Go Now: Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Travel

Creative Commons License photo credit: Winklitz

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people around my age tell me that they’d like to travel later, when they are “more established,” or “have more money,” or just “are older.” For every person I’ve heard such excuses from there are at least two
older adults who’ve told me they wish they’d traveled at my age.  Here are several perfectly logical reasons why now is the perfect time to go wandering:

1.  It’s cheaper– many people figure that later on in life, they will have more money, so they should hold off on travel until then. I think this is actually counter-intuitive.

First off, this is not necessarily true. Troubling as it is, it is impossible to know what your financial situation will be like in 20 or 30 years. If the current recession has taught us anything it’s that your money situation can change in an instant. What a shame to delay your dreams only to have them dashed by circumstances beyond your control.

Secondly, although you may have more money to spend in the future, the cost of traveling goes up the older you get. It’s unlikely that at 45 you will be willing to bunker down in a youth hostel, or eat cheap street food for every meal. Many of the volunteer programs, cheaper youth tours and couch-surfing opportunities will not be available to you. Middle aged you also won’t be able to take advantage of the youth train passes, discount cards and other price cuts that you are now privileged enough to qualify for.

2.  It’s more fun- Take this as you will, but chances are pretty good that you are as young, pretty and energetic now as you Birthday group blurprobably ever will be. This means that you have a wealth of opportunities and possibilities that older travelers probably don’t. You can travel longer, rougher and cheaper because you don’t need to worry about your heart problem, or the kids being entertained or many of those other grown up worries. You can go caving in New Zealand or surfing in Nicaragua without fear. You can stay up all night partying on the beach in Thailand and not hate yourself in the morning.

3. It’s easier- it’s a fact that the longer you live, the more responsibilities you acquire. While houses, spouses and careers are all things most people want, they do make it harder to just drop everything and go. Not to mention the obligations that come with having kids. Or aging parents. While you’re life may take some rearranging right now to get out in the world, chances are it’s only going to get harder with time.

The Windsurfer
The Windsurfer Creative Commons License photo credit: Big D21124.

4. It will shape your future- for me, and many others, the major joy of traveling is not that the famous landmarks and pretty beaches you get to see. It’s that the places you visit, the people you meet and the adventures you have change you. They shape you into a better-developed, more interesting person. You will carry theses memories your entire life- so have the experience when you are young and you will get the most value for all your hard work.

Now some of this is just a matter of preference. And I would never want to discourage someone older from taking the time to go travel (better late than never after all). However, if you have the desire to get out there, and you are of an age where you have all of these opportunities and advantages at your finger tips, why wouldn’t you want to make use of all that? As Mark Twain (a veracious traveler himself) once famously said:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

34 thoughts on “Go Now: Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Travel”

  1. You are absolutely correct in your observations, Stephanie. The easiest time to travel is when you’re young before you have complicated obligations and responsibilities and while you don’t mind living out of a backpack. Better late than never, but I know my travel style as a 40-something is very different (and much more expensive!) than that of many of my 20-something fellow travelers.

  2. Thanks Gray! If I had a dollar for every time somebody told me they were going to see the world “later,” well I could quit my job and travel full time!

  3. Hi Stephanie,

    Wonderful and solid reasons listed above to travel and travel and travel! I might add that price inflation will make future travel more ‘nominally’ expensive, and lowering of real wages over time will make it more ‘actually’ expensive.

    My recently departed father lived this ethos to the core and travelled the world in the 1950s and 1960’s – a much different world to today. Seeing Dylan in the village before his fame spread; lazing on a beach in the Ballearic islands, going behind the Iron Curtain to find delightful seaside resorts, choosing a stopover in Reykjavik on a whim, greyhounding the foreign USA as a 19 year old. Postcards from Vancouver and Rome. Parakeets flying overhead on a Queensland beach in the morning light – and moving the family to grow in Australia on the strength of this and other images. Travelling back to the UK through the Mid East with us as boys. Hong Kong, Singapore, flights over Soviet Russia. Pub crawls in Soho. Underage Pints of ‘the dog’ with the Geordies. The incredible Western Australian coastline, and offshore islands, and powerful waves. He gave us a priceless travel bug, purely through experience. We took that and ran with it, all over Australia and its outback and its coastlines and mountains. They always gave money for blown tyres!

    And Mum too. A 20 year travelling to London in the mid ’60’s – on the last boat before the Suez was shut. Pyramids, seeing communist Poland, following Dad and their friends throughout Europe, and up and down the UK. Proposed to after a flight to NY!

    Now, their Gen Z grandsons get to experience the same, mostly chasing the snow! Thanks Dad and Mum, what a great gift!

    1. Wow! What an excellent story! It’s so great that your parents passed down their ethos for world adventure. My parents did the same to me, traveling with their kids all over the US in a beat-up RV.

