Everyone has that friend, the one who always seems to be on vacation in the French Riviera or walking the streets of Thailand. And the worst part? They are always posting their damn photos all over Instagram and Facebook, pulling at everyone’s wanderlustful heartstrings.
There’s a problem with romanticizing traveling in your 20s, but these Instagram posts certainly aren’t it. No, the problem is the approximate nine hundred zillion articles we all see on our Facebook newsfeeds declaring that “money doesn’t matter; we just need to travel when we’re young.”
The thing that makes me so upset is this: these articles don’t even remotely take into account the fact that, like it or not, money does matter. We all know that money matters because we’re taking out car payments and funneling cash into 401Ks and paying our rent and our student loans are piling up, up, up.
So no, for most people, the best thing we can do in our 20s is not traveling.
People who tell us to “forget about money and just travel” are not bad people, and on a personal level I really don’t have a problem with them. These people are usually smart, fun people, and to be frank I’m actually pretty envious of them. Traveling in an unfamiliar part of the world is so cool, and I’m seriously jealous of anyone who is able to do it. But I don’t really like being preached at because, to put it bluntly, they’re doing something that anyone who has money can do.
I can hear everyone sounding off in the comments below already: “I stay in a hostel!” “I’ve been backpacking!” “I nanny in exchange for free housing and food!”
That’s not the point. We all know that there are a lot of ways to travel for cheap (ask any college student who’s studied abroad). But my problem isn’t even really about how much money it might cost. It’s about the fact that not working a full-time job really isn’t an option for most people.
A lot of recent graduates have an incredible amount of responsibilities. They have parents to pay back for their pricey educations, or younger siblings to babysit when they get home from work, or families that they genuinely need to provide for. And meanwhile, so many Millennials are touting a “free spirit” attitude that sends them gallivanting across the globe, publishing articles and blogs about how great and free and humble a life it is, without taking a moment to acknowledge the incredible amount of privilege their lifestyle actually takes.
I can’t hate these people for traveling, or having the kind of life that allows them to up and leave for periods of time on end. Honestly, I don’t think targeting them because they have a more “charmed” life is a very productive thing to do. But I do think it’s productive to urge them to see how lucky they are, to ask them in their blogs and myriad of articles to take a second and say, “Hey. I’m pretty lucky that I don’t have financial obligations that tie me to home right now the way I know some people do.”
I think it might be high time we take a second and realize that traveling in our 20s isn’t something we all need to do and that in fact, it might not be good for people at all. Maybe we should all take a second and realize just how lucky we are to feel that wanderlust, and are able to make traveling a reality.