They tell you to travel when you’re young and able. To explore the world and connect with our greater humanity, and in so doing become a better person — to “find” yourself. What they don’t tell you is this.
1. You are an idiot, and idiots ruin everything.
It’s not your fault (what is?), you’re just young, inexperienced, ignorant of the world outside your field of vision and the artificial glow of your smart-phone. Your brain hasn’t even fully developed until your twenties have plateaued and started rolling toward thirty. The years are not yet your friends and your ill-thought actions turn idyllic country-side villages into backpacker strip malls. Places like Vang Vieng in Laos, that were literally ruined by wasted twenty-somethings.
2. Pearls before swine.
You are too young to truly appreciate the experience of travel as your youthful arrogance and lack of experience compounded by hormones will keep your attention on yourself instead of that Burmese family waving you over to witness their youngest child getting his head shaved as he is initiated into full-fledged monkhood.
3. You’re not going to “find yourself.”
You won’t “find yourself.” You’re already there. The “you” you are looking for is an ever-changing version of your personal narrative. So whatever problems you’re facing now will still be there when you’re on the beach in Thailand getting your face pressed between your knees as a Thai lady gives you a massage. Travel isn’t an escape, it’s life.
4. You won’t figure things out.
You’ll be too busy drinking cheap beer with those guys or girls you just met. Your hangover will turn the next day into a recovery day then by nightfall someone will offer you a drink and the cycle continues, because screw it, you’re on an island and the only thing you’re wanting to figure out is how to avoid diarrhea for the next few days so you can keep the party rolling. (Hint: avoid late night street meat).
5. Your “friends” won’t want to hear about it.
While you were trekking through the Himalaya most of your friends were working hard, financing their cars, having babies, putting a down-payment on a house and fighting for careers because they know that is the only valid path in life. They’ll wonder how you can afford to travel when all you do is bartend. With this in mind, they’ll have no follow-up questions to the standard, “how was your trip?” They won’t care, and who can blame them?
6. It will make you dissatisfied.
After seeing poverty, your conception of what we really need to be happy has been smashed, and the answers for everything you had before are null and void. The Truth becomes elusive and the search consuming. You are dissatisfied with the status quo, but are faced with the difficult choice of fighting for something better, or joining the system that’s there. Because you’re in your twenties, you haven’t yet chosen your Truth, and that first fateful step is the hardest.
7. You will see all of your friends get married on Facebook.
They’ll all have kids and impressive-sounding careers, too, while you’re still sleeping on couches and living out of a suitcase.
8. Good luck finding a job!
The longer you travel the more dated your job-skills become, making it harder and harder to find a “real job.” Life becomes a continuous job-search, filling out applications, tweaking your résumé and interviewing for positions you don’t want. You will end up working in the service industry and confronted by horribly entitled people, daily. Alcoholism ensues.
9. Life after travel is a bummer.
After over-stimulating your impressionable brain abroad, it’s now on idle, and you’ll be bored as hell. Still young and without kids, you’ll want to abdicate responsibility in favor of temporary measures, meaningless jobs and habitual escapism.
10. You are a sheep.
You want adventure, but you’re too young to know what that really means and how to have it. To you it’s parties and pub-crawls, package deals and “eco-volun-tourism.” Experiences chopped up and parceled out to eager, bright-eyed backpackers walking up and down the same damn backpacker streets in cities everywhere. All of it merely a checklist of sights and supposed experiences documented on a phone that never lets you get lost. Herd mentality will keep you firmly on the backpacker trail, paved by selfie-sticks and happy hours as that fifty-something over there just woke up early and witnessed a glorious sunrise in a town no one’s ever heard of.
11. By your 30s, you have everything figured out.
You have a career, disposable income and plenty of vacation time you’re going to use traveling the world with your family, because everyone uses their vacation time. You’ve found your Truth making second guesses and existential crises a thing of the past. You’re comfortable in your skin and have quashed your youthful idealism. Because by 30, everyone’s a responsible adult, and the world is grateful.