How Young is Too Young to Travel? [Reader Questions Answered]

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How young is too young to travel? This reader question comes pertains to how young is too young for the sort of full-time travel lifestyle I live. I don’t think there’s clear-cut answer that applies across the board, as each answer is dependent on a certain degree of context. Here’s what I had to say to our reader below:

This post was originally published in 2010. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

“I am really enjoying reading your blog…your lifestyle is what I eventually want to do, so it’s good to hear  that others are doing it (and succeeding in it).

I am a college student about to graduate. I have a good  finance banking job lined up for next year (and I’m also looking  into the CFP program) but I am definitely a dreamer. I want to  travel the world and participate in humanitarian efforts, start a  wedding planning company, etc.- I’m all over the place! Basically, I  think that I am yearning for something out-of-the-box and where I  have a life that I can control.

But now, I’m going into this banking job as a young analyst, which I think would be fine to do for a couple of years, but part of me  wants to just drop everything now and go do what I really want to  do. But I think to myself, maybe it would be better to get some  “real” job experience and some cash before I start chasing all my  dreams. At what point do you decide enough is enough? Am I too young to drop everything now to travel the world? Realistically? When you  just came out of school, can you see yourself doing then what you do  now?

My Response:

Thanks so much for getting in touch! No age is too young to start, but I would say that I might not have appreciated the experiences I’m having on the road now, without having first spent some time in the working world, for a few reasons:

I was able to earn some decent cash to not only save for traveling but also to have on hand for business opportunities (ie: wedding planning – or my version thereof), as well as to have some stashed away for long-term investments (ie: retirement, etc – or when I may not be able to work but need money).

Money aside, I was also able to gain more personal identity and some business sense – which has helped me transition to a location independent career. Lots of people could do it sooner…I took a more circuitous route.

A lot of it also depends on how long you want to travel, or the lifestyle you choose for yourself. There’s a bit of a difference between a 3 month trip, a 1 year trip, and a no-fixed-time trip; the preparations for each are quite different. Heck – you may find more value in developing a rewarding career that also allows you to take time off each year (say, a month or two) to travel in style!

The bank analyst job will be rewarding for you (especially if you’re interested in becoming a CFP), and will help you get your feet under you financially (which doesn’t hurt, especially when saving for travel). In the meantime, watch out for spending too much of your cash on stuff (as tends to happen), and keep your eye on the ball- whatever that is.

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12 thoughts on “How Young is Too Young to Travel? [Reader Questions Answered]”

  1. When I read your intro to this post, I thought it was going to be about taking a baby with you!

    I love my home life too much to travel indefinitely, but I definitely appreciate my trips more as I get older. On the other hand, a really long trip is probably a great way to grow up quickly!

  2. Sound advice Nora. I think it’s whatever is driving you more. If there’s not enough motivation (not to mention financial resources) for you to just take off now, it’s probably a good thing to put in some time in your chosen profession. Maybe after getting some solid experience under your belt you can do more contracting work that would allow you to take off for extended periods of time, so you kind of have the best of both worlds.

    Best of luck whatever you decide to do!

  3. Great response Nora! I love that, though there’s no “right” answer, you provided a suggestion that seems logical and smart. Personally, I think I appreciate working for myself more now because I did work in an office environment than I would have if I had immediately become self-employed.

  4. Interesting question! I´m struggling with the same problem here (I want to go on a no-fixed-term trip) but as a student without any money on the bank I have no clue as to when it will be possible to do this. Just experimenting along the way right now!

  5. Wow,
    What a hard question and a great response….I think!

    Some background:
    We have a rule in our family. Once our children finish high school / year 12 / before college/ university (around 18years old) they are offered a round the world air ticket, travel insurance, clothes, backpack (and all the help they need) and “encouraged” to take 12 months off from study. They have to cover all living expenses while away (by either WOOFing, working, couch surfing or whatever)

    Both our daughters (now 21 & 24) took 2 years and traveled and worked both overseas and here in Australia. They are great girls (biased of course) and have matured a lot from this experience. Neither of them “had a clue” about their future careers or what sort of jobs they wanted. I am POSITIVE they would have never even heard of being a CFP (nor have I so what the hell)

    The 21yo is now at university doing a course that interests her, is very self sufficient and still a nice (rounded) person. The 24yo has finished a degree, works hard part time and is doing a grad program this year. Great person. Will probable travel again soon.

    Now the 18 yo male. The “baby”. Slack and lazy come to mind. He JUST passed year 12, a NON academic BUT has a goal. To be a great snow boarder. Same offer applies to him, RTW ticket etc. He does not even want that, just wants to head to Canada after the Australian snow season and then back home again (he will need some washing / laundry done by then)

    He has no idea what he wants to “do” when he “grows up” but college or university are definitely NOT on the radar – as yet. Interestingly he has a goal and to achieve that goal he is working 6-7 days a week in a couple of kitchens doing dishes and prep etc. he is saving hard and learning the value of work = money.

