Not traveling is easy!
Something hit me a while back from a conversation while getting my haircut. As the stylist winded through small talk, I stopped her when she mentioned her dream to travel to Thailand and cut hair on the beach. I replied, “That’s great! Why don’t you go?” [Now pause, remember in elementary school when the teacher called on you, but you had no idea what the answer was to her question? THAT was the exact look she gave me.] She stumbled out of the silence with a, “Jenny! We’re going to Thailand!” in an excited but sarcastic tone.
Whether the goal is to travel for a week or a year, why do we laugh off our dreams?
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
If you are one of the many millennials who dream of traveling the world, think hard for a second. Do you want to travel because it sounds cool or because you actually want to get away, discover yourself, and experience new cultures? If the latter, think even harder, what is really stopping you? Don’t wish and make excuses; set measurable GOALS, and make a PLAN. Seriously, right now, pick up a piece of paper, yes paper, not Apple Notes.
Draw a line down the middle of your paper, and label the left side Dreams and the right side Fears. Now under Dreams, write different places you would like to visit, why they are so awesome, and which activities you would like to partake in each. Under Fears, write down all the bad things that could happen and how traveling could ruin your life. There will be some unavoidable annoyances in preparation, like finding where to put your belongings and dealing with bills, but after completing this exercise, you may just come to find there are not as many drawbacks as you thought.
Below are the five most common excuses I hear, and having stayed in over twenty countries, I will quickly address each.
- No one will travel with me
- Traveling is too expensive
- Traveling is dangerous
- No one will hire me when I get back
- I don’t speak a foreign language
No one will travel with me
Good! The best experiences I’ve had were when I traveled alone. And let me correct myself, you are never actually alone. Especially when staying in hostels, everyone is in the same boat, wanting to make friends and see the same sights as you. Some of the friendliest people I’ve met were in hostels, and I still keep in touch with most. In this environment, there is no judgment; no one knows your past, and everyone is there to simply have a great time.
Traveling is too expensive
Once you get a decently priced flight, traveling is not as expensive as you think. I have seen flights from the US to Europe and Asia for as low as $500, and even less from the US to South America. A good mileage credit card is also a great way to get a ton of free flights. For room and board, hostels are as little as a few bucks a night and Couchsurfing is FREE! And food? My last extended trip was in Medellin, Colombia, and I ate like a king for under $5 bucks; Southeast Asia even less! I recommend the following sites to keep costs down:
- Flights – skyscanner.com
- Credit Credits – thepointsguy.com
- Hostels – hostelworld.com
- Couchsurfing – couchsurfing.com
Traveling is dangerous
I have been guilty of this and am partly ashamed Americans tend to think the rest of the world is dangerous. The fact is, most of the countries you want to visit are immensely safer than your own backyard. According to the 2016 Global Peace Index which judges countries based on factors such as violent crime and terrorism (1 being the safest), the US ranks 103rd out of 163! Now let’s take a look at where other prominent countries lie on this scale: Germany – 16th; Spain – 25th; Japan – 9th; Australia – 15th; Chili – 27th; Argentina – 67th; etc., etc.! Enough said.
No one will hire me when I get back
A lot of this depends on the field you are in, and I can only speak from a professional business standpoint. The consensus passed around is that a gap on your resume looks bad as a potential hire. Think about this for a second though. I do not completely disagree as a gap could very well mean you are lazy and sat on your ass doing nothing. On the other hand, imagine you are interviewing someone and they told you they traveled the world for a year. My first reactions are, this person is interesting, and second, I am jealous and want to hear more! Traveling not only makes you memorable in the eyes of an interviewer, it also makes you invaluable as you have unique experience in an exceedingly globalized world.
I don’t speak a foreign language
Luckily in today’s world, English gets you farther than in the past. If you are fluent in English and can spend a couple of weeks learning the basics of local languages, you will get by more than fine. The hardest part is getting over thinking people are judging you; while in reality, if you try to speak the local language, locals are very delighted you are trying to learn. If you can think of a time when you ran into someone who didn’t speak the best English, remember how you felt; the struggle is usually pretty visible, and you really just wanted to help. Nowadays, most people under 30 understand English no matter where you go.
The best place to start learning a new language is through the app, Duolingo (download on your smartphone). The app is free and from my experience, significantly better than expensive solutions such as Rosetta Stone because its goal is not to teach but to simulate immersion. To supplement Duolingo, search meetup.com for groups in your area that host regular happy hours or coffees to practice foreign languages.
Not Traveling may be easy, but Traveling sure doesn’t have to be hard.
I am always looking for different perspectives! Let me know your biggest concerns in the comments below.