Why we are glad we waited to travel long term
For many years I used to beat myself up about not going off travelling when we were younger and had less complications in our lives to stop up. But as we ready ourselves to set off on that dream of travelling long term at the ages of 27 and 29, with a wealth of experience and perspective behind us both travel related and "normal life" I can't help but think that instead this is the perfect time. We have had a taste of what we are leaving behind and a taste of what is to come allowing us to make an informed decision about what we really want in life!
When I look back now at all the things we have been through, the sights we have seen, the adventures, the highs, the lows, the sobering reality of everyday life after the craziness of university I can't help but feel that makes us see life and the world differently. At 21 years old when I left university I had only just begun my adventures around the world, I had so much to learn. I feel that now after 5/6 years of short term travelling we are more able to take a more reflective approach to travelling.
Getting into the right frame of mind
Back then long term travel wasn't really on our radar, I had a burning desire to travel that I had hidden away because I simply didn't believe that it was something other than what rich kids did. At that point I hadn't been given that perspective to know that it is something a kid from a working class family like mine could do. Shorty had also already been working full time for quite a few years and at that stage was happy to continue to work. That was before he also realised that he could do much more than just work his life away in a job he could "put up with". At that stage we were very much following the mould of "how life should be" simply because we knew no different. And a change of perspective and awakening doesn't happen over night!
Grow into what we want from life
Back then when we were 21/ 22 we didn't really know what we wanted from life, in many ways the same can be said now but what we do know is what we don't want and that is to be stuck in an office for 40 years. We had ideas about what working life would be like and how easy it would be to find "the job of your dreams" after gaining a degree but reality hits hard. Sometimes the trouble is that you just fall into doing something and before you know it your life has flown by doing something you hate. We have grown to realise what we do and what we don't want out of life and this makes travelling more of a lifestyle choice and an escape from that fear of life passing us by.
We know what we are missing/ leaving behind
When I hear and read about people in their mid to late 20s tiring of travel and looking back at their peers only to feel they have been left behind I realise that those people often don't know what they are missing...so to speak! If we went travelling for a few years straight from university we would have no idea what it felt like to slog it out in a job for 10 years or knock back job rejection after rejection whilst feeling stuck in a dead end job. These kind of soul crushing possibilities are all too real for us and not something we want to return to!
We appreciate it more
We have waited a hell of a long time for this moment, we have worked our backsides off in jobs we hate to save up and know we won't take a second of it for granted. Similar to what I said above but I do feel that too often travellers just out of university don't realise how lucky they are or more accurately the monotonous drone they are avoiding...and so are much more likely to still buy into that "American Dream" of careers, mortgages and responsibilities that grind you down all the name of "normality".
Now we can savour every moment of that hard earned freedom, the stinking hostels and cold nights out in the tent will be reflected upon in comparison to that non-existence back home, to be truly alive is to see the extremes of what life has in store, good and bad! The blues will be more vibrant, the sun that might brighter and the time we have on our hands that much more precious.
Many young people who head off travelling feel they are in a predicament as to whether to choose travel or a career. Do they let their peers stride ahead or stay at home whilst their social media flashes up images of places they dream about. Some people I have read about recently feel they are torn or unsure about whether they made the right choice. But the time we have had since I finished university has given me the time to realise that I am not a career person and I only thought I wanted that because of societal pressure. We have headed down that path and turned around running! Now we know this is the right choice for us!
Best of both worlds
As mentioned above often it feels like you have to choose between having all the conventional trappings of home or being a free bird on the road. Waiting a little while gave us the opportunity to almost have the best of both worlds!
Ok, so it's not totally ideal but if we were standing here at our ages with a chunk of cash even the most adventurous would consider whether it was a wise investment or if it should be used in a more sensible manner! But not us, because we already have a house...we just have tenants who pay our mortgage! This gives us a fall back or even a retirement nest egg that in 30 years of travelling will be paid off! We have even managed to get some well needed experience on our CV's too which always come in handy!
More than just a gap year
The chances are if we had gone travelling straight after university then it would have been for a few months or more of a traditional gap year. Not that there is anything wrong with a gap year but I am not sure it would have been the wholesale change in lifestyle we are heading for right now. Having had the time to reflect on what we want from travelling we can do it with a more focused purpose and it will have a bigger impact on our lives.
Still young but more mature (ish!!)
We are in a great age bracket where were are still young enough to climb mountains and throw ourselves back off the other side. To lug around use backpacks, sleep in tents and walk for miles. Yet we are mature enough to search out culture, history and respect traditions rather than constantly looking for the next party or being naive to local customs. I'm not painting every 18-22 year old with the same brush but personally speaking we feel we are a little more grown in terms of what we find interesting and how we approach it, but yet not quite too grown up that we don't still approach travel with child like excitement!
Not wasted years/ learning to travel
Over the last 6 or 7 years we haven't just sat back and waited for this opportunity, we have had years of adventure, travel and discovery too. We have learnt to travel over the years, learnt what our style is and what we enjoy doing or seeing. We have tried out hostels, hotels, apartments, camping and staying with locals. We've explored cities and mountain towns too, all the while collecting unforgettable experiences. This means that when we set off although it will be a different way of travelling we will also be much more prepared, applying what we have learnt and what we know into our long term travels.
It wasn't as easy as we though back then either so don't sweat it!
It is sometimes easy to look back with hindsight and wish you did something earlier but you cannot waste time being hung up on the past. Sometimes you have to accept that things happen for a reason and at certain times in your life things just aren't right for you. I feel that all we have been through since 2010 has lead up down this path we are on now and that this is how it was supposed to be.
Back then it would have been forced and certainly we were not on the same page when it came to wanting to travel long term. Sometimes you have to just let things develop naturally and happen when they are supposed to. Don't get me wrong, it has been a lot of hard work and persistence with a very definitive aim to get to the point where we can travel full time but we put that in motion when it felt right. There is a fine line between just going for it and forcing it.
So that's why we are glad we waited to travel longterm until we were older.
What it proves is that although seizing the day and going for things is a great way to look at life it is also ok not to be ready for something and what ever age you are you can always make a change and make those dreams a reality. Most of the time they don't happen over night!
So what you do think? Did you go travelling straight away at a young age or have you waiting? Or are you still waiting for the right time?
Nic and Paul