Some people say, that the only way to have happiness is to live on experience rather than money. To spend your time travelling and meeting new challenges head on.
I don’t disagree with them. But I now acknowledge that my generation probably has more people inclined to think this way than it has the ‘work hard – play hard’ crowd from the 80’s.
The thing is people seem to miss the point.
They have the right mindset. Yes, travelling the world and thriving on experiences and new challenges and cultures is a great way to spend your 20’s. But what happens after?
It seems now that people use ‘travelling’ as a rite of passage before sinking into a desk job.
And the ‘travelling’ is restricted to a pre-ordained trail of tourist friendly beaches and hostels.
So are these people really not just going on a long holiday before submitting to the bleak existence of forty hours a week working for something they couldn’t give two-shits about?
I think a better option is to just save some money, pack your bags and move abroad for a year or two. You learn a lot living in a foreign country, a lot that you can apply to your own life and ambitions.
One of the main things I learnt was how much opportunity there is outside of the west.
If you really want to learn about the world, then lonely planet should be the last rag on your reference list.
Start your own journey, and accept that a lot of it is about getting by – about money, about not feeling guilty that you earn a lot more than your local friends; about admitting that the local food is sometimes shit and that some cultural norms are completely backwards.
In short, stop blossoming over the realities of the world and holding the developing world up as pure and uncorrupted by fast paced, consumerist culture. It isn’t.
So why do so many people romanticize it as being exactly that?
In a way it’s pretty obvious. People want something exotic that one day they can explore. People want to pretend the maps all haven’t already been drawn.
But there’s another explanation. Europe and N.America have for decades enjoyed being the top of the pyramid, joyfully funneling foreign aid down to less developed economies in the vain hope that it would actually do anything beneficial in the long run.
Now, they’re still sitting on top of the pyramid, but the pyramid is falling apart.
Europe now is in a regressive spiral. The U.S. could be considered to be in a similar position but realistically with their own energy revolution and the prospect of a pivot to Asia they will most likely survive unscathed.
There’s a particular ignorance in Europe – many people are failing to realize that they are close to being left behind. The East has already overtaken them – a system in decline is worthless, one that is constantly growing is valuable. Europe now is the former.
It therefore couldn’t be more important that young Europeans relocate abroad, to learn new skills, make connections and expose themselves to new cultures; to broaden the continent’s horizons, for the sake of its continued stability.
If the U.S. follows Obama’s ambition to abandon the Middle East and pivot the superpower’s attention to Asia, it will likely be the beginning of a new era of prosperity and opportunity for all those involved.
Europe would do well to recognize the emerging market dominance of Asian economies and establish closer links in turn.
So for people wanting to embark on an adventure with a backpack, maybe consider making your adventure something more than pre-booked tours and routes that ninety per cent of travelling ilk tend to conform to now.
Why not make something more of it? Settle in a place for a few months and learn.