The need to feel challenged has been engraved in the human psyche since the beginning of time. If your limits are not being tested, boredom will eventually ensue. A few months ago, I realized that I was no longer pushing my limits. I had grown complacent with nearly everything in my life. My sales job was boring me to tears which left me feeling unfulfilled. My nights and weekends consisted of sitting at home watching Netflix and binge eating everything in sight. I had gotten so comfortable with my cushy life in Seattle, that I had fallen into this repetitive rhythm that was driving me mad. I desperately needed to shake things up. I don’t know exactly when I decided I was going to take time off to travel. There was no come-to-the-light epiphany and I didn’t spend countless hours deliberating over the decision. It just felt like the next logical step in my journey. It was likely brought on by the death of a high school classmate that made me acknowledge the fact that life is very short. But it just felt like something that I needed to do.
My life after college had turned out exactly as I had hoped. I landed an awesome job at a huge tech company and made an unreal salary for a 22-year-old. I was able to pay off all my student loans and credit card debt that I had raked up over four years, in only two years of working. I had the perfect apartment, an adorable dog and friends who would move mountains to see me happy and successful. But after the initial excitement of living in the city wore off, and the job became monotonous, I realized that maybe I hadn’t really wanted this after all. What ever happened to the crazy 19-year-old who wanted to join the Peace Corps and travel the world making a difference in people’s lives? Was I sell out? What had I done in the last two years that had helped anyone but myself? What was I really contributing to society?
The moment these questions started keeping me awake at night was the moment I started researching visa requirements in foreign countries. I didn’t know where I would go, what I would do, or how I was going to pay for any of it, but I knew that I was smart, strong, and capable of figuring it out. I knew the hardest part of leaving wouldn’t be obtaining a visa though, or finding a job, or choosing a city to live in. I knew the hardest part would be explaining to my friends and family why I wanted to go; why I wanted to leave behind my life in Seattle for the uncertainty, financial insecurity, and risks that long-term travel would inevitably involve. Here is my attempt at an explanation.
Reasons to Travel While You’re Young
Experience New Things
I have lived in Washington for damn near 25 years, or in other words my entire life. I have traveled around the US and some of Europe, but I have never spent any significant amount of time outside of the Pacific Northwest. Don’t get me wrong, I will #PNWIsBest all day, but I feel like now is the time to expand my horizons. I don’t know if you know this, but I have found that people tend to get a little set in their ways as they get older. I don’t want to feel jaded about the world by what I read in the news. I want to be able to experience life in Tanzania first hand, and be able to explain to my parents why Turkey isn’t a scary place, even though the media portrays it to be. I want to be able to describe the differences in customs between the people of Vietnam and Thailand. I want to be able to tell stories of how I sky dived in New Zealand and made the 9 day trek to Everest Base Camp. What retired person do you know who still has the energy to do these things? And what corporate executive has the time? I just don’t want to end up old and grey, telling stories about the man who broke my heart in college, or the time I got so mad at my brother that I didn’t speak to him for 5 years. My life is an open book, I am young, healthy, and I look damn good. Now is the time to take advantage of my youth and really see the world around me.
Relive Your History Lessons
My favorite subject when I was in school was history. Whether we were studying the British, Egyptians, Incas, Ancient Chinese civilizations, or whomever, it didn’t matter. I was immensely fascinated with anything foreign and different. I remember my senior year of high school, I took a class on the history of the Pacific Rim. I learned all about the customs, kingdoms and debilitating wars that shaped China and SE Asia. Naturally, when I started researching countries to travel to long-term, my inclination was to choose Asia. I think the initial interest dates all the way back to that class, and that means that my wanderlust has probably always been a part of me. I am so incredibly excited to see the ancient temples in Thailand and to experience walking on the beach of Na Trang, where my dad was stationed in Vietnam. I just want to be able to connect with the history lessons that I loved as a child.
Experience Nature before It’s Gone
As a kid, I was always outside, mostly because I was born in 1990 and survived my early life without the internet. My family went camping, fishing, boating. We spent loads of time exploring National and State parks in the area. As I got older, I started to hike a little. A few times every summer a friend and I would trapeze through the Dishman Hills. It was near my family home, but far enough away that we were separated from the city lights. These little adventures always made me happy, but I never put much stock in hiking as a hobby. Lately though, I have gotten out into the mountains surrounding Seattle and I can see why so many of the literary greats write so highly of their time spent in nature. I hike for the views. Whether it is of a lake, a mountain range, the city below, or simply a wild flower meadow, I want to get out of the city and see the beauty that nature has to offer. It’s refreshing, eye-opening and grounding. After I return from a hike, I feel more in tune with my body and my thoughts are less jumbled. Though the Pacific Northwest is a goldmine of incredible hiking trails and jaw-dropping scenery, I know that the world has so much more to offer. While I am still physically able, I want to hike to Machu Picchu, and walk along the Caminito Del Rey. These are things you simply cannot fully experience in a two-week vacation and once I am old enough to retire, I probably won’t have the energy to complete them. The time is now.
I hope that after you read this, you have a better understanding of why I am planning to leave Seattle in April, for an unknown expanse of time. I am not running away. I am simply not ready to commit to a life of cubicles and paying bills. I know that my life is many people’s dream, and I am not condemning that dream or trying to sound pretentious. I just think that there is more to life that picking out duvet covers and shuttling your kids between piano and soccer practice, and I owe it to myself to find out if I’m right.
What other reasons are there for traveling while you are young? How old were you when you first started traveling?
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