People are often surprised when I tell them my age.
This past summer, I attended Blog House Toronto and later, TBEX Toronto, where I was one of thousands of travel writers and PR folks hoping to get my foot in the door in the travel writing industry. At twenty years old, I was quite possibly the youngest person there, apart from a 14-year-old superstar attending the conference with her travel blogging mother. Of course, there were other extremely young bloggers there too, like my friend Emma from An Opportune Moment, but of everyone I met I was the youngest by at least three years, and I was the only one still a full-time college student.
Throughout my days in Toronto, other bloggers would often ask me curiously, hoping not to offend, just how old I actually am. Laughing to myself, I would tell them. Wide eyed, a lot of them would gasp a little, or at least exclaim something along the lines of – “Wow, you’re so young! I wish I had started traveling at your age!” It was the start of vastly inspiring and wildly entertaining conversations, leading to amazing connections and wonderful opportunities. So many people were fascinated by the concept of travel for university students, many of them lamenting that they hadn’t taken the chance to study abroad or backpack in their earlier years.
Which is exactly what I am trying to say. Everyone who told me something like this made me realize more and more that people my age, OUR age, should be traveling. It has never made more sense to me that we, the young, adventurous, learning class of travelers truly will mark the future of travel.
It’s up to us.
The Blissful Age of 20
I started traveling on my own when I was just 18 years old. At 19, I started this blog. Now, 15 countries, 12 languages, and tens of thousands of miles later, I am at the wonderful age of 20, escaping the realms of teenagehood but not quite yet in the full depths of adulthood. When I look around at my peers, though, I see many people who choose not to take time to travel for fear they won’t get a job, or they won’t succeed, or they just don’t have the time. It saddens me to think that so many of my peers will grow to be those adults who regret not traveling in the prime of their youth. Students, you may not see it now, but your time to travel without having to worry about kids, or bills, or a family or a full time job is escaping through your fingers.
At twenty years old, we are beginning the age of our prime, the age that people beyond wish they could return to, the age of bliss and mistakes and establishing ourselves in the world. There is a lot of criticism against people my age, the “Milennials” as they say, although I admittedly think it’s stupid to group people by age and generalize about them. Everyone is different. Time magazine calls us narcissistic. Other magazines call us lazy and apathetic.
But is this really the case? Why is it that everyone seems to think so poorly of people our age?
Perhaps it is because they have forgotten that they, too, were once young. Many people forget that times were different before, jobs plentiful and college admissions not nearly as rigorous. Student loan interest rates weren’t as ridiculously high and a basic college education got you a lot farther. The economy was booming.
So how do we break the stereotypes? We prove to the world that we are not narcissistic, lazy, or apathetic. We show that we are engaged in the world at large. We speak different languages and have a wide breadth of experiences that give us a competitive edge in the work force. Yes, you guessed it, we choose to travel.
The Future of Travel
There’s a lot on the works in terms of the future of the traveling world, but one thing is for certain – the traveling university student is an area that is going to boom very, very soon. It has already began. Norway began a program offering free college tuition for exchange students who study there for a semester. Tourism boards have already initiated the conversation of trying to spin themselves as young-travel-friendly destinations. Scholarships for going abroad are offered all over the globe for studying, research, and just general travel. It is getting easier and easier for students to get out into the world, and yet not enough are taking the opportunities which are being handed to them.
If we want to remain progressively-minded individuals, we need to be able to examine the world and make decisions based on the bigger picture. How can we know what that bigger picture is if we never go out and see it for ourselves? I’m not just talking about going out of your comfort zone and backpacking for a few weeks. I’m talking about truly immersing yourself in the world and learning about the ways people live outside of the USA bubble.
Adults, take this opportunity to tell every student and young potential traveler you know to get out and explore the world. If you feel you should have traveled more, tell them why. If you traveled a lot, tell them how much it helped you in life. Regardless, let us young people know that you are supportive of our travels, and that they truly will change your life.
Students, this is your chance at a true education. These are the skills, the ideas, the perspectives you will be using throughout your careers and your lives. Don’t hesitate, because sooner than you know it your window of opportunity will be shut, and you’ll no longer have all of these free chances for you to see the world on someone else’s dime. The opportunity for you, the future generation of travel, is here for you on a silver platter – it’s just up to you to take advantage of it.
Do you think student travel is important for the future? Why or why not? Share your opinions in the comments.
Over the next few weeks, I will be doing a series of posts dedicated to busting the myths about student travel that serve as college students’ main excuses for not traveling. To check them out, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!