I’m still getting used to being home and catching up with friends. Some people have no interest in our trip, others are too bitter to enquire. But, among the usual, “What was your favourite country?”, and “Would you do it again?” questions from the generous few who ask, I’m constantly hearing “I really want to go travelling”, “I so wish I could go”, “I’m so jealous”.
“You can! Do it”, I tell them. “It’s the best things we’ve ever done, you won’t regret it”.
“But I have no money”, “not right now”, “I have to work on X”, “get this promotion”, “pay for a new kitchen”, “maybe next year”, “I can’t afford it”, (are you kidding me! These people earn good money!), and the excuses continue…
People! There will never be a perfect time to go. You will never feel like you have enough money. Just go. If you want to go travelling, do it, go. Time is running out.
“For all the most important things, the timing always sucks…The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up all the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually”, just do it and correct course along the way“. – Tim Ferriss
The vast majority of my friends can go travelling if they want.
“I can’t afford it”.
“You just have to save”.
“I can’t save”, “my mortgage is too high”, “I have absolutely no money at the moment”, (this is the most stupid response I get and it’s usually while we’re eating out…). In the meantime my friends continue to spend a fortune on new clothes and margaritas and complaining about how they’re not doing what they want in life.
For the fearless few who are considering getting on that plane, and are disciplined enough to save a little, here are some of the reasons to travel – why you should go:
1. You’ll have the most wonderful times of your life
“There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – Charles Dudley Warner
Enjoy the beginning. There is no better feeling.
Getting on that plane, starting a new adventure, with the ocean of possibility ahead, is magic.
That kind of uncertainty and the unknown might be frightening for some people – just embrace it. You have enough money in your pocket to last a while, and so many good times coming your way. The future is yours for the taking.
2. It isn’t as scary as you think. Trust me
Taking some time out from your day job can be scary if you have nothing to come back to. Relax. Jobs come and go. A couple of years out during 40+ years of working is not going to destroy your career. If you have a job you hate, you’ll get a better one. Love the job you’re at now, you’ll get a better one.
The media love to make us feel scared. But seriously, the threat of terrorism we deal with by getting on public transport in London is a lot higher than in most places in the world. Don’t trust everything you read or hear. Before we arrived in South America, I was terrified. I’d heard tales of stolen luggage, hold ups, kidnappings, and after reading the Lonely Planet I was certain we’d be attacked, robbed and raped within minutes of landing. Surprisingly, South America is not like that. Sure, there are dodgy neighbourhoods, crime is an issue for people, and it pays to be sensible and have your wits about you. But, unless you’re really unlucky, the vast majority of tourists get by without incident.
Scared of dingy hostels and creepy crawlies, you can stay in lovely places for very little. Travelling’s a lot cheaper than you think.
You’ll miss your friends and family, but time moves quickly.
You’ll be back before you know it, and everything and everyone will be the same. Trust me, everyone, will be the same!
3. You’ll be making the most of your life
You will have complete freedom to make the most of your time on earth.
We only live once, and no one knows how long they have left.
You will make fantastic memories which you will never forget.
Visit those places on your bucket list; and do those things you’ve always dreamt of experiencing. Read books you’ve always wanted to read. Learn languages you’ve always wanted to learn; learn to dance; learn to scuba dive; learn to meditate; learn to cook; learn new skills you’ve always wanted to try out.
We went to amazing places, but it’s the experiences I remember most. Seeing the sun rise at the top of Kilimanjaro; sharing bread with a Tibetan family in a Lhasa tea house; being whipped by stones thrown by the crazy wind while trekking in Patagonia; watching the sunset while sky diving over the Namibian sand dunes; bungee jumping in Victoria Falls; almost dying but surviving my first scuba dive in the glorious underwater land of Ko Lipe; those are the things I remember most.
Take your time and savour the experience. Be flexible where you can. If you feel sick or tired, take a break.
You’ll figure out what pace is right for you. Some people love spending weeks in one place, (although a lot of travellers seem to spend most of their time online in hostels or weeks in the local Starbucks). Other people rush through a place seeing hardly any sights. There isn’t a right or wrong. You can do whatever works for you.
4. You’ll enjoy getting some distance from your usual life
Being thrown out of your usual environment, away from your peers, away from the internet will help you get perspective on what’s important.
I now appreciate how much we obsess about money, and job titles, and each other.
I’m far too reliant on electricity. In Africa and parts of Asia there were times when we had no access to power. No Internet for weeks was fine, but not being able to charge my phone (for music), kindle (for reading) ,batteries (for my camera), and laptop (for writing and backing up), was pretty difficult…
5. You’ll make new friends and treasure the time with whoever you’re travelling with
Treasure the time you’ve got with the people you’re travelling with. My boyfriend and I will never forget how lucky we’ve been to spend a whole year exploring the world together while we’re both (relatively) young and healthy.
I was surprised that we didn’t kill each other. Despite being together for over nine years, (I was far too young when we met), we hadn’t spent more then 10 days alone together before we left, (most of our holidays were spent visiting family and friends). We argue quite a bit, so a year together was going to be interesting! The first few months were fine, mainly because we were mostly on tours with lots of other people I guessed. It felt weird when we left everyone else, but we soon got used to it. I realised how grumpy he really is, (maybe that’s the result of spending so much time with me!), although he’s far less negative now than he was at the beginning of the trip. I think we’ve got to know each other a lot better, in good and bad ways, living in a two man tent with someone for a few months is a good way to get to know them a bit too well!
6. You’ll learn so much about the world, its people, religions and cultures
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain
You’ll figure out how to communicate with people in different languages; learn about different cultures and religions; and how the world is a pretty safe place.
Our tour guide in Kenya had three wives, while another African guide believed that all homosexuals should be shot. On the other hand, their main concerns in life were making sure that their children had a good education, whether their children should go to nursery while their wife was also working to support their family, and making sure that the people they loved where cared for. No matter how different people seem, deep down we’re pretty much the same.
You’ll learn how to have an open mind. Some places in India, for example, can be hard work. You can spend your time getting upset and angry about how things should be different, but when you’re a visitor in another country you have to accept it for what it is. It’s the same with being ripped off or making silly decisions which end up being expensive mistakes, you can spend your time getting angry with yourself and the people around you, but if there is nothing you can do to change it, let it go, move on.
7. You’ll appreciate how lucky we are in the west
Of course I knew we were lucky before, but seeing first hand the widespread racial and poverty divides in South Africa; hearing about the woefully inadequate healthcare systems that exist, or don’t exist in much of the world; experiencing the censorship that Chinese citizens are subjected to and having to rip up books for immigration officials really brought it home to me.
My eyes were opened to the detrimental affect of corruption in the world, and how trapped people are. Its a way of life in many places, but speaking to people who had to bribe teachers to pass tests, doctors and nurses for medicines and surgical operations, (on top of the legitimate costs that had to also be paid); police officers for offenses that never happened – it’s frightening how many societies have nothing, while people in power have millions, (at the higher levels, much of it aid money and state funds siphoned into personal accounts).
Corruption still exists in the UK, and the NHS isn’t perfect, but we are extremely fortunate. People moan about London’s transport system, the NHS, immigration, education – I get that the policies surrounding these issues are not perfect, but when you return from travelling the world, you’ll be grateful that you can easily visit most countries in the world without worrying about getting visas in advance; you’ll appreciate how you don’t have to bribe five people when your kid needs life saving surgery after a motorbike accident; you’ll appreciate how you’ve never seen your parents raped, tortured and hacked to death before fearing that the same might happen to you; you’ll be grateful that you don’t need to think twice about brushing your teeth with tap water or having a hot shower.
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins