I’ve gotten lots of messages since I backpacked through India a couple months ago.
I’m frequently asked “How did you do it?” and “How are you managing financially?”. I often hear people claiming they want to travel but can’t because of responsibilities.
I am 26 years old, and I have chosen to backpack for as long as I am capable. I am no princess, my father didn’t rob any banks, and I wasn’t lucky enough to stumble upon a cave of gold. Therefore, my decision to backpack isn’t related to any sort of parental background or lottery papers. There weren’t existing circumstances that helped me travel; I created those circumstances.
That being said, I have always been careful with my money as long as I can remember. I have always stepped away from any rentals or loans. The only loan I had was my college loan and I worked during and after my studies to pay it back. I refrained from buying a car, renting a place of my own, or consuming any material that might put me in debt.
When my friends decided to buy cars at age 21, I rode buses and cabs. I never thought of purchasing a car despite the fact that my transportation means were crappy. The sad part is, when I explain to others why I won’t buy a car, they reply, “but it’s only one monthly payment for five years”. This is how much we think we have time. We truly believe that we are invincible beings who are guaranteed 100 years. See, if I bought a car two years ago, I would still be stuck in my job now because I had a monthly payment to take care of.
We create our own responsibilities in our twenties. Some choose to marry and have kids, while others choose to pursue their own business. However, we must be satisfied with the choice we make. I know that I’ve wanted to backpack for two years. Hence, I created the circumstances internally—and outwardly.
How did I create the circumstances internally?
When I graduated from college, all I cared about was a decent position at a decent company with a good salary. It took me five years to realize that this wasn’t what I truly wanted––and I only realized it when I actually got a decent position at a decent company with a good salary. Knowing that this wasn’t what I really wanted to acquire, I stopped running after it. The only work I did in those two years was save money for my future travels. I internally, and truthfully, stopped craving obtaining an important position in society. We can’t decide or even love to travel while we’re still pursuing a stable job and a stable life.
How did I create the circumstance outwardly?
I cut down on many things. Instead of going out four times a week, I went out twice. Instead of having three beers, I had one. I cut down on shopping and refrained from buying anything that I already had. I learnt to live with what I have. I mainly decided to spend my money on happiness and memories rather than on drinks and clothes.
Preparing ourselves on both the inside and the outside for travel takes a true conviction of wanting nothing that has to do with materials or societal positions. My dreams now don’t include any jobs or making big money.
Now that I have covered the money part, I would like to cover the other huge responsibilities that hinder us from travel as well.
A large amount of my money used to go to helping my parents. Not that I had to, but I loved helping them with the rent and other inquiries for the house. Leaving my parents without any financial help was the greatest struggle I had to go through when I started to seriously think about backpacking. It wasn’t the end of the world to cut off money from them, but it did make me feel guilty when I quit my job. I cried for nights knowing that they have always been there for me, and now I am no longer helping them or next to them. To keep helping them even if they didn’t need it was a promise that I made to myself when I graduated from college––and I was breaking it.
It took courage to convince myself that they would do just fine without me, and that my happiness comes first. I will not be 26 again. The physical ability that I have now I won’t have it after five years. The 23kgs backpack that I carried in India will be nearly impossible for me to lift at the age of 40. Most importantly, the passion for traveling that is burning inside me now will be turned off later.
My parents weren’t against me. They understood me, stood next to me and respected my wish to fulfill this dream. The whole story of parents is hard to deal with but I eventually did it. I had to step on my emotions and think about myself to do what I did.
Because I was able to loosen my responsibilities in order to travel, I feel sad when I hear someone in their twenties telling me they can’t do it because of responsibilities.
However, there are always exceptions, and I am not here to judge. I respect any huge, unresolvable responsibility a person in her twenties has. Some people my age have to take care of their whole family, or maybe have someone sick in their home they have to take care of.
But if your reason for not traveling is because you want to reach an important position, you want to make money for the next 20 years, you want to buy a new car, or you claim you can’t leave your house, then take responsibility for your own decision. You have created those circumstances.
Making excuses is easy. I gave myself enough excuses to not get on that plane and start living my dream for years. I had fear inside of me that I wouldn’t admit to anyone. Eventually I made it, and now I am stronger than ever. If you really want to travel, you will do it. Good luck and happy travels!
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Caroline Beaton