Why you should travel when you’re young

Should you travel while you're young?

Today’s thought: It’s so much easier to travel when you’re still young.

The time/money tension is an interesting one.

You have more of the former and not enough of the latter when young. Meanwhile, you might have less of the former and more of the latter when old. But money, at least theoretically, is something you can always earn more of. Time is finite. Sure, you might have student loans weighing on your back, but you’re less likely to have a mortgage and/or a family to support.

And there’s no telling what your health might be like later on.

In your 20s, you’re more likely to be physically up for roughing it on a budget, not having become used to luxuries.

Right, now, we’re on the eve of embarking on our whirlwind North American tour. As exciting as it is, it’s also going to be gruelling. We’re as young and energetic as we can ever expect to be, though that’s not saying much. We’re kind of oldies at heart. For example, we ended up getting a taxi (actually more economical than the train) after landing in KL rather than the cheap bus. After an 11 hour flight, T wasn’t up for any more discomfort, and after having gone through the equivalent of my own body mass in tissues up in the air, I was inclined to agree. And T is already carting around the body of an old man, thanks to old sports injuries, high level athletics, and physical work – which has held us back at times.

I have no idea what kind of shape we’ll be in when we’re middle-aged or retired, but I am pretty confident we wouldn’t have even the (limited) stamina we have right now.ย  Further, I’m not sure we’d be comfortable dossing on floors and couches (physically or otherwise), HelpXing, Couchsurfing, or AirBnB-ing. But then again, who knows what might have cropped up in that regard in 20 years’ time?

Visas are another thing to take into account.

As a New Zealand citizen, I’m lucky – we’re welcomed almost everywhere, and have visa waivers/exemptions in many countries. If you can swing it financially, fresh grads can move to the US to work and travel for a year as part of the snappily named New Zealand and Australia Twelve-Month Student Work and Recent Graduate Travel Program. If you’re 30 or under, there’s a dizzying array of countries offering working holiday visas, which to my understanding are virtually guaranteed – it’s just a matter of applying and paying the fee. Australians and New Zealanders seem to enjoy the most choices, but there are options for citizens of other countries, too.

For what it’s worth, the youth/under 26 discounts available to you might also be worth considering.

We qualified for cheaper Eurail passes, an ISIC youth card, and other random discounts along the way.

An added benefit of travelling in our 20s is that it’s been a real growth experience.

An invaluable experience. A life-shaping experience. I’m not sure we’d be as open-minded as we are now 20 or 30 years down the track; as receptive to new experiences and ideas. And let me tell you, if there’s one thing travel has taught me, it’s that I’m NOT as open-minded as I would like to think I am.

Travel is not for everyone. I’m not going to try to sell you on travel, if it’s not your cup of tea. And I don’t think it’s a terrible idea to wait to travel by any means, but if it’s a priority for you, there’s no time like the present.

10 thoughts on “Why you should travel when you’re young

  • Reply KK @ Student Debt Survivor September 19, 2013 at 10:48

    I’m only 30 now, but I definitely wish I’d done more traveling in my 20s. I would imagine that most people have less job responsibilities when they’re younger. The older you get the more hassles there are in planning a vacation (planning for coverage for yourself and/or making sure your staff know what to do when you’re gone etc.)

  • Reply krantcents September 19, 2013 at 12:25

    Travel when you are young (18 and under), mid life (30’s) and later (40’s+). I traveled with my parents as a young person, in my 30’s and for the last 25+ years. It was cheaper when I was younger because I did not care. As I get older, I want luxuries such as nice accommodations and business class air tickets.

  • Reply Mackenzie September 19, 2013 at 12:33

    Definitely travel when you are young. It gets much harder when you have kids! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Kara September 19, 2013 at 12:53

    Hm. I have many thoughts.

    I will definitely say that I was more willing to “rough it” when I was younger, than I am now (45). When I was 26 I lived in Alaska for a year with no running water and no electricity and I reveled in it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I guarantee you that I wouldn’t do it now at my age. ๐Ÿ™‚

    On the other hand, I’m one of those people who is actually in better shape and has more energy at 45 than I ever remember doing in my 20s. I lost a lot of weight, started working out, lifting weights, and running when I was 39. At this point although I’ve gained some weight back, I’m still overall healthier and have more energy now than I did when I ate junk and was overweight. So from that perspective, I don’t think older necessarily = less energy.

