The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” The years after you graduate from high school are some of the most ideal to see the world. You’re still trying to learn who you want to be as you get a grasp of how the world works. When you travel, you gain a new frame of reference for understanding your role in society, are exposed to new cultures, step into the unknown, dispel myths, reinforce your beliefs and discover who you are as a leader.
In addition to the opportunities traveling provides to discover new cultures, foods, and languages, there are hidden benefits of traveling while you’re young.
Traveling can help you stand out when you apply for a job because you will have experience interacting with different cultures and viewpoints. Plus, travel offers a time for growth as you learn how to manage your budget and fend for yourself. When seeking a job, your worldly experiences could give you an edge.
Meet new people
If you step out of your comfort zone and reach out to the residents, you might find yourself with new friends. While travel guides tell you where to find the best restaurants and attractions, the locals are truly the ones in the know. Plus, one perk of a long-distance friendship is having a free place to stay when you return.
Roy Michales, now retired, enjoyed traveling as a young person: “Back in my time, traveling to exotic places in the world was a privilege and gave you an adventurous flair. You dressed up when you flew on an airplane back then, you know? … I don’t regret any penny I spent for my travels. I got to see so many countries before wars or politics made them into hostile lands or unsafe for tourists. Everyone I met was so friendly, and I’m still pen pals with some people and their families, and we send each other pictures and postcards. You can’t put a price on memories and friends.”
How to pay for your travels?
Depending on the way you choose to travel and your destination, it can cost up to $20,000 (not including airfare) to spend a semester abroad. This includes room and board, tuition, taxes and travel insurance. If you’re going with a college program, your school may offer scholarships, grants and/or financial aid to help fund your adventure.
If you’re traveling with the military, Uncle Sam pays for your ticket, room and board. However, you generally don’t have a say about your destination. When traveling as a volunteer, you may have to pay for your own plane ticket, depending on the organization and the type of work you’re going to do. If you do have to buy your own ticket, fund-raisers can help cover the cost.
Young people in many countries receive all kinds of discounts—from free museum passes to discounted train tickets. Plus, many hostels (inexpensive, dorm-like hotels) only offer rooms to young people.
In the words of writer Henry Miller, “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” There is no substitute for the experiences traveling provides. When the world is your teacher, you never stop learning.
SIDEBAR: Travel options abound
There are several ways to travel abroad or within your own country. Here are a few to consider.
It isn’t for everyone, but you can do what you want when you want. Whether backpacking through Europe or riding a train across the States, traveling alone can help you learn about yourself and create an opinion about the world that’s your own.
From going on a road trip to staying in Central American hostels, traveling with a group is a great lesson about compromise and communication, and a memorable bonding experience.
Many universities with global studies programs give college credit for study abroad. Programs can include participating in an exchange program, completing a work experience project or taking classes in a university as an international student.
You never know where the military will take you if you enlist. You may have the chance to travel to and work in places like Germany, Hawaii, Greece, Brazil, Japan, Italy or the United Kingdom. Much of the international work the military does involves peacekeeping and humanitarian support.
The American Red Cross often looks for volunteers to help with disaster relief services. Development agencies, such as World Vision, look for people to help with ongoing projects, like building a school in an African village. After you graduate from college, the Peace Corps offers the opportunity to travel, get work experience and earn some cash.
Student contributor Chris Garling advises avoiding tourist spots and hanging out with the locals instead.
Student contributor Anjelica Enaje says travel of any kind can help you boost social interaction and self-confidence.