Most people dream of traveling within their lifetimes, but few Americans seem to actually fulfill that dream. It is so easy to get caught up in college and then the workforce upon graduating or for some the workforce along with a graduate program. I get it as I was a busy college student during my undergrad and have since worked full-time (for a while two jobs almost both at 40 hours per week) and now I’ve once again gone back to school for my graduate degree, but we have to make time to travel.
One of the best decisions I ever made was studying abroad. It was costly, I had to really get it to work with my classes as I had to do it my senior year when certain classes are crucial in order to graduate and had to have numerous people at my university sign off on the courses, the program, and everything that entailed studying abroad. It was a lot of work to just get all of my approvals, but I knew I wanted to travel and I figured while still working on my undergraduate degree and having the luxury of extra student loan money would be a perfect time. So I packed my bags and left for Australia for five months, by myself.
for the first time ever i had traveled alone
I think there are many reasons to travel; at any age and to any city, state, or country. Yet, I think it’s even more important to travel when you’re young and not just for the reasons of a family not tying you down because let’s face it – every young person is broke, so most think that it’s the worst time to travel, but I think that’s completely wrong. There are so many reasons why you should take advantage of travel before ever hitting the age of thirty.
#1 you learn about other cultures
Even if you go to another state and not another country, you’ll learn something about how different people live. I went to California for the first time a few years ago and as a native Chicago resident, I knew it was warm, but that’s about it. I discovered that people in California live differently by the ways of eating, exercising, and lifestyle than people in Illinois do.
I think the most important lesson I learned from living in Australia was learning a different culture than American culture. It’s so important to know and realize there are other functioning cultures out there that live happier than we ever may be. The Australian culture is very laid-back, the grading system completely different, and the way they look at university is opposite of how we do. I never received so many questions about dorm life because that doesn’t happen in Australia. Most everyone I met at uni (as the Aussies would call it) pick a place close to home to continue to live with their parents.
I also traveled to New Zealand and Fiji during my time and those were culture shocks as well, especially Fiji, where they are not as fortunate as Americans when it comes to many things. When I broke my foot I couldn’t just go to a doctor, but instead had someone try to wrap mint leaves and cloth around my foot to heal it. That is not Western medicine and that wasn’t something I ever thought would happen to me.
#2 you learn history from a different point of view
Now, this may seem like an odd reason to travel, but I found it one of the most fascinating parts of my trip. I not only learned so much about parts of Australia such as the Sydney Opera House and bridge, the Blue Mountains, and the Great Ocean Road, but I also talked to friends about what they learned growing up. A different country will always learn history differently and when reading an American history book, they paint the story in favor of the U.S., but in Australian history books, some U.S. history events that are talked about have a different feel to them because they are told through a non-objective third party just detailing the event.
Once you think about it, you realize that every country would tell history differently, but until you ask someone what their high school history classes were like in another country, you don’t really think about it or think about how your home country may have been painted in different situations when coming from an entirely different country.
#3 you learn and develop a different lifestyle
I think one of the happiest times of my life has been throughout my times of travel. While in the U.S. I’ve only traveled to a few nearby Midwest states; California, Arizona, Georgia, and Florida, the thrill of being somewhere new always gets me. So, living in another country was such a good experience for someone like me. I started eating new foods such as meat pies, and even kangaroo (just once!), I climbed and dived off of things I would have never allowed myself to do before (I jumped off a plane at 14,000 ft. high and climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge), and I started exercising more.
A few times a week I ran along the coastline from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach or at least part of the way to Bondi and before that I did nearly all of my exercise inside a gym, but I learned exercising outside was way more fun! I also learned to love coffee when abroad. The coffee simply tastes better plus they have Flat Whites (something Starbucks is trying to do, but it’s just not quite how an Australian Flat White tastes.)
#4 you learn about yourself
The first time I long distanced traveled I was alone and knew no one. I went through a study abroad program called, The Education Abroad Network, but hadn’t actually met any of the people I was going to live with for the next five months of my life. The people I’d sleep in the same apartment with, cook with, laugh with, go out with, and travel even more with. It was daunting, but I had always known everyone growing up in a small town and going to a smaller university, so I had to break my comfort zone and by doing so it made me a different person. I became more talkative in social situations, I made new friends easier, and most importantly I became extremely independent by age twenty-one.
For anyone who lives off campus in an apartment knows how to become independent fast, but I had only lived in a dorm and still used my parents home to do laundry and went to a cafeteria for food. I wasn’t used to grocery shopping, buying everything on my own, sharing with other people, cooking for myself three meals a day and sometimes my roommates, and cleaning a whole apartment.
I was lucky if I cleaned my room when I lived with my parents! It made me mature quickly because not only was I doing all of this, but I was getting to know a different city, a different culture, learning new words that Australians use that Americans don’t, getting to know my roommates, plus getting to know my Australian classmates and making friends that way. It was a lot at once, but it made me who I am today in terms of how well I manage the working, cooking, cleaning, and grad school thing that I’m currently doing.
#5 it gives you a chance to travel again
The best reason to travel when you’re young is that it makes you travel again. I made a lot of friends when I lived abroad most from Australia, but I also met people from England, Scotland, and more and so I want to go visit my friends again. I loved Australia, so, of course, I want to visit again, but I also haven’t been to the places where I met other people from so it gives even more of a reason to go travel to those other places.
Once you start traveling when you’re younger, you also get this itch to continue to experience and see new things. If you haven’t ever been out of your state, you may feel like you want to travel, but you don’t have as much of a draw to it because you haven’t been anywhere. Yet, once you’ve been new places you know the hype of it all and want to travel for the rest of your life and will do anything to take a trip even if it is only a few states away.
Whether you’re freshly twenty years old or currently sitting at age twenty-five like I am, save up your dollars, pick a place you have always dreamed of going in your country or outside of it and go. Don’t think about the what if’s and the maybes. It’s something you need to do and something you’ll never forget the experience of. It will give you more life experience than anything else in my opinion. It’ll develop you as a person, as a friend, as an independent, as a “millennial” and most importantly it’ll give new food to your soul.