Why You Should Blow it All to Travel
We know that travel is essential to a complete education. Traveling abroad teaches understanding of other people, cultures and communities, and these types of experiences offer young people a greater ability to be successful in today’s global society. - Michael Palmer
An old friend from my days interning at Forbes gave me some interesting advice today. As a well-established manager, she would have been able to make a very good argument for starting to seriously look at a career, putting down professional roots, building up my financial profile and really setting myself up for the long, steady path to independence and security. Instead, she pretty much recommended I risk it all and travel, try to work in some other countries, because, after all at my age and in this economic climate, there isn’t much to lose. Take the big risks while you’re young. I found this outlook shocking coming from someone in the previous generation. I’ve heard it from Generation X, and authors in my generation who have done very well. But never before have I heard it from anyone even slightly older. The usual line is to make your money while you’re young, so you don’t have to worry about it, and you have the energy to work hard, and you have the time to invest and let it grow. I’ve heard several times the words, “I wish I had known what I know about money now. If I had just got a steady job at your age and saved my money, I’d be a millionaire right now.
I had always thought that this was actually a good way to go about things. Slow and steady. I was never a huge believer in get-rich-quick concepts. From what I knew of money and life, it made sense to work hard when young, because with just a little money, time would grow it into a fortune. While I’ve written some words to the contrary, I realized today that my deeper beliefs still tend to be more conservative.
Life vs. Money
Of course, even though I had conservative views on finances, I have very radical views on life experience. I have been known to give up money for experiences. In fact, I’d say that I am really bad at making money because of a belief that a commitment to making steady money means giving up the freedom to have life experiences. I’ve learned that there needs to be a balance; some money is necessary to provide freedom for experience.
My friend recommended I travel. This pretty much means I’d be totally broke for large chunks of time. Better to just find a good job, right? But what if travelling now means I’d be able to find a better, more freedom-friendly job later. She mentioned another interesting concept. Those who travel and spend time in other cultures tend to be much better problem-solvers, are more creative, and make better businesspeople. She noticed that her employees who had spent time abroad returned with a better work ethic and a more mature view of the world. Basically, the trip made her employees much more valuable.
Generally, travel is seen as an indulgence, something you do when you have few obligations or lots of money. But it is important to keep in mind that the valuable experiences gained through travel contributes a great deal to your education and thus can be seen as an investment in yourself and your employability. Not that employability is the greatest trait to develop, but it helps to know that blowing all my savings on a trip to China will come back to me in the long run several times over.
If not, I guess it helps to know I’m young enough and well-qualified enough to make up the money the regular way.