Thursday 23 November 2017

The Weekly Read: The world is your oyster - why you should travel young

Let it be you who goes and doesn't stay, Aisling Curtis writes.
Let it be you who goes and doesn't stay, Aisling Curtis writes.

Aisling Curtis

It's not just the refrain of that very catchy Clash song. Such is the dilemma that constantly nags us, as we try to make the choices that'll lead us down the best path.

Travelling is that thing everyone tells you to do. It's likely your whole family encourages you to explore the far reaches of the known world while you're “still young”. But that's easier said than done.

I don't know anybody who doesn't want to travel the world and visit Australia or America, or exotic havens a little further afield like Bhutan (fish out your atlas for that one).

We talk about it between lectures and at parties: how we'll do a J1 in the summer and go travelling before “settling down” into a straight-laced proper job that pays well enough for a trip to the south of France once a year.

With the fervent excitement of a religious fanatic, we discuss the places we'll see and the things we'll do and the foods we'll eat and the portions of life that we'll sample.

And yet, when it comes down to it, it doesn't always happen.

1. Don't hold back

For many, the lure of the job after college is too strong. The career progression is hard to turn down in favour of a trip abroad that'll drain your hard-earned funds.

Or you get caught up in a relationship, or a postgrad, or in family strife, or money's that bit too tight and you say you'll save up and then you'll go.

But you don't. Because in the lottery of life there's always going to be that “something” holding you back.

Don't let it to hold you back. The benefits of travelling are vast and unexpected: meeting new people; broadening the landscape of your mind; trying new foods and activities and crazy things; experiencing places that aren't like the wet, homogenous 32 counties.

1. Money

It may be cliché but when you're young there's certain things you should do, and travelling is one of them.

You don't want to be old and grey, ensconced in your nursing home, wishing you'd dropped everything and gone to India or Pakistan when you had the chance.

Money will always be a little too tight for travelling; it's inevitably going to be cheaper to knuckle down and stay at home, earning pocket change in a mind-numbing part-time job.

You might justify it as “responsible” to stay, or claim you don't have the means to travel; and, yes, some people don't. But there are people who have encircled the world on an absolute pittance, and there's no reason why you couldn't do the same.

2. Interrailing

Last summer, I took part in the age-old traditional of interrailing around Europe - it was arguably one of the best things I've ever done.

I met students from all around the world, braving it alone or in pairs, set far adrift from their homes in Australia or New Zealand or Japan.

But the one thing that stood out was the absolute lack of Irish students who dared go it alone, or even in small groups; the majority were clumped in fives or sixes or – in one extreme case – a group of 13.

So maybe our culture isn't one of real travel, real exploration, and that's why we stay rather than go. Though we put big weight on our famed diaspora, there's a difference between flying from one nest in Ireland to another in America, and settling ourselves comfortably there.

It might be that we just aren't used to it. We lack the cultural norm to force ourselves onto a rickety flight to Turkmenistan, a camel ride to Mauritania, a boat journey into the Amazon's soul.

But to make a norm people have to take the plunge, so let it be you who swims with sharks in Australia instead of flirting with hypothermia in Ireland; who welcomes in the New Year in Chiang Mai rather than Coppers; who eats potentially-lethal puffer fish in Tokyo instead of McDonald's and a mediocre night out.

Let it be you who goes and doesn't stay.

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