      Thanks for sharing.

  4. I whole-heartedly agree! I started traveling in my mid 20s and recently turned 30 in August. So far, those have been the BEST experiences of my life and I look forward to more.

  5. Great point in this post – It will shape your future.

    “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.” – St Augustine

    I plan to continue reading the novel.

    stay adventurous,

    1. Every time I’ve gone abroad I’ve come home a different person than the one who left. There are rewards you will carry with you your entire life, it’s pretty neat.

  6. I just came across your blog on 20sb, and I’m so glad I did. it’s great!
    I totally agree with everything you said in this article! So many of my friends always say “I’ll travel one day”, and I just feel sad for them because you’re right: the longer you wait, and the more obligations you have, the harder it gets to just take off. I can’t wait for my next adventure!

  7. I completely agree on ALL of the above statements. When you are young, you have more energy and are more flexible in your schedule’s. I think it is vital to find yourself and figure out what you want to do with you life… before you actually start it! I am waiting to finish school and then I hope to travel all over… and hopefully find out what I really want to do. Great article… it totally motivated me to walk out my door right now!

    1. Thanks Courtney! I totally agree, travel can help give you direction in your future. One of the many reasons it’s a great way to kick off your entrance to “the real world.”

  8. Amazing article. I fully agree, people need to grab life by its balls otherwise the opportunity passes you by and your going to sit there 20 years down the road, mid-life crisis, and your going to realize that youve missed out on the joys of travelling young.

    I am proud of every traveller out there, because you know that who ever they are, they are not afraid to live their lives.

  9. I would love to go today but I think I’ll need to wait about 2 more years the way I have figured it out. It’s hard to pass up a free opportunity for a masters degree and work off a few college loans while I’m at it. I have a speculative deadline, hopefully that counts for something. Yet, reading these blog posts keeps me motivated to follow through.
    .-= Cornelius Aesop´s last blog ..Owl City – “Monkeyflies” =-.

    1. Yeah I know that it’s not always practical to take off right away. I’ll have been saving for two years by the time I take off. But I do think that travel isn’t something to just be put off into the distant future, so the fact that your even thinking about it bodes well for you!

  10. “Take this as you will, but chances are pretty good that you are as young, pretty and energetic now as you probably ever will be.”

    I’m absolutely disgusted by the entire article!! I thought you were my friend!

    Oh, wait. I still pretend I’m 27 (the average of my physical and emotional ages) and I’m in better shape and better looking now. Does that count? Can I still be in the 20-something club as an honorary member?

    (special note for those who don’t know me: my tongue is always in my cheek)

        1. haha i dont THINK the world is going anywhere… but with the state of things who knows?

  11. YES! YES! YES! Listen to this woman and go NOW!! I always found it funny when my friends would say to me before our RTW trip, “Man, you are so lucky. I wish I could do something like that.”

    It’s as though some people think that some magic travel fairy just came along and gave us a bundle of money, waved her wand, and said, “Go, you can now quit your job and travel the world for a year.”

    It literally took years to plan and save for our adventure. But we came up with a plan, stuck to it, sacrificed a ton to make it happen, and made it our one main priority in life. And anyone can do the same. We figured it was the perfect time in our lives to do so, and we made it happen. When someone says something like “I wish I could do what you did,” my reply is, “You can. You just have to really want to.”
    .-= Adam´s last blog ..Hoping for the Best in a City I Love =-.

    1. Thanks Adam! Those are my basic feelings too. It’s been a lot of hard work and waiting but I am FINALLY preparing to get going on this trip- no luck involved!

  12. Great post! I think a lot of people wait to travel and then that “perfect time” never appears. There is no perfect time; inspiring people to seize the moment is key! Thanks!

  13. A very practical reason not to wait – working holiday arrangements (at least for Australians) are for 18-30 year olds. You could travel Europe for years using these arrangements alone, going from country to country!

  14. Great post. Too bad most people dream all these opportunities when they are locked up in a cubicle. Maybe your next post should be somethig like: how to say bye to the cubicle 😀


  15. Couldn’t agree more with everything said!

    I’m 22, recently had my first experience with a few weeks in Thailand earlier this year and am already saving literally as much as I can so I can go and explore SE Asia for 3/4 months at the end of the year… constantly trying to encourage friends to do the same, because… well, until you actually get out and experience it, you are completely oblivious to the amazing sights, experiences and people that are all out there to be discovered!

    Please, for your own sake, just BOOK A FLIGHT! GO!!

    1. Good for you! Seems like once people get out and do a little travel it makes it much easier to envision longer term travel.

  16. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

    Hi i’m from malaysia. I would like to thank you so much for this. You wake me up from my sleep that what is true meaning of travel. I hope i was never to late for travel. Tq steph tq so much for this 🙂

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