“Traveling overseas is the ultimate adventure.”
Whether you decide to live abroad or go for an extended trip, experiencing a new culture has some amazing benefits. There is the potential to see amazing sights, meet wonderful, crazy new people (I’m looking at you, Aussies and Kiwis!) and learn more about the world and yourself. While traveling at any age is worthwhile, there are some major pros to traveling while you are still young. If you’re fresh out of college and still unsure about what you’d like to do now that you are “all grown up,” put on your big kid pants and take the plunge. Here are nine reasons why you shouldn’t postpone that move or trip abroad.
1. There is no time like the present
But really, what other time in your life are you allowed to be completely selfish and do something just for yourself other than when you are young? Before you start that nine-to-five job, take out a mortgage on a house or start planning a family, take some time to do something just for you. With age comes more responsibility, so take advantage of the freedom of youth and pack your bags and go somewhere (or everywhere!) while you still can! If you already have some major responsibilities, such as student loans, never fear! You can work abroad (ever heard of a Working Holiday Visa?) to help pay off those loans while still indulging your travel bug.
2. Challenge yourself and gain independence
Maybe you have just graduated from college or have spent some time in a job you don’t enjoy- whatever your situation, sometimes we all just need a change of pace. Living in a new country or going on a backpacking trip is an incredible way to mix things up and force yourself to take a step out of your comfort zone. I promise, you will never feel more independent (and proud of yourself) than when you step off a plane, train or bus in a new city not knowing a soul, not having a place to live and not having a job and then being able to figure it all out. Talk about independence!
3. Learn the value of money
I think we can all agree that knowing how to budget your money and allocate your finances is an important life skill. Living in a foreign country and learning to budget in another currency or traveling on tight funds will teach you a thing or two about managing your finances, and fast. If you can travel for an extended period of time on a fixed budget, you’re a master of finance in my eyes! Learning how to manage your cash is a key aspect of travel, and you will quickly realize what are necessities and what are fun extras you can spend your money on. Knowing how to wisely save and spend your money is a skill you will use for the rest of your life, so why not figure it out while traveling in South America, or even Australia?
4. You may be unable to travel when you are older
A popular idea is that men and women should work while they are young and travel when they are retired. While this is an awesome plan and I applaud those who have saved up and do travel in retirement, it may not be a possibility for everyone. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but what if you don’t have the finances to pay for a trip when you are older? What if your health, family situation or work prevents you from traveling? If hiking to the Everest Base Camp or Machu Picchu is your dream, do it! You will (probably) never be in better shape, physically, than you are in your youth, so don’t waste it! While you can never be too old to travel in my book, it would be a shame to continually postpone a lifelong dream trip that never comes to fruition.
5. Gain a clear understanding of your values
Traveling puts a lot of things in your life in perspective. The people you choose to stay in contact with, the new friends you make and the places you decide to visit all stem from your interests and the things you value. Maybe you decide to visit Jerusalem for personal religious reasons, Greece for the historical sites, New Zealand for the adrenaline-junkie adventure sports or Ecuador for the natural scenery and landscapes. Wherever you decide to go, there is something personal and important to you that drew you to that specific destination. You may visit places where your beliefs and notions are challenged, but learning about and respecting these cultural differences will only make you a better and more well-rounded person. Traveling will truly help put the people in your life and your own values in perspective.
6. Make new friends!
I challenge you to ask your travel buddies what some of their favorite travel memories are. While I’m sure the list may include visiting the Eiffel Tower, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or watching the sunrise above Angkor Wat, I bet it will also include the people they shared those moments with. Maybe you will meet the Mayor of Killarney while hiking in a park in Ireland, befriend a crazy group of Aussies on a tour or make amazing friends at your new job abroad. No matter where or how, meeting people and making personal connections is one of the most amazing parts (in my humble opinion!) of traveling. And the best part is, it’s so incredibly easy to make new travel friends! It’s almost impossible not to make friends in a hostel, on a tour or on a pub crawl, trust me! The best part of making international friends, however, is always having a couch to crash on in their home country!
7. Learn to trust your instincts
I don’t want to sugar coat it for you- traveling and living in a foreign country can be challenging. There may be times when you feel tired, scared or alone, but it is in these moments when you will truly learn to go with your gut instinct. Trust your judgment and only do what you feel comfortable with. Sometimes while traveling you will need to make quick, deliberate decisions- you missed your train and need to rebook it immediately to make your connection in time; maybe someone told you about a great shortcut which turns out to be a dark, creepy alleyway. This is one of those moments- do you take the shortcut or take the long way around, just to be safe? However you decide to handle these types of situations, if you follow your instincts you will be able to make quick, confident decisions without second-guessing yourself. What a great life skill to learn young, eh?
8. Gain some life experience
For some young folks out there, this one may be a little tough to swallow- there are some things in life more important than your work experience and your resume or CV. I know, I know, everything everyone has ever told you probably contradicts that statement. Between the craze to get as many internships under your belt as possible and the current competitive job market, many young graduates are taught that a resume can make you or break you. Young people deserve to have the opportunity to really experience life and all of its quirks outside of the office. Many college graduates are so focused on building a career as soon as possible, many feel guilty or scared to take a year off and have a gap on their resume. While it may seem risky to drop everything and go backpacking in Asia for three months, the experiences you have will make it worth it, trust me!
9. Make some memories
The best part of traveling is the memories you will make. You will always remember the amazing sights you saw, your favorite city, that perfect sunset and the incredible people you met along the way. This is the ultimate reason to travel while you are young. I don’t know anyone who says they traveled too much in their life, but plenty who wish they had traveled more. Travel, live, experience something new and crazy and scary, and cherish those memories for the rest of your life. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
About the Author
Sarah Morgan is a twenty-something, recent graduate of the University of Delaware. During her time at UD she studied abroad three times in Puerto Rico, Greece, and England, among other travels. Sarah is a self-diagnosed travel junkie and will be moving to Ireland in August with a Working Holiday Visa. Keep up with her on Twitter @SarahMorgan65.