I can’t tell you how many people have told me that I am “so brave” for travelling on my own as a young woman in my early 20s. Many people I have spoken to have visibly shivered with fear when thinking about the idea of travelling to a foreign land alone. So many friends have told me that they would love to do what I do, but they just wouldn’t dare.
This is exactly why they should.
I personally think that the experience of solo travel is incredibly enriching and empowering and it is something that every young person could benefit from – especially if they dream of travel but are held back by fear. Of course, there are the benefits of learning more about other cultures and becoming more tolerant – but those benefits can be gained from travel at any age. Here are some of the reasons why travelling is especially beneficial for young people:
It Forces You to Fend For Yourself
There is nothing better than travel for teaching you how to grow up and take responsibility for yourself.
The Australian Aborigines have a rite of passage called a “Walkabout” in which young males undergo a journey into the wilderness where they have to live off the land and fend for themselves for up to six months. All alone in the wild, they are forced to learn to find food, shelter and cope with a number of difficult and challenging circumstances. A young person will begin a Walkabout as a boy and come back as a man.
Even if a solo travel adventure involves finding a budget cafe in Paris rather than hunting wild rodents in the Australian Outback, it will still teach you a lot about taking care of yourself. Sometimes young people get a little bit coddled when they remain in their hometown and they never have to be 100% independent because someone is always there to pick up after them.
When you travel you will be a million miles from anyone who would normally bail you out when you need help, so you will have to count on your own resourcefulness to find accommodation, feed yourself and stay safe. Once you’ve done all this in a foreign land, when you come back home the little hassles of daily life will seem easy in comparison and not even worth worrying about. You will be able to handle anything!
It Helps You to See Your Own Culture in Perspective
You know the saying about how the fish don’t see the water that they swim in? It’s because it’s been there the whole time and they are so surrounded by it that it’s impossible to see. This is also true about culture. We are so used to the ideas that we grow up with in our culture that we accept them as universal truths, until we step outside them and look back in.
Travelling and living abroad has made me realise some things about Canadian culture that are somewhat strange or even downright weird – things that I would have once seen as normal. I think it’s important for young people to untangle their own identity from the beliefs that they have been raised with, so that they can find their own truth.
It Gives You a Chance to Make Meaningful Connections
Perhaps in your social circle you sometimes feel like the odd one out. Your friends are interested in making money and getting great jobs and partying, but you tend to daydream about UNESCO World Heritage Sites and getting up early for hikes in the countryside. Chances are you are hanging out with your current friend group simply because you share the same hometown, school or workplace – but maybe don’t have much else in common? If you are in this situation, it’s sometimes tempting to push away your “weird” interests, dismiss them as “geeky” and try to fit in the mould with everyone else.
If you have a travel dream and you make it happen, a very interesting thing occurs – you tend to meet up with people who also share your very same interests and passions. For example, if you are keen on sustainable agriculture and you decide to volunteer on an organic farm in Italy, you will make friends there who totally “get you” because they are there chasing the same dream. If you love architecture, take a historic walking tour and you will start chatting to others who appreciate arches, gables, spires and parapets. I met my boyfriend while we were both working as tour guides at a haunted prison in New Zealand – a sense of adventure and a “try anything once” attitude brought us together and we still live that way today.
No matter what you are into, you’ll find your “people” somewhere and finally feel at home.
These are just a few of the reasons why every young person should get out there and travel the world – even if it’s only just once. Can you think of any other reasons? Let us know in the comments.