Should you travel in your twenties?

How to decide whether to travel in your twenties

When we were younger, we were always told that travelling is an amazing thing to do in your twenties.

Want to take a gap year to travel the world? No worries. Feel like spending all your money on cocktails the size of a fish bowl on a beach in Greece? Not a problem!

But when we get to our twenties, a few different things start to come into the picture. We still want to travel – but what about our careers? And what about money? Shouldn’t we be saving for a house? Shouldn’t we start being ‘responsible’?

I can’t tell you whether or not you should travel in your twenties – that’s up to you!

But I can share my experience with making this decision and why I’ve decided to travel in my twenties, a lot! So that’s what this blog post is about. Let’s get into it!

My travelling experience

To set a bit of background for you (since the decision to travel in your twenties often depends on where you’re at in your life) – I’m 26, I graduated from uni in July 2015 (after 6.5 years of studying law and finance) and I have a boyfriend Steve (we’ve been together for 10 years and he hasn’t really wanted to spend his money on travel). After graduating, I worked full-time at an accounting firm in the city before quitting my job in March this year to pursue blogging and I now have a part-time job to support me while I continue to grow my blog.

And I’ve done quite a lot of travelling in the last few years:

At the end of 2015, I went travelling for 10 weeks pretty much all around the world – I went to Peru to hike the Lares Trail to raise money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation (you can read about my experience here). Then I explored Europe for 7 weeks with two of my really good friends (we did a ‘plan as you go’ kind of trip so we ended up in a lot of cool places like Latvia and Estonia) and then we went to New York for a week at the end!  

In 2014, I went to Europe for four weeks to visit friends and explored Vietnam for a week on the way home. In 2013, I studied and partied in Montreal for four months and then travelled around the US and Canada for a month after with my new friends from exchange. In 2011, I went to Europe for six weeks with a friend and when I was in year 11 (way back in 2007) I went on the school trip to France for three weeks.

I’ve been with my boyfriend Steve while I was on all of these overseas trips (we’d just started dating when I went on that school trip to France) and he hasn’t come on any. Though, to be fair, we did go to Fiji together for a week but that was about 9 years ago haha.

Steve hasn’t wanted to spend his money on travel and, while I would absolutely love to travel with him (and we’re planning to again soon), I haven’t let it stop me from seeing the world and have LOVED every trip.

I feel so lucky to have had the money and the opportunity to travel to all of these places. And I’ve been lucky in that I was able to ask for 10 weeks leave at the same time I accepted my grad job (but, having said that, I’ve had so many friends go on extended holidays and they’ve all been able to get unpaid leave approved without much drama at all).

Why I decided to travel in my twenties

For me, travelling in my twenties has been an easy decision to make.

Travel is an amazing way to gain real world experience and life skills, especially if you travel on your own (which I highly recommend)! When you travel you have to do so much problem solving, you’re consistently outside of your comfort zone and you have to do things you don’t feel like doing (like waking up at 4am to trek through the snow to catch the metro to your cheap flight – fun).

And you learn a lot about yourself too.

Whether you want to or not, you see how you cope under pressure, how you cope under extreme fatigue, how you cope when you’re extremely hungry and how you cope when you’re experiencing all of these things at once. Landing in a new city at midnight when you haven’t eaten since lunch, you’re jetlagged, you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t speak the language and you don’t have any of the local currency will tell you A LOT about your ability to handle shit.

You probably already know all of the reasons that travel is amazing, so I’m not going to go on about it too much. Instead, I want to help you decide whether you should bite the bullet. I’ve weighed up those other things – should I save for a house instead? Should I focus on my career? Should I start to ‘settle down’? Should I be more ‘responsible’?

As I said at the beginning of this blog post, you have to be the one to decide whether you should travel in your twenties. And you should never travel just because you feel like you ‘should’ travel while you’re young. If you don’t want to travel in your twenties, then don’t! It’s your decision and you need to make it for the right reasons.

Travel won’t solve your problems

And I just want to take this opportunity to remind you that travel won’t necessarily solve your problems.

It’s easy to forget that travel isn’t always what it looks like on instagram. It involves a lot of waiting around, a lot of discomfort (both physically and mentally), disappointment and loneliness. It’s tiring and it will push you to your limits, and that won’t always feel amazing. And any problems you have at home will be there when you get back.

I’m not saying this to deter you, but to remind you that travel isn’t a magic bullet. If the reason you want to travel is to escape your life, then it might be my worthwhile to use your energy making your life better rather than trying to leave it. The decision is yours, of course, but just a suggestion.

Should you travel in your twenties?

If you would love to travel in your twenties but for some reason you’ve decided that you ‘can’t’ do it, my advice would be to really look at the reason why.

