You don’t have to travel when you’re young
I’ve always wanted to travel, but obviously since last year (age 29) was my first time overseas, it was never my first priority. I wanted to clear my debt first, build up a savings cushion, learn how to spend responsibly, get comfortable with having a budget, and have some sort of financial stability before I could even begin to think about traveling the world.
When I was younger, many of my friends went traveling. I was extremely jealous of their experiences, but not of the fact that they racked up credit card debt, ignored student loan payments, and came back home to a financial mess. Now that I’m able to afford to travel, almost none of my friends can because they’re too busy paying for the life they led 10 years ago.
And that’s fine by me, because I personally think I’m appreciating travel more now, than I would have when I was younger. For one thing, I can afford it. Sure, I still stay in hostels most of the time and travel on the cheap. But I can afford to do amazing things as well – like hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, hiking in the Arctic Circle, taking a gondola ride in Venice, and eating real, proper meals in restaurants if I want to – without any of it having a major impact on my budget.
The few times I traveled when I was younger? It was rough staying within such a tight budget. Especially since “budgeting” was a foreign concept to me anyway. I still have very vivid memories of taking a $80 Greyhound bus ride to Anaheim when I was 18 years old, and eating cold Chef Boyardee in our motel room because it was all we could afford. Being older and knowing how to manage my money appropriately makes traveling a lot less stressful. And maybe even more enjoyable?
There’s so much emphasis on traveling when you’re young. In fact, just a few days ago, someone pointed me to this article: 3 reasons to travel while you’re young. Basically the idea of the article is not to hold off on traveling. No matter what the circumstances, there will always be something to stop you. Here’s an excerpt:
Never were more fatal words spoken:
- Yeah, but… what about debt?
- Yeah, but… what about my job?
- Yeah, but… what about my boyfriend (or dog or car or whatever)?
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 world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it. Do this while you’re still young. Do not squander the time. You will never have it again.
I get the message behind what he’s saying: don’t be scared, just go for it. But to put a time limit on travel – to say that you should do it while you’re still young (what’s wrong with doing it when you’re 30, or 40, or 60?) – to contemplate forfeiting all other life goals… well I think that’s a bit foolish. And it’s the reason why I don’t read many travel blogs. It’s like if you don’t travel often (or at all, even though you want to) because you have other priorities in life, all of a sudden you’re uncultured, boring, and basically dismissed. Not saying all travel blogs are like that, but some are. That’s probably why I’m a better fit as a personal finance blogger, than a travel blogger. :)
And it leads to comments and sentiments like this:
To even suggest that going into debt in order to travel will enrich your life? Or that you should travel instead of taking care of (high interest) debt? Come on. Let’s be real here. Perhaps it’s because I’m a personal finance blogger, but I think that’s the dumbest piece of advice I’ve ever heard. Traveling doesn’t automatically make you better, smarter, or more cultured than anyone else. It also doesn’t make you more interesting either. Life experiences do – and it doesn’t matter if you gain those experiences working a 9-5 job, raising children, getting out of debt, earning an education, or traveling.
I had coffee with a friend a friend last week, and we got to talking about my year in Germany. She said the one thing she really regretted was not spend time living abroad somewhere during her life. I gave her a weird look and said, “your life isn’t over just because you’re 30, you know.” She gave me an equally weird look back and I immediately knew she hadn’t even considered living abroad now that she was “old.” There are plenty of opportunities to travel and live abroad at any age. And of course it’s true you will experience things differently when you’re young. But who’s to say whether that experience will be better or worse than going 10 or 20 years down the road?
I guess my point is that I don’t think anyone should regret not traveling when they’re young. Not everyone can. Or wants to. If you have debt to take care of, a career to think about, family obligations, or any other reason that would prevent you from packing your bags – guess what? The world will still be around to explore after you’re 20’s. :) And maybe, MAYBE it just might be better that way.
So travel when you’re young. Travel when you’re old. It doesn’t matter. Travel if that’s what you want to do in life. Or don’t. Just don’t go into debt to do it, and don’t get pressured into stretching yourself thin just because you feel the need to experience or see something by a certain age.
Do you think it’s essential to travel when you’re young?
Author: Krystal Yee
I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.