As I sit here on a gloomy, never ending rainy evening in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway, the thought crossed my mind of traveling and why people often wait until retirement or their 'golden years' to set out for world travel?
The conversation topic briefly came up in my travels in Norway earlier on this day, and it provoked me enough to consider writing on this subject. In my opinion, this common strategy for travel and or world travel is dangerous and foolish.
It may be an unpopular opinion, or the opinion of a late twenties American without home ownership, kids, or other obligations. But I honestly do think its a valid opinion, and something you should read further into this article about if you are banking off doing your travels later in life.
If travel is ever an interest for you, whether it be in your own country, or internationally, please don't wait. Travel isn't something to be enjoyed later in your life, it is something for you to enjoy your whole life, and continually practiced. There is no logical reason to waiting until your 50's or 60's to start off on the road. Please don't make this mistake. Life is short, live it to the fullest.
What's the harm in waiting?
While it may seem that there might not be much harm. There is potential for a lot of things to happen on that long road to retirement.
When you wait until retirement, you are risking too many factors. One of the biggest things you may risk is the potential that you may have suffered a serious injury or suffer from a terrible illness or disease that disables your ability to travel far. While I'm on this grim area, it's possible you might not make it that far in life. I mentioned life is short, and that's not a lie. You never know what could happen. How terrible would it be to spend your whole life wishing and waiting for retirement so you can travel, only to have it stolen away from you by unlucky circumstances?
Physical health and fitness are nothing to take for granted. Say you have waited until an older age to finally make your big trek to Machu Picchu or to Everest Base Camp? Do you know if your body (knees, joints, etc) will be able to get you there successfully? Unless you are constantly involved with strenuous hikes and high altitudes, your body may not be willing to get you to where you need to be. This is not to say that old age can you limit though, I have seen some hikers older in age moving much quicker than myself, so it definitely is still possible, though I'm about 90% sure they do that sort of thing on the regular.
Aside from issues that can stop you from world travel when you are older, you might have someone who has health concerns that is dependent on you being around as well to care for them. It can definitely happen to anyone, so keep that in mind as well before you decide to wait for travel.
At some point in everyone's life, finances become a burden, and a struggle. There is no guarantee that you will always be financially stable enough to travel. This is true when you are younger and when you are older. I believe it becomes more of an issue when you grow older. Hostels may not let you stay due to age, or you may not be willing to resort back to college dorm days and bunk up in a hostel dorm bed room at age 60. You may have grown accustomed to hotels and be opposed to a 'group living' situation like a hostel. If you are financially stretched, going on a week, month-long, or year long journey may not be feasible if you can't bring yourself to live in cheaper accommodation while on the road.
Traveling when you are younger helps you become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. You are going to be in uncomfortable situations when you travel overseas, that's without a doubt. You begin to learn how to adjust and embrace the uncomfortable feeling, as well as learn new things about yourself and other people. Doing this while you are younger and more impressionable is better than waiting until you are older and set in your ways. Traveling forces you to socialize, forces you to learn and adapt to other cultural norms and understand why different cultures do what they do. You will also begin to realize that, despite how large (or small in the grand scheme of things) our world is, and how many billions of people there are in it, we all generally have similar characteristics and behaviors. It is kind of funny. You will also begin to see more and more, that there is plenty of good in this world, and it far outweighs the bad. No matter the country or it's government.
These are just some of the things that could come up down the road with your decision to travel in your later years. There are more that could arise that I have not suggested here, I'm more than sure of.
I should also mention that it is okay to take sometime off on your travel aspirations if things in life make matters difficult. Such as going to school and working, or a new career, or a kid. Don't make these permanent and ongoing excuses though, I have seen plenty of people on the road with all of these circumstances.
So what should I do?
Take every opportunity, take advantage, don't back out on that adventure with your friends, family, or even a solo trip. You are not young forever. I can say without a doubt, I have never regretted going on a trip somewhere. I have worked countless hours at multiple jobs, struggled and budgeted myself tightly to bring down my debt on credit cards after trips, yet still, I wouldn't have changed anything because of the valuable experiences I have had while traveling both in the United States and all over the world.
Even if you are older, it's never too late to start. Many people, including myself (though I am strongly working on ending this habit, and will be writing an article focused on this as well) have the terrible syndrome I like to refer to as the 'Someday Syndrome'. I hear it all the time, and not to knock those people either, as I said I have said it and will probably say it again. People will say 'Someday I would like to make it out there' or 'Someday I would like to do this or that'. When in reality, you and the person you are talking to know it will probably never happen. It's sad, but likely true in most circumstances. Don't let that be you anymore. Go on that awesome rafting trip you have always wanted to do, or take that epic once in a lifetime trip to Easter Island. Don't let life hold you back, grasp every opportunity.
One final question
To wrap things up, I ask just one question. Who do you think will have more regrets in their life?
A person who is reaching the end of their life, has accomplished many or all of their travel goals throughout their life, maybe has spent a decent amount of money on it, but had some pretty great experiences and stories to tell.
A person who is reaching the end of their life, who didn't take the time to see the world when they had the opportunity/health/ability to do so?
If you have the interest or passion in travel, go and do it now. Don't wait for the 'right opportunity'. Make the present the 'right opportunity', take the moment and run with it, because life will not wait up for you in most circumstances.