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A few years ago, I spent four months living abroad and traveling around Europe. And it was easily the craziest, most challenging, exhilarating, exhausting, chaotic, BEST thing I have ever done. The things I experienced and the people I met touched me deeply and permanently, and have affected every decision I have made since I returned home. If you do nothing else in your twenties, travel. Far and often. As much as you can afford. Just go. If you’re still not convinced, here’s why.
1. It’s your time to be selfish.
At this point in your life, you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself. Don’t feel guilty about this; celebrate it!
2. The experience of true freedom.
You will never again be more free to do what you want to do, when you want to do it.
3. You will learn a lot about yourself.
And you will undoubtedly return home a different person than when you left. This can be disorienting and confusing—but worth it. So worth it.
4. Traveling in your 20s is completely different than traveling in your 40s.
Walking all day, dancing all night, and waking up at 4 a.m. to catch a train to your next destination is effortless when you’re 22. But as you get older, your priorities inevitably change. Traveling with your family or after you’re retired will still be awesome – but in a different way.
Instead of lying on the lawn in front of the sparkling Eiffel tower for three hours or meeting lifelong friends in random hostel bars, you will be more interested in fine dining, five-star hotels, and touring museums. I will spend my whole life trying to go back, but the truth is that I can’t. Because even when (not if) I do return to some of my favorite places on earth, I will be a different person with a different perspective.
5. You will never feel lost again.
Navigating your way through foreign streets and metro maps without the use of satellite GPS will teach you a sense of direction (and confidence) that will help you for the rest of your life.
6. You have zero responsibilities.
No mortgage, no kids, no problem.
7. FOMO no mo’.
Though traveling may trigger other fears, the fear of missing out is one fear a world traveler will never feel again.
8. You don’t have money, but that’s okay.
The advantage of being young is the option of staying in hostels and eating street food. Save up for your plane ticket and then let the rest shake itself out.
9. The hostel experience.
Erase the image of dingy, dirty, shady hostels that you think you’d be staying in for $20 a night. Although these types of hostels DO exist, they are few and far between. Good hostels won’t be as luxurious as a five-star hotel, but they will be safe and comfortable. And best of all, many of them have an age limit, meaning that they introduce you to dozens of young travelers and backpackers from all over the world, which brings me to my next point:
10. You will learn how to make friends with anyone.
Staying in hostels opens yourself up to spending time with a wide variety of people from all over the world. But despite your differences and language barriers, you will all share the common ground of being young travelers with a love of living life as wildly and freely as possible—which will make you instant BFFs.
11. As a result, you will have friends all over the world.
One night, I found myself having dinner in Italy with an Australian, an Argentinean, and two Brits. I’ve also racked up friends from Canada, Scotland, Switzerland, and South Africa. I feel confident if I ever visited any of these places, I could call up these friends and we would pick right back up where we left off.
12. You’ll have a few good stories to tell.
If nothing else, the crazy stories to tell your kids/grandkids will make it all worth it.
13. Your budgeting skills will soar.
After surviving in foreign countries with varying exchange rates for several months, figuring out how to pay your rent on time will seem like a piece of cake.
14. Big problems become small problems.
Suddenly, how many likes you get on Instagram or worrying about how long to wait before texting him back will seem like a distant, unimportant memory.
15. The food is to die for.
For the love of god, EAT. Eat everything in sight. Try food you would never think of trying, and get second helpings too, because why not? I still have dreams about the most perfect cheeseburger I have ever tasted that was found in a tiny, renovated bathroom shack under a bridge right in the middle of the busiest intersection in Berlin.
16. You can have your own experiences instead of living through everyone else’s.
If you’re tired of being jealous about seeing other people’s pictures of traveling the world, then go take your own pictures instead!
17. Which may lead to having a foreign fling…or two…or three…
Because why not?
18. It looks awesome on your résumé.
When you do finally decide to settle down and join the real world, to future employers foreign travel will make you look “adventurous” and “independent” and a whole slew of other positive qualities.
19. You will receive a whole different kind of education that can’t be found in universities.
You will learn about different people and different cultures and most importantly, just how big the world really is.
20. If you don’t, will you regret it later?
If the answer to this question is “yes,” or even “maybe,” start researching international plane tickets, because no matter the cost, a life filled with should’ve-been’s and could’ve-been’s is not a life at all.