3 Reasons to Travel While You’re Young

by  on JULY 19, 2011
The other night, I had a conversation with a young woman who had a number of decisions ahead of her, one of which is whether she would go to grad school or travel the world.I told her to travel. Hands down. No excuse. Just go.

She sighed.

“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.

I was so stirred by this conversation that I shared it with a group of about thirty young adults last night, many of which are asking these very 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. 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.

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)

What, then, will be?

  • 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 is worth whatever monetary investment or time sacrifice that is required on your part.

It’s not about being a tourist. It’s about learning the importance of experiencing true risk and adventure so that 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 newfound 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 Coliseum 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 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.

Please. For your sake, do this.

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.