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