Travel. Do It

by She Flies With Her Own Wings

I’ve been so anxious to travel recently – I always want to travel, but for some reason, now more than ever.  My biggest regret has been not studying abroad in college.  Honestly, if I could go back and redo college, I totally would, hands down, no questions asked.  I’d live in the dorms as a freshman, I would have lived in my sorority earlier than my senior year, I would have taken a term or at least a summer and studied abroad, sure I went abroad to India for a Christmas break but it wasn’t that long, and I probably would have majored in something different.  But I can’t go back and change any of it…glad I’m realizing all of this going into my senior year.  I have had a great time in college though, even if I wish I had done it differently, but it definitely changes what I want to do with my future, in a way anyway; I want to continue studying, not just get my masters, but get more degrees in different areas, and since I didn’t really study abroad, I’ll just live abroad and travel lots, NOW.

Recently I’ve been torn between the idea of applying to Teach for America and grad school, or taking a year to live in France to become fluent in French and travel throughout Europe.  A month ago I would have said France was my backup plan, but now I’m not quite so sure – my original plan was TFA and grad school, then live in France for close to a year, then Africa for two years.  Now I wonder if I should do France, TFA, then Africa, or France, Africa, then TFA.  I like the idea of options.  I’ll still apply to TFA at the end of this summer and see what happens; but I’m promising myself right now, that even if I do TFA and grad school first, I won’t just get settled into a job after that, that I WILL travel lots and live abroad during my twenties, no matter the order of things.

I found an article written by Jeff Goins titled, Why You Should Travel Young, and I felt like it was directed right at me and words taken out of my own mouth.  I wanted to share a bits and pieces of his article here because I thought it was so fitting –

“Do you think I should go to graduate school or move to Africa?”

I don’t think she was talking to me. In fact, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t. But that didn’t stop me from offering my opinion.

I told her to travel. Hands down. No excuses. Just go.

She sighed, nodding. “Yeah, but…”

I had heard this excuse before, and I didn’t buy it. I knew the “yeah-but” intimately. I had uttered it many times before. The words seem innocuous enough, but are actually quite fatal.

Yeah, but …

… what about debt?

… what about my job?

… what about my boyfriend?

This phrase is lethal. 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 it. Conversely, plenty of people who waited for grad school or a steady job still did those things after they traveled.

As we get older, life can just sort of happen to us. Whatever we end up doing, we often end up with more responsibilities, more burdens, more obligations. This is not always bad. In fact, in many cases it is really good. It means you’re influencing people, leaving a legacy.

Youth is a time of total empowerment. You get to do what you want. 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. The best way to do that is to make investments in your life so that you can have an effect on who you are in your later years.

I did this by traveling. Not for the sake of being a tourist, but to discover the beauty of life — to remember that I am not complete.

While you’re young, you should travel. You should take the time to see the world and taste the fullness of life. Spend an afternoon sitting in front of the Michelangelo. Walk the streets of Paris. Climb Kilimanjaro. Hike the Appalachian trail. See the Great Wall of China. Get your heart broken by the “killing fields” of Cambodia. Swim through the Great Barrier Reef. These are the moments that define the rest of your life; they’re the experiences that stick with you forever.

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. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a newfound respect for pain and suffering, having seen that two-thirds of humanity struggle to simply get a meal each day.

While you’re still young, get cultured. Get to know the world and the magnificent people that fill it. The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it.

You won’t always be young. And life won’t always be just about you. So travel, young person. Experience the world for all it’s worth. Become a person of culture, adventure, and compassion. While you still can.

Do not squander this time. You will 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. The habits you form in this season will stick with you for the rest of your life. So choose those habits wisely.

And if you’re not as young as you’d like (few of us are), travel anyway. It may not be easy or practical, but it’s worth it. Traveling allows you to feel more connected to your fellow human beings in a deep and lasting way, like little else can. In other words, it makes you more human.

That’s what it did for me, anyway.