I have spent a lot of time mulling over the question “When is the perfect time in your life to travel?” By travel, I’m not talking about spending a week on the beaches of Mexico or Hawaii, but I’m referring to something more immersive – an experience that opens your eyes and makes you realize that your narrow world is a insignificant fraction of what is out there.
Travel when you are young! This would probably be the immediate and oft-given answer for my question. It’s so simple. People will tell you to travel when you don’t have obligations of true adulthood and frankly don’t have the money. Youth is when you have the energy to walk all day and still explore the night. However, this leads to young travelers who are yet to mature and many are unable to appreciate the adventures they partake until after the journey.
I began searching for a better answer and remembered a tidbit from my marketing classes and began to examine the stages of the human life cycle (childhood, young single adult, newlywed, full nest, and empty nest).
Childhood (The stage up until adulthood)
The stage that includes birth up until a person becomes an adult includes a range of ages where a person’s priorities varies greatly. Obviously, the environment that you grow up in will shape your opinions and actions in relation to travel. For the fortunate kids that get to travel, it will most likely be with their parents or in a school group. These children either tend to love travel, or become indifferent to travel. It is of my opinion, while a great opportunity to create memories, a child is unable to appreciate the uniqueness on an experience and sacrifice that one makes to travel.
I hope I would be able to provide my future child with some opportunity to travel, but in a limited capacity and probably wait until 8 or older. I would include him/her in the planning process for any trip and try to avoid the generic Disneyland or cruises that seem to be the easy way out of planning a vacation. My first memories of travel included Disney and conjures up feelings of excitement. However, I wasn’t able to appreciate the many trips I took until much older.
Full Nest (Children at home)
The concept of a truly relaxing vacation may seem foreign to families with children who are looking for a little respite in their daily routine. Finding time in a year with only two-week vacations and packed with school schedules, a career, and family events, it is no wonder that many parents’ ideal getaway is somewhere relaxing. I have no right to judge a parent, but in terms of travelling, the situation does not seem ideal.
I think this period in the family life cycle is the hardest to travel, as younger children are a handful and older children often have very different interests than their parents. The truly rewarding journeys shared with your children would be amazing, but I know that an overwhelming majority would be happy with a peaceful vacation.
Empty Nest (Children not at home)
Your golden years seems like the perfect opportunity to travel. You likely have at least a little money saved up and the responsibilities of children are much diminished. However, concerns with the uncertainties of travel increase exponentially as you age.
My grandparents on both sides of my family are Empty Nesters and all of them have at least some interest in travel. However, there are many dangers in waiting until this age to travel. My grandparents on my mother’s side used to come along on some family vacations with short flights when they were in their sixties. They put off their grand plans to travel back to Hong Kong because they still operated their small barbershop and did not want to leave the business unattended for a long period of time. When they finally retired, both of my grandparents had reached their seventies and faced numerous health issues that made travel inconvenient. A lack of mobility, sensitive stomachs and illnesses took a toll on their bodies over the next few years, willing but unable to travel. In the following years, they lost their willingness to travel and settled to live in familiarity.
Back to being young
I’ve come in a full circle back to the younger years. Every time I come back from an adventure I am empty of cash but full of experience. Yes, it would be nice to have more money saved up for the future, but like many things, there is a happy balance. There is no right answer for when money or time should be spent on travel; it is a risk and reward scenario. One of the luxuries of youth that is hard to predict with aging is your health and resilience. In these young years, your body can take a beating and still have the ability to continue. You have no idea when you can lose the ability to climb Macchu Picchu or kayak the Great Divide. The only regrets I have are going to places that I really never wanted to visit.