As I write this, I’m on a high-speed train between Munich and Stuttgart in Germany. My husband and I spontaneously planned a trip throughout Europe because we were tried of waiting to go.
We sacrificed and disciplined ourselves for four years to pay off our student loans, so outside of our honeymoon, we could never really justify a travel splurge.
I’m glad we didn’t because we were able to stay focused on our goals. We were surprised though, how hard habits are to break. Meaning – just because we were done paying our loans, didn’t mean that we started spending freely.
We were in a habit of only spending on necessities.
Sometimes, when you’ve worked hard and spent wisely, you just need to reward yourself. I won’t claim to be well traveled, but the places I have been have given me an enormous world-view that helps me in many areas of my life.
From Haiti to Ireland, England, Germany, France, and more, I’ve come to see status as relatively culturally dependent, which helps me keep a healthy money view. A big house in the suburb of a US city does not make you any happier than a comfortable flat in the center of London.
Some of the happiest and most content people I’ve ever met have owned the least. Going abroad reminds me of this because comparison and envy grow in an incubator when you rarely leave your familiar grounds. It’s natural for humans to compare to their surroundings.
If you frequently leave your familiar surroundings, you’ll realize that wealth is relative and happiness is achievable anywhere. Your standards for comparison are torn apart as you go from city to city.
We know that travel fosters contentment, humility, and learning. Why go when you’re young though? Why not wait until you’ve built up that hefty retirement account that I talk so frequently about on my blog?
Travel While You Can Enjoy the Physical Adventures
Whether it’s zip-lining, traveling in the back of a pickup truck in rural Haiti, or walking 10-15 miles through big European cities all day, most of these cannot happen when you’re older and have degraded physical health.
Travel on a Smaller Budget
If you wait until you are older and wealthier, you miss out on the joy that comes with humble travel. I’m guilty of avoiding this one – but the best stories come from the times where you didn’t have the money to travel comfortably or splurge on fancy dinners. It’s often easier and more fun to stay in a hostel with your college buddies than hold out for the Four Seasons years later. The same goes for life too – you can find joy in the poorest and most humble places.
Travel While You Have Fewer Responsibilities
Even if you promise yourself you’ll take a trip every year when your kids have reached a certain age, you’ll find that life always gets in the way. The younger you are, the less reasons you have to put off the trip. There wouldn’t be a babysitter and dog sitter to book or more work to cover.
Travel to Change Your Mindset for Life
When you stay in your small bubble of your world, you could be losing out on years of your life that are wasted to a narrow mindset. Traveling teaches you about different cultures and perspectives. I am so glad that my husband made me go to Haiti, nearly kicking and screaming. I never wanted to go. If I had not though, I would have likely trampled people and experiences pursuing all the wrong things in life.
Going to Haiti brought me face to face with the difference between the rich and the poor. It was incredibly uncomfortable.
Do I still pursue wealth? Yes.
Do I pursue it more than I pursue wholeness? No.
This would have been impossible without travel. I shudder to think what I would have lost out on by waiting until I was 50, 60, or 70 years old to expand my worldview.
One final thing: if you travel abroad when you’re young and it doesn’t change the way you live your life, you’ve probably done it wrong.