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Travelversary Part II: Why the Youth Can’t Travel

I’ve been living out of a backpack for three years. Sleeping on couches, having adventures, being unfortunately poor, and man-handling jet lag.
The following is Part II of a three part series on hitting the road! Read Part I here.

For many, the following story is pounded into the collective consciousness as the guide to a successful life:

Go to school, so you can find a job.
Get a job, so you can earn money.
Spend money, because it makes you happy.

Nowhere in that list is there a mention of “live your dream” and for those that aspire for something a little more risque than the 9 to 5 there doesn’t seem to be many options… In fact, as I get older, I have watched as many friends exchange their aspirations for financial responsibility. They’re drowning in debt instead of a sea of adventure. For many of the people I am closest to the above story has played out like this:

Go to university and become saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt and a degree in something that may or not be an actually enjoyable career. Get a job (if you can find one in this economy) and immediately realize how the working world isn’t particularly interested in accommodating your dreams. Sick of the 9 to 5 life either (a) go back to school and rack up more debt or (b) start buying things– cars, a house, etc. for entertainment purposes. Both options ensure that you’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

I met a young woman the other day who is paying $50,000 a year to attend photography school. I thought aloud, “for $50,000 we could send you around the world three times, for over a year, with the best camera to live the life of a National Geographic shooter. Why don’t you just do that?” She responded, “I wouldn’t have a degree, I couldn’t get a job.” I cried a bit on the inside, because my academic history is sordid to say the least, and I’m doing just fine. After four years of school this young woman is going to be $200,000 in debt, all for a piece of paper.

Essentially this is the basic reason why many young people who want to travel can’t travel: most are up to their eyeballs in debt because society tells them that having an education guarantees them a job, money, and ultimately happiness. Please don’t sacrifice your dream of travelling for a piece of paper. Don’t be an indentured servent to your creditors.

If this is your story and you’re stuck with an inordinate amount of debt the only solution for you is, you guessed it, to travel. In 1998 a law was passed that made it almost impossible for American students to discharge their loans by a bankruptcy. I’m not sure what the rules are for other countries, but essentially, those loans are with you for the rest of your life… Unless you move to a different country. You can wait several decades to pay off your debts to the man or simply expatriate and travel.

In my opinion if your choice is to go to college, don’t waste your hard earned money and time going to an expensive one. Give yourself enough room to ensure you have the flexibility to do as you please when you graduate.

Next up Part III: Let Go

8 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Kevin


    There are things we need to take into account here.

    Many peoples dreams involve having a car, a house, a white picket fence and the security of a 9 to 5 job. From my experience it is what your country portrays as the perfect existence.

    I know it is not for you and you know it is not for me but for many it is idyllic.

    However I think we can all agree that living this way and not incorporating your dreams would be hellish.

    But for that lady paying 50,000 dollars a year for her degree and then actually getting a job as a national geographic shooter, that could be exactly what she wants to do with her life.

    She may only be able to get that job by getting that degree and paying that money and in the end she will be delighted that she paid that money.

    A life of traveling, if your not living your dream could be equally as hellish as not living your dreams behind a white picket fence.

    Traveling on its own can be (or become) the same soul destroying monotony as working a 9 to 5 job.

    Traveling, in and of itself, is not the dream from my experience. It is the means with which many live their dreams due to the restraints of remaining settled.

    Whether it be greater opportunities, social interaction, adventures, learning or maybe even traveling in search of ones dream, traveling is still just the medium, a means to an end if you will, to live something greater than you could have lived by not traveling.

    Mar 09, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

  2. Alexis

    I think Kevin makes a valid point.

    But like most things, we probably need to take into account the ever-elusive need for balance.

    Maybe the expensive piece of paper could lead us to our dreams, but maybe we should see a bit of the world and find out what those dreams could be.

    Maybe instead of traveling for a year, we could travel for a week. I think that consistent traveling could be something that is difficult to explain on a resume (unless, of course, we were as charismatic as you).

    Sometimes happiness is something to be found within you, and not at a geographical location. Or maybe it’s something you take with you all around the world.

    That all being said, I think the security of a 9-to-5 job is very appealing for a lot of people. While we’re young and healthy, this kind of lifestyle you describe is very feasible – but what about when we’re older, and we need health coverage, or would like a pension? What about if we want kids, and stability for them, and money for their future?

    As much as we can live on limited budgets, money does have the potential to create opportunities. To take your example of university education – I think much more is learned in school than the coursework assigned to students. There are connections to be made, and exposure to such an interesting world of learning… for some, academia is an amazing world that offers its own form of intellectual travel.

    I like your ideas, and you are very persuasive. However, as much as I support living in the moment and appreciating each day, it is important to keep in mind the future and to make choices today that will likely make our future easier. Granted, our future is not guaranteed – but I think we need to play the game of life in such a way that if we are lucky enough to make it to a ripe old age, well, then we can be content that we were somewhat prepared.

    But that’s just my way of seeing it.

    Mar 15, 2011 @ 7:23 pm

  3. kasmoie

    I agree with you. I’ve updated the post to reflect what I had intended to say: For many who dream to do something truly adventurous after college, that option is not possible.

    Mar 15, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

  4. kasmoie

    I agree with everything you say. These posts are simply a celebration of travel, and the common reasons why the people who want to travel don’t.

    There are many paths that lead to a happy life. :)

    Mar 15, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

  5. Alexis

    Ah, well that makes sense.

    As you were, then.

    I definitely want to forward part 3 to my friends that have the travel bug :)

    Mar 16, 2011 @ 4:30 am

  6. Savvas

    Really cant wait for part 3.
    No matter what, this series of posts is some kind of traveling experience ;)

    Mar 29, 2011 @ 3:28 am

  7. Kosta

    Part III is up :)

    May 01, 2011 @ 11:25 pm

  8. emilee

    I love your stories, challenges, and life Kosta. Thanks for always telling us how it is.
    Nate and I have taught in South Korea for 2 years now and love it so much that we are going back for 2 more. This time on a little tropical island called “Jeju”.
    Know you are always welcome! ^^

    May 27, 2011 @ 1:13 pm