The other night, I had a conversation with this woman at the bar who had a number of decisions ahead of her, which included whether she should further her education or travel the world.
I told her to travel. Hands down. No excuses. Just go. The results are worth the costs. And she sighed.
Never were more fatal words spoken:
- Yeah, but… what about money?
- Yeah, but… what about my job?
- Yeah, but… what about my boyfriend or dog or car or whatever?
“Yeah, but…” is pernicious. Because it makes it sound like we have the best of intentions when really we are just too scared to do what we should. It allows us to be cowards, while sounding noble.
Most people I know who waited to travel the world never did. Conversely, plenty of people who waited for grad school or a steady job and traveled still did those things — eventually.
Be careful of the yeah-but. The yeah-but will kill your dreams.
The life you’ve always wanted
When you get older, life seems to just sort of happen to you. Your youth is a time of total empowerment. You get to do what you want.
But as you mature and gain new responsibilities, you have to be very intentional about making sure you don’t lose sight of what’s important.
So if you still have a reasonable amount of control over your circumstances, you should do what really matters. Because life won’t always be just about you.
During early adulthood, your worldview is still being formed. It’s important to steward this time — to give yourself opportunities to grow. A good way to do that is to travel.
So, young person, travel. Travel wide and far. Travel boldly. Travel with full abandon!
You will regret few risks you take when it comes to this. I promise you that. There are three reasons to travel while you’re young:
1. Traveling teaches you to live an adventure
When you look back on your life, you will have moments of which you are proud and maybe a few you regret. It’s likely that the following won’t be on the latter list:
- Skydive over the Palm in Dubai.
- Backpacked Vietnam on one leg.
- Shotgun a beer with a monkey.
- Learned to surf in Portugal.
- Toured Sri Lanka by public transportation.
They’re not on mine (fun fact: I’ve done all of the above). So what, then, will be? What choices will you regret making? Holding back. Being afraid. Making excuses. Not taking more risks. Waiting.
While you’re young, you should travel. You should take the time to see the world and taste the fullness of life. It’s worth whatever investment or money or sacrifice of time that may be required on your part.
This is not about being a tourist. It’s about experiencing true risk and adventure so you don’t have to live in fear for the rest of your life. And it’s about remembering and sharing your adventure, and inspiring others to step out of that fear, too.
2. Traveling helps you encounter compassion
In our youth, we will make choices that will define you. The disciplines you begin now will be with you for the rest of your life.
Traveling will change you. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you.
If you go to southeast Asia, you may encounter the slave trade. If Africa, you may see how far someone needs to travel just for a bucket of water a day. If Haiti, you’ll witness the the ugly side Western paternalism.
Your heart will break.
You will begin to understand that the world is both a big and small place. You will have a new-found respect for the pain and suffering that over half of the world takes for granted on a daily basis. And you will feel more connected to your fellow human beings in a deep and lasting way. You will learn to care, and you might even find a way to speak up for the people you encounter who need a voice. You will start to see pass race, sex, age, religion, etc.. It will strive you to be better and to go out and make a difference!
3. Traveling allows you to get some culture
While you’re still young, you should get cultured. Get to know the world and the magnificent people that fill it. There’s nothing quite like wondering the streets of Marrakech or seeing Gaudí’s la Sagrada Familia in person.
The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it.
Do this while you’re still young. Do not waste the time. You may never have it again.
You have a crucial opportunity to invest in the next season of your life now. Whatever you sow, you will eventually reap. Please. For your sake, do this. Because you won’t always be young. And life won’t always be just about you.
So travel. Experience the world for all it’s worth. Become a person of culture, adventure, and compassion. I’ve learned more in the past year traveling than I have in highschool and college.
“What if I’m not young?”
Travel, anyway. It may not be easy to do, but find a way to get out of your comfort zone. It’s really never too late. I met a 37 yr old female solo backpacker in Sri Lanka who was just out exploring the world and seeking to find herself again. I traveled from Portugal to Spain with a couple that was 42 and 45. You are only as old as you make yourself to be. Just remember to be open-minded!
But if you haven’t gotten sucked into the routine of life yet, I implore you — travel. It will never be easier than it is right now for you to do that which really matters.
So what are you waiting for? Stop making excuses and Take that leap! The world is yours.. get out there and live it!