In the past, people tended to put off traveling until they were older, when they were established or finally had considerable funds to do it. Traveling now has never been easier and cheaper to do, which is partly why young people today are more interested in traveling abroad than older generations. But besides the ease and cost efficiency, there are countless other benefits to traveling when you’re young. If you’re on the fence about a gap year (or pitching a non-family trip to an investor, aka mom), here are some great reasons for taking your first flight from the nest:
1. Gain new perspectives and understanding
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page,” St. Augustine wisely said. Anyone who has ever left the comforts of home will attest to this statement, and there’s no reason to wait on beginning what will be a lifetime of learning. Traveling exposes you to things you’ve never encountered before and allows you to see things from another person’s point of view more readily, which helps to open your mind to new possibilities and different ways of thinking. It’s the first step to mutual understanding and the foundation of rewarding relationships.
2. Build character and develop soft skills
You’re constantly tested whenever you’re outside your comfort zone, and these experiences, both positive and negative, build character and develop the soft skills necessary to your professional and personal life. You’ll certainly become more independent and resourceful, but developing grit and compassion are just as important.
3. Because you’re more adaptable and still impressionable
It’s no secret that young people are mental, emotionally and physically nimble, adapting more easily in situations where someone who is set in their ways would not. That means you’re more likely to sleep on a hard floor now than when you’re older, and extreme weather conditions will probably bother you less now than it will later. Because you’re still growing as a person, it also means that your travel experiences will probably have a profound impact on the rest of your life.
4. Meet amazing people who become lifelong friends
More than the things you eat or the places you go, it’s the people you meet that will have the most lasting impression. It’s easier than ever now to stay connected, and it’s awesome knowing you always have a couch on the other side of the world to crash on!
5. Pick up social cues and navigate different situations
Social norms vary from culture to culture, and the more you’re exposed to ones other than your own, the more you’re able to pick up on the social cues that guide interaction, even without having been previously aware of them. This will help you become socially savvy in any culture–a person that everyone likes to have around.
6. Create lasting memories
It’s clear how traveling offers experiences of a lifetime–and not just the ones to post on Snapchat or Instagram. These are memories you’ll look back on long after you stop caring about social media.
7. Learn a language
There’s no better way to learn or master a language than through immersion, and with today’s global economy, language skills are in high demand. Once you’re in a place where your target language is spoken, you’ll live, breathe, eat and sleep in that language.
All you can do is improve!
8. Develop global awareness and cultural humility
You’ll find that the world is a vast, wondrous place and that the things we share with people across the world are far greater than what makes us different. You’ll also understand that despite this vastness, the things we do in one part of the world can have a major effect on another. Here’s your chance to explore new cultures and celebrate our commonalities as well as our differences.
9. See the world before you’re tied down
A lot of people put off traveling and never get around to it because life happens: job, family, mortgage. Take off now when you’re as free as you’ll ever be!
10. Take advantage of youth travel rates and discounts
There are so many opportunities to save as a young traveler; besides Couchsurfing or hostels (the preferred accommodation among young people), you also have access to youth and student rates across airfares, tours, museums, transportation–the list goes on.
11. Understand the value of money and how to budget money and time
You’re pretty much out on your own, and you’ll be in charge of your own finances and schedule. Mom and dad won’t be there to decide things for you, which will teach you that you can’t have it all and that sometimes compromises must be made.
12. Discover yourself and find your place in the world
You’ll be surprised at how much you learn about yourself and the things that matter to
you most. The more you understand about yourself, the better your interactions with others can be and the stronger your relationships. Once you finally see the world, you can start to find your place in it.