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3 Reasons to Travel While You’re Young

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The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.

—Augustine of Hippo

The other night, I had a conversation with a young lady who had a number of decisions ahead of her, which included whether she should go to grad school or travel the world.

I told her to travel. Hands down. No excuses. Just go. The results are worth the costs.

And she sighed.

Travel While You're Young

Photo credit: kokorowa (Creative Commons)

“Yeah, but…”

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)?

“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. [Tweet that]

I was so stirred by this conversation that I shared it with a group of 30 young adults last night, many who were asking these very same questions.

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:

  • Bicycled across the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Appeared on Italian TV.
  • Hiked a Mayan ruin.
  • Learned Spanish in three months.
  • Toured Europe by train.

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.

2. Traveling helps you encounter compassion

In your youth, you 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 like little else can. 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 eastern Europe, you may see the effects of genocide and religious persecution. 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.

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 walking alongside the Colosseum or seeing Michelangelo’s David in person.

I can describe the city of San Juan and its amazing beaches and historic sites to you, but you really have to see it for yourself to experience it. You can read all the books in the world about the Great Wall of China or The Louvre, but being there is a different story.

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 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.

“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.

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.

Have you seen what the world has to offer and how it can change you? Join the discussion in the comments.

If this post resonates with you, you might enjoy The In-Between, a book about learning to love the journey, not just the destination. It’s currently 40% off on Amazon. You can also join my email list for more free updates.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • jufer

    I’m doing it! http://www.walkingmexico.com. I left everything to do this :)

  • Always Travel

    I travel a lot, always have always will, I’m approaching 60 different countries visited and I’m only 25, all my money goes into travel, no questions asked. I am in full agreement with you. I’ve already done a one year trip and planning to get another one in the bag before I turn 30.

    One thing with today is that we’re all going to retire at a much much older age than the previous generations so it’s important to enjoy every bit of life you can.

    The one downside (and upside) to travelling is that it’s an incredibly powerful addiction and it has impacted my life in several ways and always driven me away from commitment because I would rather travel than settle down properly.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Love this: “One thing with today is that we’re all going to retire at a much much older age than the previous generations so it’s important to enjoy every bit of life you can.”

  • GF

    This is SO beautiful! thank you so much for sharing it with us Jeff!!

  • Nic Hilditch-Short

    This is truly inspiring, I am currently studying and saving up to head off travelling and hopefully set myself up to be freelance so I can travel more.

  • Vanessa Ivey

    Great post! We didn’t travel at all young and are on a year long journey with our kids now so they can see the world a little. I wish I would have done this young! But doing it now!

  • Anglo Italian

    I think any age is a good age to travel, if you are young and still full of energies the experience you get is different I think :)

  • http://www.discovershareinspire.com/ Rachel

    Fully agree, although I never traveled while young… I didn’t start until I had 4 kids (just had #6 in Costa Rica). We’ve explored the globe as a family since 2007. It’s never too late!

  • Laurin

    I absolutely LOVE THIS! I am a 22 [23 next week] year old and feel like i didnt do nearly enough with the first 2 years of my 20′s. i want to GO and DO and BE! and this is just so inspiring to read :) thank you! I have only one question for you: Did you travel alone? I seem to be the only person i know who wants to live with what i call spontaneous adventure [what others call being irresponsible and unrealistic] and i have NO problem doing my thing alone but.. when you get there.. ya know wouldn’t everything be a little more beautiful if you could share it with friends? How did you handle this debacle?

    Also, i’ll be reposting this to my blog :D http://www.itsallstatic.wordpress.com

    • Shah Nordin

      @Laurin – Travelling alone is the best! You’ll get to meet and connect with fellow travellers along the way as long as you’re friendly, don’t worry. Travelling with a partner is nice but I do enjoy my solo travelling. You do learn to open up and reach out a bit more and make new friends.

    • Kellend11

      Hey Laurin – I am in the exact same boat as you which feels quite good to hear! I’m 22 (23 in October) and am gutted that I haven’t travelled as far as I could have since turning 20. I’m planning on going to Australia after my 23rd birthday to start my adventure and am planning to do it alone as a lot of my friends aren’t too interested in long term travelling (boring!). I’ll follow you on Twitter to read more about your travelling progress! (my Twitter is Kellend11)

  • Karen @ Coolfamilylife

    This is a tough one. I will have to say go to grad school and travel while you’re young! I backpacked in Europe taking one semester out of my undergrad year which put me 4 months behind everyone else. Big deal. I do regret not getting my Master’s! Once I left school and started earning money, it was too difficult to go back. I am in my forties and I do think you can travel when you’re older but it is not the same unless you make it a big part of your job and lifestyle. We travel a lot as a family of 5 but it is more like Myrtle Beach, Florida, etc. The cost of five people traveling is prohibitive and there are some safety, interest and school concerns when traveling with kids. You’d just have to be so committed. I hope you can do both!!!

  • http://www.boomeresque.com/ Suzanne Fluhr

    I’m a mid-range Baby Boomer, so I get to write with this with some 20-20 hindsight. My parents took us to live in Mexico and England, each for a year when I was growing up. My father was a Philadelphia public school teacher. When I was in college, I spent a semester in Bogota, Colombia attending university there and living with a Colombian family. I was the only person I knew doing something like that. Obviously, my parents (my father, in particular) had planted some wanderlust seeds in my brain. But, then I did the go to law school, marry a doctor, have two kids thing — but, I never stopped traveling. I’ve been to 37 countries (not counting transit airports!). So, I guess I’m with the “it’s not an either/or proposition” group of commenters. I think it’s probably harder to commit to travel if you’ve never been much exposed to it growing up, so those folks do have to take a deep breath and go, but baby steps are ok.

