Now that I’m 31, I understand why people say travel while you’re young because once you’re older, you won’t get the chance.
But it’s not that you won’t get the chance. It’s that it seems so much harder when you’re older.
To clarify, I’m not talking about the kind of travel that neatly fills those allotted twelve days of annual vacation. No, that kind of travel is frenzied, restricting the majority of life to an unnatural cycle of constant want of more.
I’m talking about the kind of rugged, unplanned long-term travel where you give up owning most things, leave behind a stable home, learn to live simply on a budget, and really see the world for months on end. The kind of travel that was possible after graduation, when you strapped on your backpack and jumped into the unknown world, flowing carefree wherever the wind blew.
It’s this kind of travel that, with age, starts to look more and more like a piece of expensive art to be admired but never bought.
I’m plenty familiar with the broken record of reasons why not to go on such an adventure. The list of limitations, real or imagined, is endless. To leave it all behind—to give up your life—a thick ugly shadow of fear clings to the mere idea of such drastic change. You’ve become increasingly stuck in a well-worn pattern. You have bills to pay, health insurance, a car, family, babies, retirement savings, taxes, pet chickens (well, maybe you don’t, but I do). The real world doesn’t want you to leave the safety of cubicle land. It’s warm and fuzzy there. And it sure is boring.
But you see, this is life.
Really start to think about that.
Understand that this is it.
It won’t ever get easier, it will only start to fade away.
Once you feel this, I mean really absorb and sit with the reality of it, it’s clear that there is only one thing to do: figure out how to quit your job and travel immediately.
You should do this because travel will make you feel more alive. It will inspire you again, kindling that lost flicker of creativity until new ideas start to boil and bubble from deep within. It will allow you to create more, to feel freedom again, and to start your life anew.
Travel will challenge your well-worn assumptions and accumulated habits. It will shake up your boring old patterns, make you feel every raindrop and taste every bite of mango. It will surprise and delight you, causing you to laugh deeply at funny German accents and flop down on dirty airport chairs, exhausted and frustrated that you’ve been awake for 24-hours and still don’t know where you’ll rest your head. Traveling this way might make you uncomfortable, but it will also show you more clearly what you have and who you are.
Along the way, you’ll collect lots more dots, and then it will be up to you to connect them,as Amanda Palmer says. Sure, you might not always know where to go to find those dots, nor will you know exactly when you’ll return or who you’ll meet along the way, but that won’t matter once you’re in the thick of it. One day all the beauty and wonder you’ve seen will meld together and make sense, and these discoveries will set you free.
Above all, travel will make you appreciate the familiarity of home. It will restore your sense of childlike wonder for what was already there. And when you return, you will remember what it is to truly be alive again.