The Age Debate: Is there a “right” time to travel?
At 25, I often worry about finding the time to travel to all of the places on the ever-expanding list of destinations I want to visit while I’m “still young”.
Recently, a friend of mine questioned my desire to complete my travel bucket list in such haste. I responded with a strong rationale for why travel is better while you’re young and relatively responsibility-free; however even as I spoke the words of my defence, they somehow felt uncertain, and I was left wondering what the real benefits are to travel at different ages.
My search for information lead me to a variety of articles, posts, and studies that delved into some of the psychological and logistical rationales for why travel can be beneficial at different ages. And while there are certainly some notable differences, I have a new found appreciation for the life-long possibilities of travel.
Why you should travel when you’re young
Travel while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.
Travelling while you’re young provides an incredible opportunity to not only learn more about the world around you, but to discover what your place is in it. In every article I read about travelling in the early stages of adulthood, this sentiment rang true. This time of life is filled with self-discovery, and there may not be a better place to gain understanding of your ambitions, desires, values and dreams than when confronted with an immense, complicated and beautiful world.
Travel also provides unique challenges that can help to shape a young explorer’s skills. This can include relating to or communicating with different types of people you would never have the opportunity to interact with at home. Travel also encourages young people to face new challenges, meeting them head-on and forcing them to adapt to a culture or surrounding so different from their own.
Logistically, there are several benefits to travelling when you’re young. One article stated “It’s hard to sell all your possessions, pack your backpack, and travel the world when you’re a married professional with a family. When you’re young, however, risks are second nature and packing up and traveling for a year is a much easier decision to make.” The relative freedom experienced by young adults makes travel a much less daunting choice.
There are other logistical benefits solely available for young travellers. This includes affordable accommodation, with many hostels solely welcoming ‘youth’ ages 18-35. Young people also have access to a variety of flexible travel visas, including a Working Holiday visa, which allows citizens from Canada, Europe, Australia and more to travel and work in partnering countries around the world.
Finally, this unfortunate truth:
Travel when you’re older
I personally think I’m appreciating travel more now, than I would have when I was younger. For one thing, I can afford it.
The logistical benefits to travelling later in life are clear. At this point, you’re likely more financially secure than you were in your early 20s, and can afford the more expensive accommodation and tour options that are available to you. While some young people may scoff at the nature of this ‘luxurious’ form of travel, it certainly allows older travellers to get the most out of every location they visit, as they are faced with fewer financial limitations.
Older travellers are also likely more experienced travellers, savvy in ways they may not have been when they were younger. This includes avoiding scams, ‘tourist traps’ or hassles while travelling. One writer commented: “Once you’re older and wiser you not only recognize scams quickly but you also get a good radar for scammers. So you’re less likely to get ripped off and have bad travel experiences that so often ruin travel.”
Some benefits of travelling later in life are less obvious, but no less rewarding. Older travel writers express how greater maturity and wisdom have enhanced their experiences. “Maturity and wisdom make you smarter, more balanced, more responsible and more considered. Which all adds up to a more relaxing travel experience,” said one.
Confidence is another important element. The pressure of seeing and doing certain things based on outside influence plays a much stronger role in dictating the itinerary of younger travellers. However, after years of life experience, older travellers are more discerning and confident in exploring locales in the way that suits their own unique interests.
So is there a ‘right time’ to travel?
There really is no such thing as being too old to see the world. There’s only being too fearful, too set in your ways, too impatient or too inflexible. That can happen at any age.
After exploring the advantages and disadvantages of travel at different ages, it’s clear to me that seeing the world is beneficial at any time of life. Travelling while young helps provide perspective on the world around you, increasing your understanding and influencing your life choices moving forward. Travelling at a more advanced stage in life is certainly different, but the experiences are just as rewarding.
I know I, for one, can certainly breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that there are no age limits on travel. I’m free to explore the world as long as I’m able.
This article was originally published on March 20, 2015 on Anew Traveller.