When I first decided to run away for a year, I was adamant that traveling in your late 20s was heaps better than traveling in your early 20s; you get more out of things, you know yourself better, you remember simple moments, and you won’t let yourself have drunk sex with an Irish guy in a hostel toilet while a teenage bible study is going on in the next room. Not again, anyways.
I figured traveling when one was a bit older was *the* way to do it. I mean, think back to when you were 23. Remember how you thought you understood everything and were a totally solid person who knew what they wanted? Ha! 23! Fuck 23! Looking back now, you see how much you’ve grown and changed, and I think that growth can add a lot of value to a trip.
The thing is, long-term travel when you’re in your late 20s or early 30s is just as stupid. It’s so stupid! It’s one of the stupidest things you could do to yourself!
Because everyone you know back home is growing up. Life – real life – goes on without you, and you can’t be there to witness it.
Unless you’re from a small town where people graduate high school pregnant and proceed to just hang out complaining about life for the rest of time, chances are your friends and family are going to start having those massive Real Life moments when they’re in their late 20s/early 30s. Having babies, getting engaged, finishing PhD’s, buying property, getting married, starting businesses, moving across the country…all these massive grown-up moments happen, and you aren’t there.
You aren’t there.
You aren’t there to jump up and down and squeal when your BFF gets engaged. You aren’t there to rub someone’s tummy and tell them how miraculous having a baby is (when, in reality, you find it pretty creepy that there’s something GROWING INSIDE OF THEM). You aren’t there to help paint your oldest friends’ first house. You aren’t there to nod politely and feel stupid while your friend explains her PhD. You aren’t there when your friend decides to move in with his girlfriend. You aren’t there when a friend’s parent gets sick. You aren’t there when someone quits their job and starts a new, scary career.
You aren’t there.
Technology helps. With Skype and iMessage and Facebook and everything in between, you can laugh and love and share excitement with your friends at the click of a button! But it’s not the same as being there with a moving box or a hug.
Your friends understand, of course. They’re jealous, even! You’re traipsing the world, climbing mountains, experiencing new cultures, having crazy adventures…and they’re stuck at home changing their lives in massive, scary ways. Booorrriinnngggg. But hey, your friends get it, bro. They’re happy that you’re so happy and they understand that you can’t simply hop on a plane to come home for a weekend baby shower. They get it and they love you and support you and want pictures and expect really steamy stories of how you madeout with a ton of hot guys and met your husband. (ps – sorry everyone it hasn’t happened yet) (…maybe I need to start making up hot makeout stories?)
But despite all the technology and love and understanding, you can’t help but feel like a stupid dummy sometimes.
Missing things is hard, but it also, unfortunately, really gets you thinking. I mean, hello: you pretty much put your life on hold and refused to grow up for a little while so you could run around the world. Any career you had been working on establishing is going to be knocked back a few pegs. The savings account you worked hard to fill for emergencies or a new couch has only $83 in it now, and you’re considering emptying it completely so you can make the minimum payments on your credit cards. And surprise grandma! You can no longer drink a bottle of wine and do six shots in the hostel bar and be fine the next day.
Your life, though racing forward, is on hold. You aren’t growing up at all! You’re a dummy!
This trip has changed me. I know it has. I know it will continue to influence my life until I die (if only to impress people by saying “When I was living in New Zealand…”). This trip has opened me up to myself and has given me…I dunno…confidence? Love? Understanding? All those things.
…does that make sense?
I guess what I’m saying is that I know this trip isn’t a waste of time and that I am changed and recharged because of it. Part of me never wants to go home! It’s been great; I now know what I want to pursue as a career, I feel comfortable with my emotions regarding happiness and depression and food and cats, I am excited that I constantly manage to surprise myself with my abilities, and I feel like I’ve connected to the inner Jenny. I’ve found her! THIS IS SO ‘EAT PRAY LOVE’, RIGHT?
But all that awesome doesn’t make up for the fact that when I get home, not only will I be broke, but I’ll come home to eight month old babies, rings and houses. My excitement will be fresh, but to those who changed their lives it’ll be just “Meh. I guess I’ve got a kid now or whatever. Thanks for the email about it.”
And I know I KNOW that there are no “rules” to growing up and I shouldn’t worry about the chains society has put on us and I should break free BREAK FREE, GIRL! I know there is no ‘Use By’ date when it comes to having these big events, and I know that I’m very happy I’m not tied down with a child, crying over a PhD (honestly, I don’t even know what PhD stands for) or having to move out of my city in order to own a house. I am, and always have been, happy to live my life the way I want to live it (just ask my mother), but it doesn’t mean I can’t be thinking about or wanting these things eventually. I’m okay with being a 28 year old woman who is thinking about her future. I think it’s pretty healthy, actually.
But when I miss these Real Life moments, I can’t help feeling like a shitfriend-dumbo who maybe should’ve just decided to travel for a few weeks instead of a year (er, or more).
Yes, long-term travel in your late 20s and early 30s is life changing and dumb. You simultaneously put growing up on hold and miss out on massive events in your loved ones’ lives, all while having amazing experiences and finding your true self. What a greedy, idiotic thing to do. Stupidface. Worst friend of the year. You can’t even remember to mail your fucking postcards.
Look: I’m happy I’m traveling, and I’m overjoyed that I have friends and family who lead such rich and fulfilling lives…I just can’t help but feel it’d be easier, sometimes, to go back to being a dumb 23 year old who adventures with reckless abandon and no care for the future, and whose friends are back at home doing the same thing.
I’d leave out the drunk Irish bathroom sex, though. I wish that experience on no one.