We were sitting at dinner one evening with a group while travelling and overheard something that is all too common. The lady must not have realised how young we were and started ranting about how ridiculous it is that young people travel. “It must be from their parents. There’s just no other way!” She exclaimed to the other members of the group who bobbed their heads in quiet agreement. Despite the fact they knew us and our story, they were still happy to continue propagating the stereotype.
How did we afford to travel?
We worked. Long summers and late nights. Working over school holidays when our friends were out having fun, or evenings when those we love are out having a good night. We budgeted, going without a lot of the things that some others would buy. Searching for hours to find the best prices. Enduring 18 hour bus rides to save $30 rather than catching a much more convenient flight, and eating porridge for breakfast pretty much every morning of our gap year. Because travel is our hobby, it’s what we spend our money on. Some play sports, some do art, some love gaming. But us? We love travel.
Something about that statement just made our blood boil. It is something you hear frequently when on the road – some people just simply cannot believe that young travellers can achieve this lifestyle independently. Yeah, it’s a hard slog to squeeze in part-time work and study together, and budget hard all year to afford to travel… But it’s even harder to hear some peoples’ thoughts vocalised in a statement that seems to say: “they don’t deserve this” because it must be off someone else’s credit card.
So much of this generation’s youth are worldly and mobile; and it seems like so much is possible. With flights getting ever-cheaper, websites enabling dirt-cheap travel or travel in exchange for work popping up everywhere, and information becoming more widely available, the world is a young person’s oyster. Travelling has become more achievable for those of us with little money, such as students, and it is an attractive world of meeting new people and widening experiences.
Society should be encouraging this lifestyle of exploration and curiosity, whether on the other side of the world or in one’s own back yard. Opening your mind to explore a new place and be constantly learning is not something that should be discouraged. If a young person is travelling and seeing the world it should be seen as a beacon of the change we are seeing in the world, that people are becoming knowledgeable about cultures and accepting the diversity of our globe. Travel and curiosity builds tolerance in youth and this should be celebrated.
Being told by people who do not know how hard you have worked that someone else must be paying for your trip feels incredibly belittling. It sends a message that despite all this change, some still see teenagers and young adults as incapable of self-sufficiency. Through encouraging and empowering young adults to keep a budget, work hard and achieve their goals, it will build a stronger generation. If you see a young adult with a $2000 car and a part-time job, the assumption seems to be that they worked hard to buy it. But often in travel, even if it costs the same as that car and you have the same part-time job, people see it as a flippant expense that a parent must have paid for. The saying goes that in travel “you collect experiences, not things”, and an encouragement of this non-commercial lifestyle can put life into perspective for many young travellers we have met.
If you see a young person travelling, feel free to ask how they afford it. It is certainly interesting to learn the ways people save money and can achieve this lifestyle. But passing a judgment is another thing. Saying that because someone is young, they shouldn’t be able to have such independence hurts those that have put in late hours serving you at the local fish and chip shop, or filling up your car, or forgoing some experiences just to save the cash to build worldliness.
Because for some young people, we see the benefit in global experiences and we would hope this would be supported by those who are there to help us reach for the stars.