I have been very fortunate to travel throughout the world. I have visited countless countries in Europe, I also traveled to Australia, I´ve walked the Great Wall of China, I´ve seeing Angkor Wat in Cambodia, snorkeled in the blue ocean of Thailand, skydived in New Zealand, and explored the slums in India. I lived in the USA for a year at the age of 17 where I travelled to Hawaii, Washington DC, Dallas and Pennsylvania, just to mention some of the states. Now I live in Santa Barbara, exploring the beauty of California. I would not trade my experiences for the world, and I still have so many countries to visit.
All our life’s we have been told to live our lives the way we want to, believe in ourselves and do what makes us happy. But what would actually happen if you did so?
Maybe you’re dreaming on living on a farm, go mountain climbing in Brazil, sail around the world, write a book or travel for 2 years? So what happened to all those dreams we were supposed to follow? Well, after finishing high school we were told by the society to go straight to college, then after finishing college we have to get a job, then we should get married, have two kids, a dog, and a nice house on the country side. Suddenly you´re 80 years old and your sitting in your chair thinking about everything you did not have an opportunity to explore. All the cities you could have strolled trough, all the different cultures you could have lived in, all the interesting personalities you could have gotten to know and all the memories you could be thinking about when sitting in the chair at your home looking at your old hands. Old hands that could have done what you wanted to do, not what the society told you to.
For my perspective, I think the society is much more strict than we want to admit. We cannot really do what we want to, we have so much important stuff to go trough, it is almost like our life is based on a checklist. If the list is not completed before the age of 30 you’re a failure. But who exactly is deciding what your checklist should look like?
As a 20 year old I feel that I have seen more than a good amount of the population on the earth. Yes, I am lucky, I have what I need and live in a country where travelling is a normal part of our life. But what does that really matter? If you want something really hard, you will always be able to do so. If you really want to do something different—something that is not on the regular checklist of a human life—do it then, what is stopping you?
Taking a gap year between high school and college is the best decision of my life. After working hard everyday for half a year I was able to pack my backpack and start exploring the world with my best friend. 3168 hours, 8 countries, and a big amount of new friendships later we were two new individuals. Seeing New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao, India and China changed my life. It change the way I was thinking about every little thing in life, everything has value, and I have never grown so much as I did those months.
Traveling changes the way you relate to the world. When you travel to other countries and see the amazing beauty you realize that the world is full of more beauty that you are capable of seeing in lifetime. Traveling changes the way you relate to others. Maybe you are from an area where you didn’t have much diversity. Everyone would basically look and act the same. When you’re out traveling you will meet so many people that is unlike you, and you will be less ignorant and more open to learn from them. You realize how little you actually know about life. The world doesn’t revolve around you.
Traveling makes your education come alive. One thing is to sit in a classroom and read about history, politics, and economy in different countries. The readings are no longer pictures and writing in a book, but memories you will probably remember much longer than anything you could study at school. At the same time, when you come back to school with an experience of traveling, you can relate topics in to what you have explored during your time outside of your home country.
This is not about being a tourist; it is about taking a risk and see other cultures, taste the fullness of life.
If you go to Southeast Asia, you may see the slave trade, the people that died in the Vietnam War will come closer on you. In India you will see the big slum area and poverty with you own eyes, the lack of water and sanitizers in Lao, children playing in the streets with no parent. What you see will break your heart, but you will have more respect for the pain and suffering that over half of the world take for granted.
We need to go out there, explore that beautiful world that is outside of our comfort zone, of our borders. Take the change now, school and work is something you always can come back to, traveling is not. You won’t always be young, and life will not always be just about you.