    Obviously being older means I have more responsibilities, more bills, more people who rely on me and so I don’t have the freedom to just ditch things for a few months and travel, so there is that to consider.

    But then again, I think that there are some aspects of travelling at my age now that would help me to get more out of the experience than I did in my 20s when I hitchhiked through Ireland. I have a greater appreciation for some of the things that I either took for granted or didn’t appreciate enough when I was younger.

    So … I think there are pluses and minuses to both. Which means that I think you should probably try to travel throughout your life. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply mochimac @ save. spend. splurge. September 19, 2013 at 12:54

    If you have the money that is. That’s the problem with youth. Lots of energy and gumption, no money. Then as you get older, you have kids, and less money, but when you’re retired you have more money but no more energy.

  • Reply Michelle September 20, 2013 at 01:36

    We are in the planning stages for our future traveling right now. We have a road trip across the USA planned, trip to the Caribbean, Chicago and hopefully Europe planned. I cannot wait1

  • Reply Linda September 20, 2013 at 03:53

    Most people are certainly more physically resilient when young, but not always as mentally resilient. Travel takes a toll on both the body and the mind, so both are important.

    Now that I’m in my mid-40s, I do have less tolerance for physical challenges like sleeping in places where I can’t recline or sleeping on floors with little to no padding. (I once had to sleep on the floor of the Munich train station when our train arrived too late to find a room for the night. While not very comfortable, it was pretty memorable!) However, I’ve kept myself active and can spend most of a day walking around with no issues, just like I did when 20 years younger.

    The only other issues I have traveling these days are with long flights. Sitting in those packed coach seats for more than 6-8 hours would be really rough on my body. I try to plan my flights to last no more than 8 hours, although taking a flight to your side of the globe would make that nearly impossible.

    Because I know so much more about my personal temperament now I’m better at planning trips that give me maximum enjoyment. I know I can’t hang out in a museum for hours and hours, so I look for ways to fit in shorter (hopefully cheap or free) visits, for example. I also like to experiment with food, so I make sure I plan for some really good meals, too. I didn’t do this type of planning very often when I was younger.

  • Reply Kylee September 20, 2013 at 06:59

    I traveled in my 20s – for about 6 years. I consider it my tertiary education.
    Now I’m in my 30s – I have a career job, a mortgage, a toddler and a baby on the way.
    One day, we’ll travel with our children, but it will be a different kind of travel to what I experienced in my 20s, obviously.

    Exposing them to other cultures is hugely important to me, but obviously – we’re unlikely to hitchhike, spend a month in Turkey (when we planned a week), change direction at a moment’s notice, or sleep in a train station (because we chose the cheap fare getting in at an unsociable hour).

    Traveling while young is FABULOUS! I definitely know that “those were the days”

  • Reply Katie C. September 22, 2013 at 16:51

    It was interesting reading this post and the comments because of a recent conversation I had with my mother. Mom got married at 17, had me at 18, and my brothers each 3 years later (so one 3 years after me, the next 3 years after him). We were discussing the idea that it’s better to have kids later so you can travel without the added strain of bringing children along with you. (Family vacations are fun, but they’re not the same as journeying through Europe alone or with other adults.)

    She said, “You know what? I think it’s better to have children young because that’s when you have the most energy and can do a lot of stuff with your kids, like accompanying them on field trips or going to amusement parks. Then when you get older, you have more money for travel.”

    I agree with the idea that we’re generally less picky when we’re young, but I took the Megabus at age 24 to NYC from East Tennessee. My body could NOT handle it, even though I’m supposedly young enough to be able to do that kind of thing. And since I was diagnosed with the AVM at 25 and will hopefully be AVM-free by 32-ish, I plan to be healthier in my 30s/40s than in my 20s. ๐Ÿ™‚ (Fingers crossed anyway!) I could handle taking long rides in uncomfortable buses or sleeping on the floor in my teen years but not anymore.

    So I think there are sides to both arguments. Since we don’t plan to have children, I hope we make travel a lifelong pursuit. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Jennifer September 23, 2013 at 19:20

    Great article, I agree that it definiately opens your mind. I notice the stark difference between myself and my old friends that havent been travelling. Im getting a mortgage now though and will have kids at some point, but I’d like to go travelling with my children as I think it would be such a fantastic experience for them.

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