Millennials are all about being the ‘get up and go’ generation. We’ve blasted onto the travel scene and self-proclaimed ourselves as global citizens. We buy books with titles like, “Quit your 9-5 and travel the world” and “Delaying the real world”. Is it all hype, or are we truly trending to an individualistic, nomadic lifestyle? Working from home brings strong allure, but not having a home is becoming more and more popular. Why not live in an apartment in Thailand for $500/month when you would still be renting for twice as much at home anyways?
There are many avenues to travel that have presented themselves to millennials, but I urge my generation to stop and really assess why they travel. Is it just to get some different scenery? To take that Instagram picture in front of that landmark? Or to make sure you eat and party at all the prime locations? I urge my generation to stop using the ‘I’m exploring’ generalization. Really there’s less than 1% of our earth left to explore unless you are going underwater. If there’s somewhere you want to go, Rick Steves or Lonely Planet has already been there. Just read a book, literally.
Let’s stop being superficial with our reasoning. Even when Lewis & Clark set out they had a purpose and a goal
and clubbing with the frat was not on the list. I don’t want to discourage anyone on their personal expedition, I just want to make sure you have considered what more you need to take from your travel apart from photos.
Travel with a purpose.
In history, all travel started with an explicit business purpose. Trade routes, the slave trade, search and conquer, no one went anywhere for tea and crumpets. Traveling with a purpose is not just going for business nor is it just fulfilling missions work (though those are great reasons). For us traveling with a purpose needs to be about a legitimate cultural exchange.
There are some places where true cultural exchange is not going to happen. Here is a short list:
- A cruise ship.
- A resort or hotel.
- Or an airplane.
All are exciting, but none will give you a true cultural exchange. Yes, you make get great mental pictures and even relax a bit, but that’s what we call a vacation, not building a life. My challenge to all millennials that are stuck in perpetual travel is to search for cultural experiences that stretch their comfort level and not just their wallets.
How to travel with a purpose:
- Work abroad. There’s no better way to build a true cultural exchange than to earn your living in a different currency. It forces you to learn a new economy, one that’s likely to be drastically different from the US (where I grew up).
- Refuse to stay in hotels. ANYTHING but a hotel. Bed and breakfast is your next best option. AirBnB after that. Hostel after that. Family after that. Friends after that. Couchsurfing if you’re brave. I always impose myself on friends and family unless there has been an emergency situation. They love me for it, I’m sure.
- Plan around career advancement. Guess what? Your job…yeah someone is doing that somewhere else in the world. There’s probably a conference or mastermind group you could benefit from attending.
- Never eat alone. Get there and Tinder your way through the city on dinner dates if you have to.
- Take the train. You may meet as many foreigners as on an airplane, but I guarantee the experience in the train station will change your mindset.
- Volunteer. There are so many organizations (that need your skill set) where you can take a ‘voluncation’. Check out GigRove, they even accommodate you. Missions work has so many needs as well and there are no shortage of disaster relief, orphanages, healthcare, or human trafficking organizations begging for volunteers.
- Get a pen pal. Of course, this means you are not actually going anywhere, but getting to know someone in your bucket list location can reap several rewards when you are ready to book that flight.
- Write and document. If all else fails, write about and document your experience while you are there. You don’t have to publish a book, but even writing simple blog posts like this one will give your friends, family, and acquaintances more reasons to make cultural exchanges.
Lastly, in defense of all nomads, there are several who have been able to work their own jobs, travel and live purposefully while hitting the hotspots along the way. Though she has decided to break from her nomadic lifestyle for a bit, Natalie Sisson is a great example of building a nomadic life and business.
Let’s stop being superficial and a little bit more purposeful. Cultural exchange is just as much a domestic experience within your own country as it is international. If you’re going to book a random weekend trip (that’s not a planned vacation), let’s see some beneficial results. Travel with purpose.