Here are the ones I hear the most often:

“I don’t have enough money”

So the first thing you need to do is ask yourself whether you’re actually trying to save money for travel in the first place. That sounds obvious, I know. But so many people say they don’t have enough money for travel and they’re not even trying to save!

So if you’re not actually trying to save any money for travel, I want you to have a think about why. Why are you using the excuse “I don’t have enough money” to procrastinate on travel? What feelings are you trying to avoid?

Maybe you’re not sure who you’d travel with or where you’d go or how it might affect your relationship and that makes you feel uncomfortable. Maybe you get anxious when you travel or you’re scared of taking time off from your job. The reason for the “I don’t have enough money” excuse often doesn’t have that much to do with money!

And if you’re actually trying to save money and it’s just not working, you might need to think about approaching it in a different way. Make sure you come up with a spending plan that won’t leave you feeling deprived (I like to put some money aside for shopping because I know I’m going to end up doing it anyway) and set up your savings so money is automatically transferred into a savings account as soon as you get paid. It’s really not as hard as you might think, I promise!

If you need help with saving money for travel, you might like to read my blog post on exactly how I saved over $20,000 for travel.

“I can’t get time off work”

I’ve been totally shocked by how easy it has been to get time off work to travel!

Of course, that leave might be unpaid if you haven’t worked up enough hours. But if you’ve got your financial situation in order, it’s definitely possible to take long periods of leave and have a job to come back to when you’re ready.

I know that when you’re just starting out in your career it can really feel like you have to be ‘professional’. And that means not travelling (so everyone knows how focused you are). But most workplaces know that you learn a lot while you’re travelling and many of them are happy to support you. If you think you can’t get time off work, have a chat to others at your work and see if they know of anyone that’s been able to.

But, of course, the ‘I can’t get time off work’ thing could just be an excuse that you’re making for some other reason. Maybe you don’t think you can get your spending habits under control or you don’t have anyone you could travel with. So also have a think about whether getting time off work is the actual obstacle to travel, or whether it’s really something else!

“I want to focus on my career”

So I just want to say here that you don’t have to travel just because everyone else says you should ‘travel when you’re young’. This is your life and your decision. If you really don’t want to travel, then don’t. Don’t try to talk yourself into it.

As I mentioned earlier, my boyfriend has decided he didn’t really want to travel in his early twenties. So he didn’t. He made that decision and he honoured it (even though I constantly try to convince him otherwise haha my bad!).

But if you do really want to travel, have a think about whether it might be possible to focus on your career and travelling at the same time. A lot of workplaces offer secondments in different cities all around the world. And if your workplace doesn’t, you could always start a new job in another city – there are thousands of people that do it every year!

I think it’s important to not just think about what ‘looks good’ on your resume (especially since most people get jobs through their connections rather than their resume) but also about the actual experience you’re having! You’re only in your twenties once!

And don’t forget – this isn’t an either/or thing. It’s possible to focus on your career and travel at the same time!

“I should save for a house and settle down”

I feel like this one comes up because we’re always told that when we’re in our twenties we should start being more ‘responsible’, we should ‘settle down’, we should ‘think about the future’ and we should be aiming for those two perfect kids and that white picket fence.

I think this whole idea of having to ‘settle down’ in our twenties is getting a bit outdated, but it can still a major voice in the back of our mind.

I definitely want to buy a house. And at some point, I’ll definitely want to ‘settle down’ and have a family and all of that. I guess I think it’s just important to take notice of whether you want to buy a house because you feel like you ‘should’ be doing it, or because you actually want to do it.

If you want to do it for your own reasons then that’s amazing (you should definitely do it!) – but if you’re just doing it because you feel like you should, then maybe it’ll be good to think about whether that’s a good enough reason not to travel in your twenties!

One last thing

For me, it all comes back to this: When I get to the end of my life, what will I regret?

Will I be happy with the decisions I made? Did I make decisions for the right reasons? Did I make my decisions for my reasons?

I hope this blog post has helped you figure out what you really want and how to get it! Please let me know in the comments if you have any advice to add or to share your experience!

Sam xx

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  • Nichole Pricha Stockman

    Hi there, first off thank you for sharing this. It really hit close to home for me. My husband and I recently moved abroad to live in thailand where my mom brother and step dad live. Before moving, and while planning, I felt this sense of shame in doing so. I felt like our family, particularly my husbands, thought we should be having babies and buying a house. When all I want to is to see the world and everything beyond the small town we lived in. We’re only living here for a year, but I’d love to travel for longer. Of course we have dogs back home so that’s hard for us. I just feel like older generations have a hard time accepting and understanding of why we choose not to do what they did. Anyways, this really hit close to home to me and I thank you again for writing this.