6 things I wish I’d known about travel in my 20s
1. It’s okay if you’ve never been anywhere before.
It’s easy to get anxious about your inexperience as a traveler before your first trip and feel like a total rookie, but later on you realize it doesn’t matter where you come from and where you’ve been. Ignore the travelers who brag about how many passport stamps they have and just enjoy the experience for what it means to you.
2. You probably won’t ever see your friends from the road ever again.
We like to think the connections we make while traveling will circle back again in our lives at some point and in the moment it feels so real. We make promises, we talk about joining each other on future trips, but the reality is the majority of the people you meet you’ll likely never see again (at least outside the confines of Facebook updates).
3. It’s okay if you can’t quit your job to travel full-time.
There’s a lot of travel bloggers out there who write about the experience of quitting their full-time jobs to travel around the world and advocate for others to do the same, especially when they’re young. It sounds incredible, right? Sell everything you own, ditch your boring life, and somehow make enough money to continue to travel endlessly. It’s great if people are able to break away and do this, but it’s not a realistic option for most people, especially when you’re a post-grad trying to pay off student loans. And that’s okay. We all have different priorities in where we put our energy (and money) and none are better than the other.
4. You’re not going to truly find anything “off the beaten path.”
You can ditch the guidebooks and typical backpacker routes in favor of a more “authentic” experience in less populated areas but everyone’s already been there or are headed there, too. Sorry, but there’s no hidden utopias in foreign countries to discover à la The Beach no matter how much you and your friends try to convince yourselves.
5. Your travel stories have an expiration date.
Sure, go ahead and tell your friends back home about the time you went volcano boarding in Nicaragua, or about an amazing encounter you experienced on your trip, but after you give them a few highlights, shut up about it. No one cares. If you’re still going on and on 3 weeks later about the reverse culture shock you’re experiencing or you’re waxing poetic about some dude you met in a pub in Ireland, chances are your friends are rolling their eyes and wishing you’d stop talking about it already.
6. You’re not going to “find yourself.”
In the era of Eat, Pray, Love it’s easy to romanticize the experience of traveling and convince ourselves that it’s out on the road where we’ll find a part of ourselves we’d never discover without the test of unknown environments and foreign landscapes. While traveling definitely gives you perspective and makes you reexamine the way you view life back home, you can “find yourself” just as easily in your own backyard if you stay open-minded to new experiences and look at your own city from time to time through the eyes of a tourist, not a local.