Those with a passport full of stamps and a lifetime of irreplaceable moments are more than happy to cite what you will become if you travel; offering a glory road to self discovery and never ending adventure. It sounds magnificent – fable like in the possibilities that stretch before you. Others regale and delight in the terrors of traumatic happenstance or holiday nightmares – daring you to be so bold as to cross continents and soar over oceans. If all the conflicting accounts have you sitting on the fence and questioning whether to pack your bags and dip your toe into a world of wandering and jet lag, then perhaps these words are for you.
Despite what Instagram has lead you to believe, just like anything in life, travel comes with costs more than just your spare dough. If the 9 to 5 isn’t hitting it and you either need a respite or a 7 year sabbatical, then you must be prepared to sacrifice more than the proverbial goat.
Do not be so naive to assume it will simply be money. If you are lucky, that’s all it will be. For most though, it will be a cocktail of things – sometimes sweet and almost always sour.
For myself? My love of new lands has cost me a tertiary education, my own home, a career, tens of thousands of dollars and family.
When the travel bug takes a hold of you for the very first time, it brings mixed emotions. There is nothing quite like taking the first step at the beginning of an unknown journey – both terrifying and terrific. It is in these moments that our gumption is questioned – and rightly so. For when we travel, we leave something or someone behind. The greatest risk you take in travel is going where you are powerless to help those that you love. Before you board that jet plane, you must make peace with this chance that you are taking.
I took the gamble when I was 18 – the right of backpacker passage on a pilgrimage to Europe – and I lost. My Gran passed away when I was living in the UK. The last time I had seen her, 7 months earlier on the eve of my departure, all I had been thinking about was the countdown until I was out of the country. For all the magnificent memories I gained backpacking, I never got the one that would have let me say goodbye to my Gran. My trip was amazing and I cherish the moments that came from it, but it was not without a very steep price.
Remember that the Instagram pictures and Facebook posts will never tell you what it took to get that snap; that unforgettable story. Your job as an intrepid traveller – seeking new horizons, discovering the world – is to make peace with what you are prepared to give up behind closed doors.
Fear might keep you from taking that first step. It’s normal to be afraid – it’s often a good indication you’re on the right track; but we can’t let the what if’s chain us to the ground. It is in our nature to wander. To be curious.
There are a lot of cliches out there that will tell you travel will change your life – and if there is anything we know, it’s that cliches are often right. You will be changed. You will have opened a door. Your perspective will sit differently and you’ll learn all about your capabilities. You’ll also learn about the humankind’s capacity for kindness – and cruelty. You’ll see poverty differently, appreciate nature and the unconditional love of those you miss. Travel is life up close. A slap in the face instead of a sideways glance. Some have no aspiration to leave their roots and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you feel the call to stretch your wings, to touch the feelings you get from sights on the telly or other people’s photos and to meet people who alter you irreversibly, then grab your bag and get ready to go.
The first step to making adventure a priority is understanding that you must be prepared to compromise. Don’t buy a new car. Don’t stay in your job for an extra year. Don’t go to that festival. Giving up the present for the future is always hard because there might not be anything in the right now to show your sacrifice. I think it was Confucius who said; ‘The problem is, we think we have time’. Don’t be naive enough to undervalue what you give up but be brave enough to know it’s worth it.
So now you know, get up and go.