  • BeyondBlighty

    I went straight to university after school and straight into a job after university. I was 29 when I set off from England to explore South America and since then I have toured New Zealand and am now living in Australia. Leaving the familiar behind and setting off on this adventure was without a doubt the best decision of my life, and my biggest regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

  • http://shelaughsatthedays.net carrien-she laughs at the days

    There was no way, as a young person, that international travel would have been possible for me. I grew up poor, like plane tickets might as well have been the Crown Jewels for both were just as uncontainable poor.

    My friends travelled, I worked a crappy summer job in a gas station for minimum wage. I got to university on scholarships and student loans. My friends flew across oceans and back, and started a year later than I.

    I got as far as Mexico, and that was enough to start to change me, and the direction of my life. But my first time actually going overseas was with 5 kids in tow s the founder of an NGO.

    • http://beyondblessedblog.com/ Chloé Arnold

      Better late than never!

  • http://blog.sarahshotts.com Sarah Shotts

    Do both at once! I studied abroad in London and traveled Europe while I was there funded by student loans. I’m paying it all back now, but the experience was priceless.

  • kaede

    After college graduation, I worked. And worked. And worked. I even worked in another province before 2010(I will not mention where), and after I got back to my city, I promised myself I will get back there again. And so, Last 2012, I traveled back to that province all by myself, on my first plane ride, and I was able to visit a historic place which I only get to read in history books.

    The next was traveling to watch CN Blue perform for the first time. That was last year. It was a blast for me. It was such an experience for me because it was my first time to watch a rock concert.

    This year, I went to Singapore with a friend. I had read in many accounts about Singaporeans being rude and unfriendly, but I guess that may be true in some instances. Some Singaporeans are actually helpful, such as the case when one Singaporean told us the nearest church because my friend and I had been roaming around Victoria Street just to look for a church. We even met a German girl in her early 20s who was fierce enough to travel Southeast Asia all by herself, and we had fun talking with her in the hostel where we live in.

    For me, my next destination is Jeju Island in South Korea.

    For me, traveling is not just about showing off pictures over Facebook or Instagram. If I go to Korea, it will not be about just meeting K-pop idols. Traveling is a learning experience. It is also an introspective experience for me, for me to contemplate on the values that other people also value, for me to get to know first-hand the problems they face, the problems that we take for granted oh, so often.

    And traveling is also about learning how to be responsible for yourself.

    • SangJun Bae

      sounds great! especially, about your next destination!
      I hope to see you in Korea :D

  • http://instagram.com/loganjphoto Logan Jernigan

    Hi Jeff,

    Great and very inspiring article. One question though. How did you fund all of your travels? I also live near Nashville, TN.

    Thanks,
    Logan

  • Lesley

    Okay but… I’m 29 years old, have no college degree (but have taken plenty of community college classes), basically have no job (I work 1 day a week), and am now trying to decide whether I should travel to all the places I dream about on a daily basis or go to a real college and learn a skill well enough so I can earn a real paycheck already. The problem is that I still have no clue what I want to do with myself, so I don’t know exactly what to study. I’m unwilling to study something random for the purpose of making a bunch of money. I only want to get a degree if it’s something I’m passionate about. Right now all I’m passionate about is having an adventure traveling on my own. Any thoughts?

    • Yea Dats Kenny

      YES Lesley!….I can completely relate with what you’re saying about not having a clue of what you want to do and now wanting to work in something you aren’t passionate about. I have my college degree, but I still feel those same sentiments. I too, want to just travel and explore the world, that’s where my passion lies. So what I’ve been doing the past few days is researching opportunities to “Teach English Abroad”. I think this would be a great option for you and would behoove you to look into this sooner rather than later. It will provide you the opportunity to go overseas, live and work, and earn a paycheck in something you CAN do, since you already speak English. Please check out websites like interexchange.com, smallerearth.com, TEFL.com, or just type in teaching abroad on google.

  • http://reporterofhope.com/ Dorette Skinner

    So true! I’ve got a little more to add… http://reporterofhope.com/2014/02/see-the-world/ A few ideas from a young mind on ‘seeing the world’. I think you might like it :-)

  • Karina

    As for travelling, I think it gives us good experience. It helps increase adaptivity, polish communicative skills, deal with cultural peculiarities, and make new friends. Also, it helps us cope with difficulties and raises our spirits. :)

  • melly666

    I started the travel addiction off in my 20′s and am still at it- backpacking nearly every year for a few months every year at nearly 50! I’ve never looked back but am sad at what’s happened to Asia in general with the Westernisation of everything and everywhere and the locals mentality changing to the $$ eyes. The real hippies have nearly all disappeared! I have a whole different perspective on life from my friends and family at home but I consider it a healthy one!

  • Miyuki Bailey

    I’m 57 going on 58 this summer. I have come to a conclusion. No matter what, I don’t have enough money, who’s gonna take care of my house, etc, etc. You have to take a chance. If you wait till all the accommodations are met, you may be too old. There is no perfect time.Take a chance. Go do it. I am!!!

  • Loris Yamauchi

    At times I find that
    people always depend on their family or friends to work it out with them. But
    going in clusters often is not possible. Each one gives his or her own excuse
    and at the end of it, we ourselves as well cancel the plan as no one is coming
    along us. We feel what we would do alone, exploring an unknown territory?

  • Annu

    I agree with the above mentioned statements. Travelling while young requires from you to break the stereotypes. Despite the fact that it will not necessary give you a well-paid job it will make you a stable and balanced person.

  • Monee Hope

    Like to travel find great deals Click Here!

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