Sleeping in hostels, and sharing bathrooms is not for everyone, but even if I was going to be travelling in luxury, many people couldn’t understand why I would choose to take an extended break at this time in my life. After all, work was good, I loved where we lived, I had started to save for a mortgage deposit, why give all of that up?
Here are some of the responses I heard over and over again:
1. “Travel is what you do just before or after college not at your age”
The game has changed.
With massive university fees, huge loans on graduation, and high unemployment, less people can afford to travel when they’re younger.
Wishing they would have travelled more is one of the most popular regrets of the old and dying.
I know that I’d regret passing on the opportunity to embark on a big trip, because I’m scared of the uncertainties, the hassle, the risk.
There will rarely be a perfect time to do anything. Having just paid off my student loans, with no children or mortgage, now seemed to be as good enough time as any.
2. “Travel is what you do when you retire”
With the government pushing the age of retirement and low interest rates not doing much for pension funds, how old will my generation be before they can retire – 75, 80, 90? At this rate, we will be lucky if we live to see retirement.
I know many people who lost their lives at a tragically young age. Life is fragile. It is too short and can disappear at any time. We have a duty to those who have gone before us to enjoy life and make the most of the opportunities that are presented to us.
I want to experience all that life and this world has to offer, before I am old and sick. That wasn’t going to happen if I stayed stuck behind a desk.
Even if we make it to retirement, would we be fit and healthy enough to travel by then? Most older people I’ve met travelling have wished that they had travelled more when they were younger. When they were fit enough to hike, dive, raft and rough it a bit with no back or knee problems.
Travel insurance is expensive enough without the extra premiums that are added if you are over 60. Some older people I know are afraid to travel too far from home in case they get ill or need medication.
I find some of the activities we do hard enough now. I’m not sure if I’d want to be hiking at altitude and sleeping on the ground when I’m 65. Saving amazing experiences for a time that I may not be able to physically enjoy them is crazy.
Large loans and growing unemployment also mean that most people are having to have children at a later stage. Consequently, many of us will still be supporting our children when our own parents would have been long retired.
With pensions rapidly changing, we’ll be lucky if we can afford anything in retirement let alone an extended holiday.
3. “You don’t want to see everything now, you need to leave places for you to visit later”
Are you kidding me? The world is changing every day.
Places will be cheaper and less touristy now than they will be in 5-10 years. Some places may be better to visit, but the majority will be increasingly touristy, over developed, Westernized and more expensive than they are now.
Climate change is also a huge problem. Glaciers are disappearing, ice is melting, mountains paths are eroding, animals are becoming extinct. There are so many reasons to try and see the world sooner rather than later.
4. “You’ve seen enough of the world already”
I’m lucky in that I’ve been able to travel a bit, but there are still continents which I am yet to visit! The world is a huge dynamic place, travelling constantly for a decade will still not be enough to appreciate or experience everything this planet has to offer.
5. “You don’t care about your friends and family”
Missing my friends and family has been difficult. We’ve missed christenings, birthdays, weddings and have not been able to be there for friends who have lost family.
I was also told by my Nain that I was probably not going to see her again as she would probably die while we were away. She was dramatising – she is relatively healthy (touch wood), and says things like this all the time. Nevertheless, I was obviously terrified that she was going to die or get seriously ill while were away!
I’ve seen many of my friends wrestle with this kind of thing. Being away from the ones you love is difficult. But, none of us know when we are going to die. Young or old, sick or healthy, any of us can go at any time. I couldn’t wait for everyone I love to die before we left. Thankfully mobile phones and the internet have made it easier to keep in touch with people. Free of the time constraints of work, I had more time to stay in touch with the people I cared about. I probably spoke to my grandparents more while I was away then when I was working.
6. “Why can’t you be happy doing what everyone else is doing. Why do you want to travel?”
Some people enjoy watching Eastenders or reading the Daily Star. Experiencing new places, eating new foods, learning about culture, history, and meeting new people is what I love doing. Yes it is expensive, and time consuming, but I love it.
Being exposed to different cultures from all around the world has given me a broader perspective on life. I appreciate what I have and how lucky I am much more than I would have done, had I not seen how others get by with much less.
Having the freedom and responsibility to pursue whatever I want wherever I want is an amazing feeling. Being free from routine obligation and constraints has been liberating. It’s also given me a chance to focus and reflect on what I want to do with my life.
7. “You’re destroying your career. You will be unemployed”
Fortunately, I enjoyed my job. Great people, interesting work, good location, fabulous company – I was sad to leave. But things change and people move on. I’m a contractor, used to interviewing and getting new positions.
I’m sure I will find it more difficult to get a new job on my return. But, I doubt that taking a few years out of what may be a 45+ year career, to pursue something that will enrich my life in so many other ways will cause irreconcilable harm.
Jobs for life are rare. Do they even exist anymore? Having seen so many people struggle with redundancy, in some ways, staying in one position for a long time can be as risky as self-employment.
8. “You will be homeless”
We rented, and loved where we lived. Putting our things into storage and starting all over again is going to be hard. But people leave and work abroad all the time and come back. We found one lovely place to live and I’m sure that we can do it again.
I love London. I miss my friends, Time Out, Grace Dent, running along the Thames, banh mis and flat whites from Street Eats, Burger and Lobster, and the Kernel Brewery, but they will hopefully still be there when I return.
“In the long run we’re all dead. Time is the only resource that matters”
– Randy Komisar, The Monk and the Riddle