The Cure To The Quarter-Life Crisis: Travel The World

Photo of a woman walking in Hanoi, Vietnam by Thijs Degenkamp on Unsplash

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

— Joshua J. Marine


Life is short. With all the time we have to experience what it means to live, so much of it is wasted when we stay living in one place. One of the many fears I had before graduating from college was the fear of staying in New York, having no opportunity to explore the world. Since moving to Asia, I have become more grateful for the opportunity given to me, to live on the other side of the world.

Traveling gives us perspective. As cliche as that may sound, the cliche itself is rooted in an undeniable truth. Some of us travel to reevaluate ourselves and our role in the world. There is a need for us to hit a “reset button” for our careers, to find a new passion in our work. We also travel to discover new places and people. The moment we step outside of our comfort zone — into a new place surrounded by strangers, being introduced to strange ideas — we come to discover more about ourselves and the place we call home. We begin to reconsider what we value, what we expect from ourselves, and we begin to question the ideas that we believe to be universally true.

The benefits of leaving home

Expectations plague our mind on a daily basis. We have expectations for ourselves, expectations for other people, and people expect things of us. Some of these expectations aren’t verbally communicated; they are simply built from the habits we form over time. The sensibility of these expectations immediately come into question when we look at them from an objective point of view. I’ve found that the easiest way to gain this point of view is to physically leave the place from where these expectations originated, the home we grew up in.

Now, when I say travel challenges the expectations we have, I don’t necessarily mean that we need to travel great distances. Just moving from one neighborhood to another gives us the jolt we need to begin to see things differently. However, the farther and more extreme the change in the environment is — the more visible contrast there is — the more we can question the ideals and values we have always thought to be normal. Travel ultimately puts our very identities into a compromised state, which is a good thing. Without the availability of new ideas, cultures, and people to experience we become stagnant and hinder any potential growth.

When you live on your own, when everyone around you is a stranger, you begin to see the parts of your own identity that you may not have noticed before. When this occurs, you can observe the aspects of yourself that you may no longer deem to be agreeable.

From my personal experience traveling, I’ve discovered how lazy I was before moving. And although some aspects provide a refreshing feeling of uniqueness in who I am, I have come to seek change in how I live. I have the chance to hold myself accountable; travel has provided me the opportunity to assume my own responsibility. I now have to work hard to keep myself alive and to thrive in my new environment.

Through this new change, I also realize how capable I am in adapting to change. When we travel, we take it upon ourselves to meet change head-on. We don’t wait for change to come to us. The fastest way to learn how to be an adult is to seek an extreme scenario in which you have to rely on yourself to survive. Even with all the uncertainty that comes from moving to a new place, that uncertainty is much better than the feeling of being stuck.

There is so much about ourselves that we have yet to discover because we haven’t given ourselves the chance to be placed in a new setting. I wanted to discover what aspects of who I am relate to my family’s history. I wanted to travel to see if I could achieve the same sense of reliability as my grandparents and parents achieved as immigrants in America. They moved from the Dominican Republic to the United States. That in itself is an impossible challenge for so many people. I wanted to seek similar challenges to see if I could do it too. In doing so, I’ve been able to draw from new experiences every day.

Related: Our Role As Global Citizens

Travel can significantly affect the future of your career

Finally, travel can help us reconsider what is it that we want to do for a career. How do you know what you’re doing is genuinely your calling? Do it somewhere else. What’s the point in investing your life into a job if you aren’t going to be happy doing it? One of the best ways to test whether or not you can be satisfied in the line of work you’re in (or want to be in) is to do it in an extremely new environment. Another test can be if you volunteer your time doing that work as well. Work for free first, and see if you like it. Your profession shouldn’t be determined solely by the paychecks you receive. Being happy and having a favorable impact on others should be the two main priorities when seeking a valuable career. Travel can help expose whether or not you have picked the right profession.

A big benefit that traveling the world has on your career is that you also begin to expand your network to a much higher degree than if you were to stay where you’ve always lived. A bigger network naturally leads to more job opportunities over time and it helps you expand the knowledge you can gain about your field. It’s important to note that even with what we know, we ultimately get hired by our peers.

In regards to your job search, there are also certain steps you can “skip” simply by looking for job opportunities outside of your comfort zone. Where you live right now could be highly competitive. When looking outside of the generic areas, you could be surprised with how many opportunities there are for you (especially if you’re a native English speaker). Your career has a faster acceleration rate outside of your country. When we expose ourselves to a potential global network of like-minded individuals, we get the chance to meet more mentors as well.

Irrespective of the actual field of work you are entering or already in, travel can help augment your ability to solve problems. The best way to get a job is by demonstrating how useful you are, what better way to demonstrate that than to show that you can apply yourself to provide solutions in any environment? Due to the rapid technological changes that are occurring, one cannot assume that there will always be a fixed job description, in any field. The skills demanded of us will constantly evolve and change, and we need to be able to hone the one ability that will be required to handle this change: the ability to adapt. Being a traveler (even if for a year) can help develop this ability. It’s important to ask ourselves, what are the set of sacrifices that I need to make now to maximize my future? I believe one of these sacrifices is leaving our comfort zones to test how well we handle extreme changes in our environments.

Related: There Are No Longer Six Degrees of Separation: Contacting Anyone Who’s Online

I recently spoke to a good friend of mine, Cassandra Brooklyn, who makes a living off of traveling and taking people with her on tours around the world and this is what she had to say about her experiences:

“Travel is the single most important investment that any young person can make in his/her life. I’ve learned more through my travels than I did during business school or grad school. Nothing prepares you more for life than experiencing and appreciating the world first hand — something that no book or Netflix special can teach you about. Clothing fades, cars break down, and [television] only show you how other people are living their lives to the fullest. Investing in travel experiences guarantees you’ll make memories more valuable than anything that could be purchased online. Travel motivated me to switch careers and begin leading group tours to Cuba, Mexico, Jordan, and Peru, and helping people plan their own adventures around the world. I constantly meet people who have made career shifts after their first trip abroad. This is particularly true for recent graduates, who are still learning about what they love, what they’re good at, and what they want to contribute to the world. Just as many students switch majors several times as they learn more about themselves, many young professionals begin switching careers once they begin traveling, where they discover their true passions and goals.”

Now with all this being said, there are specific barriers to entry we can face when we want to begin our adventures. One of the main ones will be tackling student debt after graduating from college. Because of this debt, volunteer programs may not be a viable option. Additionally, some of us don’t want to go to other countries to teach English. However, these barriers shouldn’t stop us from at least doing some research. Sure, we may not be able to travel as soon as we leave university but, that doesn’t mean we cannot travel two years after graduating. Because of the internet, there are now thousands of resources available for us to find a way to start. One resource I recommend in particular is Rolf Potts. He writes about ways anyone can travel the world with minimal funds and zero luggage. I recommend reading his book Vagabonding to start with your practical travel research. However, he also has a slew of free travel advice in his blog.

Regardless of where you want to go or what you want to do, the whole point is to try. Don’t get comfortable. Don’t doubt yourself. If you let the opportunity of traveling the world pass you by now, you may never get the chance to do it in the future. And remember that you’re not a tree, you can invite change into your life at any moment by just moving to a new place.

Related: Surviving As A College Grad Isn’t Impossible, Right?

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