So you think you might want to travel? Congrats, that's the first step of your potential new amazing journey. We all come from different places and have different priorities and goals in life, which is absolutely cool and what makes the world go 'round, but I'd like to take just a few moments to try to persuade you to take a chance and see what else might be out there. We truly believe that everyone can learn something from the experience, be it positive or negative.
When Forest and I left for Australia, we thought we'd be taking a gap year. We had both recently graduated college and were at a point in our lives where we needed to either begin settling into life as adults by getting jobs in the fields we had studied, or take the opportunity provided by our newfound freedom to leave it all behind for a while and explore. While it's pretty common for Europeans and Australians (and probably many more) to take time off before or after college to travel, this is a pretty novel concept in the States. We came from a background where most of our friends from college had spent extensive time abroad, or were from outside the U.S., but once school ends it's essentially time to get serious about life. This is particularly reinforced by the copious amounts of student loan debt most of us have acquired in exchange for that golden degree. So we decided to take a chance and take advantage of the autonomy provided to us by not being in school for the first time since being toddlers. It really was as easy as that.
The thing about traveling is you don't know what you'll find until you find it. The general thought was that we would take a year to "figure out life," and ultimately return home, find jobs, and life would go on. After a few months it became pretty clear that our plans would be shifting. The people we met and the things we began to do and see after settling in Australia made the thought of going home so soon seem impossible. For me, the biggest change in my life was the sheer amount of freedom I felt I had gained by leaving home. No longer was anything in particular expected of me. And I don't mean that in a total lack of responsibility way. It's just that, culturally, being in Australia exposed me to an entirely different way of thinking about life and working to live, rather than the other way around. But I only bring it up as a very particular example about why I'm still traveling and what I've began to gain from it. Your experiences will obviously vary.
There are two positions someone in a similar situation to ours may find themselves in when deciding to travel:
- You don't know what you want to do with your life and you're looking for your next step
- You do know what you want from life and are set on a particular path
Unsurprisingly, I would urge both types of people to take the chance. I was sort of in the middle--I had spent years of education studying and putting myself in the position to succeed after graduating, but it just didn't feel right. My heart wasn't in it and experience taught me I would ultimately regret not taking the opportunity. Sure I could have very easily gotten a stable job and began working my way up the corporate ladder, but where would that leave me in five years? Would I be happy? Would I feel I had missed out on anything? Would I feel fulfilled? It's hard to say, but at least now I'll never have to think, "what if?" I'll always have my education and citizenship. I can always go home and continue on the same path, but it's very unlikely that I'll ever find myself with zero obligations in life and the time to take a chance.
If you're feeling stuck or in a rut, even better! Traveling can open up your world, exposing you to things that will lead you in a new direction. Seeing new people, places, and ways of living may allow one to stumble upon new interests and passions. It is often fear that holds one back from taking the leap, but nothing has ever been gained from playing it safe. The benefits to be gained far outweigh any risks.
Now you may very well be the sort of person who has had a set vision of her life for a very long time, and for that I applaud you. It's admirable to have a direction, and it has likely gotten you to this point. As I mentioned, I was very much this person for a long time. It wasn't until the end of my college career and, really, moving away that I began to question everything. And that's why I would recommend someone with a pretty good idea of her life's trajectory also travel. How exactly do you know what you'd like to do for the rest of your life? Maybe you've had an internship or know someone in the same line of work. That's all good, and if it's really what you want from life, it will still be there in the future. But what if it isn't really what you want? What if it's just all you know? It's probably worth asking yourself those questions.
Whatever you decide and whichever path you choose, I support that. The optimal decision for each person varies, and I absolutely do not have it all figured out. We simply want to share our experiences and encourage others to find their happiness. If you do decide you would like to take the chance, your travel can be to anywhere and for any length of time. We've traveled before and just happen to be in Australia now, but it's far from the end of our journey. It doesn't really matter where you go or for how long, but I promise you'll change.