The past couple of months, I’ve been seeing all these articles a-blazing with that burning desire to: travel while you’re young! live! life! now! YOLO! SOLO! Mojo!
While I understand that the goal of the articles is to get the young travelling (instead of focusing on other worldly desires), the headlines may send the wrong message. It can sound ‘age-ist’ in a way. I don’t want people outside of the age bracket that these articles are targeting (18-35) to think “oh this is it then, I’ve gone past the time that I should travel.”
Seriously folks, there is no right or ideal age to travel.
Travel when you’re young, because it gives you wisdom! Travel when you’re old, because it keeps you young at heart!
Whatever your physical or mental age, you should travel when you can.
In this post I sum up the pros and cons of travelling when young and when old.
3 GOOD REASONS TO TRAVEL WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG
1.) ZERO COMMITMENTS
When you’re young, chances are you have no mortgage, or you haven’t quite found what you want to do long-term yet so you can afford to switch jobs here and there, and hopefully you have no jealous or nagging partner/ spouse to hold you back, no children.
Nothing tangible is holding you back, just your parents’ last words of caution to stay safe.
2.) YOU ARE PHYSICALLY ABLE
If you have kept a healthy lifestyle and you’re young, chances are your body is at it’s physical best. Even if you fall into accidents, your recovery will be pretty quick and soon you will be roaming the streets again. No matter how we say and believe that “age is just a number”, we have to admit that there are some stunts and feats (especially when you’re into adventure travel) that requires the dexterity and adroitness of youth.
3.) BONDING AND LEARNING
One of the best memories of my youth and growing up are of my travels with family and with friends. To a young person, travelling is one of the best ways to learn about different cultures. The exposure to a world other than your own post code is irreplaceable. Textbooks won’t teach you how to negotiate and mingle with different types of people. Or to navigate yourself when lost, or get yourself out of a dangerous situation. These skills and lessons are going to be crucial later on when you move on to ‘adult life’.
3 REASONS NOT TO TRAVEL WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG
When you’re young, you feel invincible, full of bravado and unlimited curiosity. There’s a big chance of you participating in some sort of tomfoolery and making rash decisions. This can be both good and bad. Whatever you do, just be sure you come out of it alive to tell a wonderful story.
2.) LIMITED FUNDS
These are the days of hostelling, taking buses instead of planes, hopping from one job to another getting paid minimum by the hour, and taking sheer inspiration from Richard of Alex Garland’s “The Beach”. The adventures are either continued by a monthly trickling of charity from your parents, or it ends with your bank account in a perfect zero sum, and you head back home to start adult anew. Again, this can also be a good thing as it can teach you about budgeting and being resourceful.
3.) IT’S ALL ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE
When you’re real young (17 – 21) , part of the excitement of travel are the people you get to meet and all the new and exciting experience waiting to unfold. You’re just relishing your newfound freedom, finally away from the great walls of your parents’ house. So while the call of Phuket, Bali or Vietnam is thrilling, most of the memories you make when travelling for the first few times will not be of the place itself but from the new friendships and relationships formed. This is not really a downer, it just means that when you get older, you may perhaps need to re-visit that place in order to really appreciate the country, as opposed to a self-discovery kind of travel.
3 REASONS TO TRAVEL WHEN YOU’RE OLDER
1.) YOU ARE MORE FINANCIALLY SECURE
This is one of the most obvious advantages when you travel when you’re abit older. The backpacking days are over, and you are now more discerning with your travel choices. You don’t mind shelling out or splurging for a bit of luxury. And also because of this, the choices of your destinations are broader. Distance is not so much an issue anymore, and your next destination is not just dependent on the latest sale fare. Now is the time to spin that globe and point!
2.) YOU HAVE A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF PLACES
You are now much more informed and have accumulated much more life experience. So to you, the Bayon temple in Siem Reap means much more than just “Tomb Raider” location. You have a better understanding of a city’s culture and history so you perceive things at a deeper level. Instead of using travel as a self-discovery as you would when you’re younger, travel at this age is more about the discovery of others.
3.) YOU DON’T CARE SO MUCH ABOUT TRAVEL FADS
Bucket lists? Top 10 Places, Top 10 things to do, Top Resorts, Top Destinations? You just couldn’t give a rat’s ass anymore about these lists. When you’re young you tend to want to make your own mark and prove something. So you want to avoid the touristy spots, avoid looking like the tourist cliche, and wanting to look like the cool traveller all the time. As you get older, you realise that life is too short to get boxed inside lists dictated by people. If you feel like going to Disneyland with a fanny pack, you will do so. What matters now is your own satisfaction, and not other people’s standard of travel coolness.
3 REASONS NOT TO TRAVEL WHEN YOU’RE OLDER
1.) FINANCIAL AND FAMILIAL COMMITMENTS
You’ve now got a house, a car, a family — everything that holds you to the ground and makes travelling look like it is the last thing you need. You can’t just up and go when you see an opportunity to travel. There’s so much more factors to consider than just yourself. Everytime you plan to get an airfare to somewhere and you tally your finances, the figures all add up to: DON’T GO.
2.) YOU’RE NOT AS HEALTHY ANY MORE
It’s just natural that your body surrenders to the nature of ageing as years go by. Travel insurance gets more and more expensive when you are over a certain age bracket, and have existing medical conditions. If climbing the Machu Pichu has always been one of your dreams, you can still do so but with more cost and greater difficulty. The great takeaway here? Try to keep healthy even during your middle working years, so that you are still fit and agile when you age.
3.) YOU ARE SET IN YOUR WAYS
Let’s face it. (And I’m guilty of this too) Once we reach a certain age, we are more particular about things. No more roughing it out, no more hostelling. And while it’s good to have your standards set, there are inevitable situations where these standards will be tested. Such as travelling in a group. Not everything will happen your way, and when you are set in your ways, this can turn you into a grumpy traveller. The downside to this also is you may be shunning new and exhilarating moments that can only happen outside of your comfort zone.
My bottomline in all this? HOWEVER OLD YOU ARE…JUST GO.