park protected my bank account.
In terms of travel hacking to save money, my friend Kyle Gundrum laid out a few tips he used to travel across Europe:
- Search Google Flights, Momondo, and Skyscanner for cheap flights
- Stay in a hostel for $15-25/night (and have a better experience than a hotel)
- Eat local food instead of fancy tourist diners
- Use Groupons to find cheap things to do there
- Be flexible on your departure dates from city to city
Being on a tight budget will also help you get a truer experience. You’ll be forced to eat on the street and speak with the locals instead of the tourist restaurant. You’ll need to ask about free or cheap activities from people in the community.
Your financial limitations will provide a far more unique and intimate experience, unlike the millionaire who never leaves his 5-star hotel.
So before you wrongly assume that you can’t afford to travel, look into the cost first. It’s often cheaper to spend an extended time in another country than the US.
And if you truly only have enough money for the plane ride, consider working while abroad. Being an English tutor or doing a service job will give you countless stories and add a special touch to your adventure.
Although you’ve read my pitch why you should travel while you’re young, you may still have concerns.
If this is you and travel freaks you out for some reason, then take smaller steps and do a few road trips to somewhere else in the States. Use extended weekends to visit new cities.
I know for a fact that positive action builds momentum. So by traveling around the US, you’ll build confidence and experience to make the leap to spend two months in South America, Europe, or Africa.
And you don’t need to know every exact detail figured out before you go. Part of the adventure of traveling abroad is being forced out of your comfort zone to navigate the unknown. Embrace it.
For your happiness and growth, I hope you find time to travel abroad. There’s nothing else like it!
As a send off, let these quotes settle in your mind and heart:
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Anonymous
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury