Why I'm Glad I Traveled When I Was Younger

November 17, 2016
The fact of the matter is that the way I travel now is never going to be the same as it was before because of my back surgery. I'm just not physically able to handle long flights anymore, and I have to be more careful when I'm traveling and will likely need additional rest. Yes, it's sad that this is pretty much the end of an era in my life, but I know that I'm still very, very lucky to still be able to travel at all. Also, when I look back and remember all of my past trips, I'm certain that I've had some incredible once-in-a-lifetime trips. I really think that if you're a young person who's interested in traveling and you have to means to do so, that you should take a leap of faith and do it! Of course, I could just be biased based on my own positive experiences, but here's a bit on how it worked out for me.


 * Traveling when I was younger allowed me to make friends from all over the world, so it inspired me as I planned some of my future trips! Because I became friends with people from other Asian countries, it piqued my interest in their cultures, and my friends from those countries invited me over to visit them.  There's nothing better than being shown the ropes by a local. At other times, my friends and I were able to meet up in a random place that was neither of our home countries. Being able to do that gave me the feeling that anything was possible, and I'm still in contact with some of these friends even though more than a decade has passed. I am hoping to go back to Japan this year, and I am going to try to get in touch with some of my friends I made so long ago. Even if it's just for a coffee or a meal, it's always wonderful to see a familiar face in a foreign land. I consider it a great advantage to have friends all over the world, and I know that these friendships have withstood the test of time.

* I just had more stamina than I do now. There are various trips I took when I was younger that I couldn't/wouldn't want to do now. As I've written about before, my travel-style has changed. I'm not saying that one is "better" than the other, but how I travel now is, of course, more suitable to my lifestyle. When I was younger, I took a lot of whirlwind trips in short periods of time, and I'm really glad that I did. Now there are lots of young teachers whom I work with that take loads of weekend trips and fly to other parts of China or to other countries close by for a two or three day weekend. I totally get why they'd want to, but I can't help but feel relieved to know that I've already fulfilled a large portion of my bucket list for Asia. So, instead of feeling like I'm missing out by not visiting say...Hong Kong sometime in the near future, I just remember the time I went there already. Now I'd like to focus on slower travel, mostly. I still will be taking some shorter trips because of the way our breaks fall, but it's nowhere near the amount I traveled before, which I'm 100% fine with.  There was a time for me to live a more fast-paced lifestyle, and it was fun while it lasted. 

* As a student or younger traveler, I was eligible for discounts.  I tried to take advantage of this as much as I could and saved thousands of dollars on train tickets by using Eurail passes.  I got many discounts at popular tourist attractions when I was a college student and showed relevant ID. Additionally, I booked some trips through STA Travel and got money off of flights for being a full-time student/under the age of 26.

* It was easier to find friends to travel with. Nowadays, the majority of my friends in their 30's are "settled down." I'm truly happy for them, if that's what they want, just like I know that they're happy for me even though our lives are completely different. Those friends that I used to call up for an adventure or plan a trip with? Well, most of them aren't able to come along anymore. Luckily, I've been able to make a few new travel buddies, and go figure--most of them are younger than me.


* I didn't have any health problems to worry about.  Again, that was a luxury while it lasted. I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to sit in economy on a long, international flight. Maybe I'm just drawing false conclusions because I'm still recovering from my spinal fusion, but right now it's impossible. I was planning on just buying a business class seat so I could lie down while flying to either Hawaii or Morocco with Rachael. However, after searching for hours and pricing some of the tickets, I realized that there's no way I can afford to go to either place right now. The cheapest round trip business class ticket I could find to Morocco was $2,500. The tour was another couple thousand, and then we were planning on traveling in Spain afterward. Maybe if I were richer and didn't have debt I'm trying to pay off this would be a viable option, but that's not the case. I am probably going to go somewhere within Asia, and I'm thinking Myanmar and/or Japan. I can afford a business class ticket to Myanmar, and the flight back from Japan is short enough for me to sit in economy class. It's not my dream trip like Morocco would have been, but I'm not going to whine that I'm going to Japan and Myanmar, either! The trip within Asia will still be amazing. Also, I can still go to Morocco, but because of how expensive it will be for me to fly there, I am going to have to wait and go when I have more time off so that way I can visit parts of Europe, too. I just have to be logical and strategic in my planning, and hopefully I'll get there one day.

* Traveling shaped my personality and taught me more than I have learned in traditional education. It taught me tolerance, empathy, and even helped me learn more about my own culture. While traveling, I've had to become creative with my problem-solving, as I was put in situations I would have never been in back at home. I am positive it has made me a better person. While it's true that travel will continue to educate people regardless of their age, I'm glad I learned some important life lessons sooner rather than later. 

* Nothing in life is a guarantee. No one knows what might happen tomorrow, so when I think about my past, I'm pleased with what I've done and with where I've been able to go. This guy I knew about ten years ago (when we were both in our 20's) told me that he always wanted to travel like I did, but that he would wait until he was retired and then live it up.  Not to be morbid, but not everyone gets to privilege of making it to that point!  

* I had a "home-base" to go to, where my family and friends would be there when I got back. As I'm getting older, I have less of a home-base. People, including my family members, have moved away. Since I'm not going back there as much, my ties aren't as strong. My next point goes along with the whole home-base thing. When I was younger and started to travel, my parents looked out for me. They sent me care packages once in awhile and took care of my taxes (until I graduated college) and handled my mail. I was talking to an older teacher at my school, and he mentioned he has no "home-base" at all. His parents moved from his hometown, and he's just been away from home so long that he would just be visiting individuals if he went back to the States and not everyone all at once. When I was younger, I think I needed the support of a home-base, but now that I've been doing this for awhile, I think I'll be okay no matter what.


I'm a proponent of traveling at any age, but I have to say that my most major travel-related regrets are trips I didn't end up getting to take. Whether or not you're going to travel is a personal decision, and I know I've made the right ones in my life. 

Have you been able to travel in your 20's? Have you had any hardships that have made it harder for you to travel?
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