There’s this dilemma going around with the twenty-somethings these days, the young professionals, as they seem to call themselves. I like to call then the YPs. I know quite a lot of them, as they are my peers. They are the people I went to school with, finished university with, work with and yes, I am one of them. A lot of them want to travel. But then they just don’t.
They are the ones that have landed their first or maybe second professional job for which they finally earn the salary produced by hours well spent behind books and desks and computer screens to obtain that most sought-after degree. They live in the Big Cities and work for the Big Companies. They belong to jogging clubs, wine clubs, art house movie clubs, church clubs and artisan coffee clubs. They keep themselves busy and some to most of the YPs live quite contently in their Big Cities just like this. There’s a lucky few that embrace the challenge head on and come out winning on the other side. The majority of YPs I’m connected with still secretly yearns back to those carefree student days where little or no responsibilities and free time ruled the day. They don’t seem to want to admit this, heck with a high earning job and jogging club, who are they to complain?
I was probably born with wanderlust and managed to travel extensively throughout South Africa and took two trips to Europe before I was eighteen. AND then I became a poor student. Always low on cash juggling three jobs for extra cash. Dreaming about trips but not willing to take the risks. I can’t wait to start my professional life! Then I’ll finally save money to travel! That’s what all of us dreamed of and all of our friends promised that we’ll do the Eurotrip or Thailand trip after our first paycheck. Then life happens and so the dilemma starts. Your best friends that were always so keen on seeing the world suddenly say to you: I’m buying my first new car! After that I’ll start saving money to travel! and then: I’m putting down my first payment on my new apartment! After that I’ll start saving money to travel! or: I’m getting married and financially we want to save our money to buy things for the house…I probably won’t be able to travel anywhere anytime soon.
When you finally wake up from the YP illusion you realize that you’re nearing thirty and some of your best years to explore and build character and independence are well, almost behind you. In the extreme cases where the wanderlust cannot be stopped you will find yourself thinking and doing something people will call you selfish, silly and impulsive for. You’ve decided that you’ll do it on your own. No more waiting and depending on people to do it with you or organize things for you. People will tell you it’s irresponsible because in your twenties you have the capacity to work the hardest, start with long term investments and work yourself to the top of your profession. Then you’ll be well away to do as you please in the future. I’ve heard a lot of YPs say they’ll work now and travel later. But personally I think that later you might have a family and pay school fees or your health might fail you and you might not be able to travel. If you’re a true wanderer at heart, and if you listen to it, you’ll find a way. You don’t have to quit your job. You don’t have to become a hippie. Anyone can travel if the want to or need to.
Traveling waits for no one.
You have to take the plunge and go buy that plane ticket, go plan that trip! Buying your first plane ticket with your own hard earned money for the first time is the most rewarding feeling in the world. If you even have the slightest gravitational pull towards the travel section in the bookstore, watching weird shows on the Travel Channel, or just the mere curiosity of exploring different things than your everyday life at your office job, just do it! Plan a trip. Even if it is a local road trip to that small coastal town 400 km away or going all out and splurging on a group trip to Europe or a solo trip to the UK just do it. If you keep waiting for the ‘best time’ to go somewhere, you’ll be waiting for a long time. There is always something else to do, or another bill to pay. I’ve found that you can get started with almost no money in your savings account. The only thing you have to remember is to have the courage to take the plunge into the unknown abyss. Have a little faith in what life has to give back to you, after all, you have already given so much of your own time and effort to make it worthwhile.