    The bit I really love is that he is learning that with little skill, no “formal” education or much work experience you get crap jobs and a crap hourly rate with no power or promotion / career path. You are at the bottom of the totem pole, sent home early if the restaurant is quiet, told not to come in as some one else has your shift etc.

    In conclusion (sorry about the length Nora) Every young person has different needs, expectations and goals in life. We have just encouraged ours to travel early and experience some of the world before they hit the books hard. It has worked really well for the eldest two and I am confident it will (eventually) work for the youngest.

  6. I approach this issue from one simple perspective: A person’s time is the most valuable thing they possess. You can never get it back.

    Working as a cubical rat now may encourage you to appreciate travel more later, BUT that’s not a good reason to do it in the first place. Instead, focus on making a real impact.

    I agree with Frank. Every person has different needs and goals. How you define “success” is NOT how another person defines it.

    And getting a “job” isn’t necessarily the smartest thing in the first place. Don’t read this if you want to keep running on autopilot:

  7. What great feedback….thanks all!

    I agree with Frank and Byteful’s points, and must admit that travel shapes us and can provide direction from a young age. I forget that at the age of 16, I was lucky enough to travel to China and tour with a ballet. That sealed the deal for me as a traveller.
    And Byteful, truer words were never said: you can never get time back.

    My only rebut to this is that if you want to travel full-time, you’d better either have lots of cash on hand, or a way of making it on the road. But truly – where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    Chris Guillebeau is a good example of somebody who has pretty much always been an entrepreneur. If you want to break out of the cubicle (perhaps before even getting into one!), then you may want to get to know his stuff better. You’ll see some of his e-books on my left-hand sidebar, not the least of which is the “Break out of 9-5” one, which is a great read. (Yes, I get a commission if you buy by clicking through from my site, but it doesn’t cost any more than if you buy it anywhere else).


  8. An excellent discussion topic! It does truly depend on the person. We waited until we made some money, but left before we had any kids, house, responsibilities, etc. I am glad that we traveled when we were young, as it gave us a base of learning that we can fall back on as we travel during the rest of our lives. My only caution, is that if you decide to wait and if it is truly important to you, make a promise to yourself that you will still go at some point.

  9. I agree Nora, no such thing as too young. An infant is not too young! In fact there are many adventurous families raising their families on the road. Our son, for one, grew up traveling. He was 18 months old when we started full-timing in 1992. It is much easier now to make $ as you go. Back when we started our main form of communication was via pay phone. Many more opportunities for travelers of all ages now that we have the internet at our fingertips.
    Frank, wish I had grown up in your household. What an amazing opportunity you are offering your children!
    It is a choice. A decision you make based on what is most important to you. I think the important thing is just knowing that you have options! Good luck

  10. @Kimberly – I have friends who years ago when they had their daughter, made sure they continued to travel like they used to – just with kids in tow. I swear by the time she was a year old, she was better travelled than I was (at the time)! What a wonderful well-rounded reference to life your son must have.

    @Jennifer – Amen, sistah! Sometimes we have to deal with a little delayed gratification of our wishes and dreams….but don’t let them become stagnant!

  11. Thanks Kimberly & Byteful Traveller,
    Must say it has not always been an easy path encouraging your 18 yo daughters to travel solo. There have been MANY anxious moments. We have always found the travelling between places the most stressful (for us) . Once they are somewhere WOOFing etc it is a bit more relaxing.
    Having internet and international telephone roaming has been good to keep in touch but I sometimes think the “good old days” of a letter by ship each month or so could have its advantages.

    We would have found out about the stitches to a knee, the almost broken arm, the near assault, the spats with friends, the stolen credits cards, the new (and dumped) boys, couch surfing on the floor at a Irish prostitutes house etc WELL after they had happened (and been resolved)

    We are currently training the 18yo male for his trip later this year. On the schedule is “how to do your laundry” (with the line, how do you expect to pick up looking and smelling like that), cooking, form filling out, money handling etc. All stuff we sadly overlooked as he was at school and “studying”

    Great thread Nora.

  12. @Frank – You bring up a great point about “training” young people to travel abroad successfully! I hadn’t really contemplated many of the traveling tasks I take in stride, such as filling out forms, cooking frugally, and yes, doing hand laundry as I go. Some of this comes with experience and necessity, but it’s always nice to have the head’s up.
    I’ve got a few articles coming out soon about managing money abroad and staying secure. Hope they’ll help your son out too!

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