When I was at school it was an almost anticipated expectation that I'd either be a lawyer or a journalist by the age of 25. You know, somebody with opinions, money and a high-flying career. School was easy and enjoyable for me you see and with supportive parents, a gifted confidence and all the opportunity in the world, the move towards a stable, solid and successful career seemed inevitable.
Then I went to Southern Africa before university and everything changed. I guess the propensity had always been there; I was always a little different, a little out of the box, a little alternative, but Africa fueled in me a fire I hadn't realized needed to be stoked, a fire that couldn't be put out.
That fire was a deep passion for travel, a deep longing for the freedom of the open road and a deep motivation to discover the world, to soak it up like a sponge.
Having since lived my life by that passion, and having now left my third decade behind me, I want to share with you the five reasons why I'm glad I prioritized travel over career in my 20s.
1. Young, Single and Free
Even at the ripe old age of 31 (cough cough!) I realize that I will probably never experience the sense of youth, freedom and wild abandon that life presented me with in my 20s. Still on the road and still prioritizing travel over career to this day, I have nevertheless felt, even within the short year since I turned 30, that my priorities have started to change. I still want to soak up the world, but I want to do it before 11 p.m. and I don't want to be hungover for it!
My twenties were rollicking years of incredible memories, wild nights and beautiful connections -- things I really don't think I would have experienced to the same extent I had I spent 40 hours a week behind a desk next to people who were more similar to me than they were different.
Being young, free and single in my 20s, and using the opportunity these changeable fortunes afforded, is definitely one of the key reasons I'm glad I prioritized travel over career in my 20s.
2. Disposable Income and Good Health
In keeping with this young, single and free theme is that fact that I also had a disposable income during my 20s. Albeit not a very a large one, I nevertheless didn't have to commit my money to anybody or anything else during this time. Without dependents or mortgages to uphold, any money I earned was my own. Owning no possessions beyond a rundown old mini cooper and a laptop meant saving was fairly easy.
On top of having a disposable income, I was also lucky enough to enjoy good health. Being young and fit means you can budget even further, it means you don't mind roughing it on mates' floors or eating tins of beans for a week.
All these things helped me save more money and helped me spend less money while traveling too. If you don't mind where you sleep, what you eat or whom you share a car with, life is certainly cheaper. My 20s were a key time for making use of this budget-friendly, carefree lifestyle and I'm glad I did it when I could.
3. Plenty of Time to Work Later
Becoming a budget queen in my 20s also made me realize how easy it can be to save while you're working and how, presumably, this opportunity will still exist as I get older too.
I know people who have settled down early, lived long-hour, career-dominated lives during their twenties and promise they'll travel when they retire. To me, this makes no sense. Once you're in the rat race it strikes me that it's always harder to get out.
As such, my logic dictated I should travel BEFORE, if ever, I join the rat race -- there's plenty of time to work when you're older and I'd definitely rather have a bit of fun beforehand thanks very much!
4. Travel is a Gift, So Use It
After all, I never want to forget that the ability to travel is a gift and one that I have been lucky enough to receive. Never before have generations been given the technological, financial and social tools to see the world as mine have today. Add into this mix, the fact that I'm born into a country and nationality with a strong global currency, stable government and a largely welcomed passport and my luck is more than doubled.
For a long time, this was something I found hard to justify. Was my desire to travel just a gratuitous fulfilling of a middle class British privilege?
In many ways yes and it still is. But now I also see my ability to travel as a gift, one that I have been lucky enough to receive. Like any gift, I do not wish to abuse it. Instead I try to be grateful for it, every day. And, to this day, I know of no better way to show my deep appreciation than to make use of this incredible gift, to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities it has afforded me. As such, living the gift of travel that I have been fortunate enough to receive is the best way I know of showing my real and unending gratitude for it.
5. Life is Short
For we all know life is short. We get told it all the time and we say it ourselves a lot too. That's because it's true. Yet somewhere, between our plans for the weekend and our to-do lists during the week, we forget this, we forget life really is short.
Sure, we all have to make money in some way, at some point, we can't live like tomorrow will never come. Yet we can take risks and decisions sometimes that help us live our dreams, whatever it is we desire, whatever we might regret not doing in this short life.
Life is for living and life is short and when mine ends I want to have seen as much of the world as possible and if that is tomorrow, well then at least I know I've given it a good shot!
A version of this post originally appeared on Big World Small Pockets