[Editor’s note: This piece is a response to the article 11 reasons NOT to travel in your your 20s, published last week at Matador. Read an article recently you totally disagree with and feel the need to respond? Submit your response to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
1. You’re an idiot, and traveling will make you less of an idiot.
In your 20s, you really don’t know anything. You’ve seen nothing. You’ve experienced nothing. This is to be expected: everyone who has ever grown into an adult has had to go through a period of time in which they were complete and utter ignoramuses. But travel will help you get away from this ignorance more quickly than you would have otherwise. Traveling will confront you with ideas and realities that you are not comfortable with, and it is this discomfort that makes room for growth.
Last week, The Atlantic published an article about how American colleges have become a place for protecting students from ideas that are offensive or uncomfortable in the name of emotional well-being. The antidote to this kind coddling? In-depth travel.
2. You need to learn there are things outside of yourself.
Everyone everywhere lives in their own little bubble. Bubbles vary in size and internal contents, but they exist everywhere. If you never leave your bubble, the only context in which you’ll ever be able to understand the world is your own. This will make you a self-centered, narrow-minded jackass. Travel is essential for leaving your bubble.
3. You need the opportunity to make huge mistakes.
I got robbed, scammed, or pickpocketed 7 times while traveling in my early 20s. A friend of mine got involved in a sketchy drug deal and was nearly stabbed. Another had to bribe her way out of a potential arrest in Cambodia. Obviously, some mistakes are better to make than others, but making mistakes is an inevitable and important part of human existence. Travel is chaos, and chaos means you’re going to make mistakes. Make them while you’re young and in a foreign country and you’ll be able to learn from them without being followed by them forever.
4. You need to be embarrassed more often.
Like that time I was yelled at in England for saying America “saved you guys in WWII.” Or that time in China where I was shouted at by a stranger for taking up too much space on a train. All of this was essential in forming me into a slightly more humble person. Because when you’re 24, you are fucking terrible. You need to be brought down a peg or two.
5. It will make you dissatisfied.
Everyone will tell you that life is about making compromises and coming to terms with reality. Bullshit. Compromises are overrated, and travel will convince you that reality is pliable, and that you can get reality to come to terms with you. Dissatisfaction will keep you alive, and it will give you something to fight for.
6. You’ll have MUCH better stories at your 10 year high school reunion.
When people talk about their classmates, they tend to speak of life as if it’s a race. “Oh, so-and-so got married, so-and-so had a baby, so-and-so got a great job,” as if they’re somehow ahead of the pack. You know what those so-and-so’s did to get there? They skipped the best part of the race. They took some shitty shortcut that zips through to life’s next stage without taking the meandering, detouring, awesome trail that goes through your 20s.
Are they further ahead in the game of life? Sure. But your life is a hell of a lot more interesting than theirs.
7. You’ve got the time.
In your 20s, you (hopefully) won’t be tied to a marriage or kids. Sure, you may not make much money, but as any seasoned, smart traveler will tell you, an income of $20,000 a year can easily be stretched to cover costs of living and travel expenses. In your 30s, you’ll likely buckle down on a family or career, and while these may include travel, the travel will likely be a means to an end, and you probably won’t have as much say over where you’re going (“Oh yay, a business trip! Oh no, it’s in Omaha!”). Travel now.
8. If you start moving now, you won’t stop moving.
I started traveling when I was 20. I spent a solid 5 years traveling almost nonstop until I pulled back a little bit and slowed down. Now, I’m settling down and about to get married, but I still don’t go more than a month without going on some small trip or another. People who tell you “Wait till you have money to travel,” or “Travel while you’re young,” totally misunderstand the nature of travel: it’s a ball that, once it’s started rolling, is probably never going to stop.