I Wish I’d Known: The Value of Travel

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Today I wanted to change things up a bit, so I invited my little sister Alycia to write about something she wished she’d known (or listened to!) when she was younger. I hate to be the know-it-all older sister, but I tried for years to get her to see the value in experiencing life abroad, far away from home. It wasn’t until I brought her along with me on one of my trips that she really truly figured it out, and as a 23 year old who’s mere months away from graduating university, I’d say she figured it out just in time. Ain’t nothing like a trip to Iceland to change your perspective! Thanks for sharing your story sistie 🙂

How many times have you heard “I told you so” (or known that someone was secretly thinking it) when you were wrong and they were right? I hate to admit it, but in the past I was on the receiving end of that expression verrrry frequently. For example, when I was younger I thought “I need to experience acne, it’s part of being a teenager”. But when my ‘teenage experience’ popped up on my face and quite literally scarred me, Erica chimed in with: “I told you you should wash your face.” Okay, maybe I was just being dirty (hey I was like, 12!) but I guess I thought I could be one of those girls with flawless skin with little effort…. Wrong. Damn. Ah well, it wouldn’t be the last time, because later in life it turns out I would be waaaay wrong about something else: the importance and experience of travelling abroad.

When I went off to university in 2008 my parents told me that I was about to live the best four years of my life. They told me I would make friends, that I would make great memories and that I would definitely face some tough challenges. What we never really discussed was the idea of me travelling outside of my little hometown bubble. For my first two years of university, I attended school in Hawaii, and I thought that that was all the travelling I needed… luaus and mai tais are cultured, right? Wrong. Again. What about Europe? Going on exchange? Just plain ol’ adventuring through an unknown city? I never really gave it much consideration until Erica moved to Austria in the summer of 2009 (and spent the next four months travelling to different countries every weekend!? How cool is that!). All I would hear about when we Skyped was how amazing her time was, and all of the new places she’d been. Suddenly, I had this urge to travel, and it only intensified when I moved back to Canada in 2010, started at the University of Ottawa, and met friends from all over the world, all of whom loved to travel.

Then it was upon me…to travel, or not to travel? That was the question.

Well, no-brainer, of course I wanted to go. I was just so nervous. And my finances had always been a problem – I blame my social life… or so I told myself to make me feel better. The one thing that our parents always tried to stress to Erica and me was the importance of having savings, and how having money in the bank gives you the opportunity to jump on it when it arises. An opportunity like the one that arose when Erica decided to move to Australia in August 2012, stopping in Europe along the way. Would I like to come along to Iceland and London? Um, hell yes.

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“Woohooo!!! Sign me up!” I thought. But, what was I going to do about… money? I had some savings, right? Well… yes I did. But the key word here is some.

We went. We did it. I had an amazing time, but all the while, I was so concerned about my finances I found myself short-changing myself because I couldn’t fully throw myself into the enjoyment of the trip. I had money in the back of my mind 24/7. Prime example: at the Blue Lagoon, one of the most famous natural baths in the world, I wanted more than anything to buy a face mask. It was $50. You know what I didn’t buy at the Blue Lagoon, because I’d been blowing my finances on useless bracelets at H&M a few months prior? Yep.

Eventually, I realized the value in what I was doing, and the reason my parents and sister encouraged me to come on the trip with such low finances. “I have to experience being broke while travelling in order to truly appreciate what it would be like to travel with money”. Okay, that’s not exactly what I thought, but I can imagine me saying it like that if I wasn’t so desperate to have more money for the trip!

Now that I’ve finally been bitten by the travel bug, and been afforded the opportunity to travel to many places, including Iceland, London (twice now!), Ireland, the Netherlands, France, the Caribbean, Hawaii and several other states, I realize, and I’ve known this for a while, the immense value that a savings account has, and not just literally. I’m not necessarily saving for a home, a car or something large and life-changing like that. I’m saving so that I can jump on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when it comes along, like traveling overseas with my only sister who’s moving across the world. That’s not the type of thing “I can’t afford it” should have to be used on.

Sometimes it’s really hard to put your money aside, to tell your friends that you can’t go out on a Friday or Saturday night because you’re BBC (Broke By Choice — my new go-to phrase) and are saving for an adventure you don’t even know exists. Trust me, I know. But one day you’ll find out that a friend now lives somewhere exotic and wants you to visit and you’ll feel like Donald Trump saying “yeah, I can afford that!” You’ll buy your ticket, you’ll experience new cities and cultures (and food!), and have an amazing time. No pair of shoes or Friday night at the bar can give you that, right?

For me, money is always in the back of my mind. Now, even when I have some savings I constantly think, “But if I spend my money on this trip, I’ll have nothing left for the next!”. But that’s the beauty of savings. You can use them on an adventure or experience, and the memories are what you’ll have left. That is the polar opposite of nothing, if you ask me. All it takes is a little self-restraint and some imagination.

Huuuuge thank you to Alycia for putting this post together for me. I’m so happy I could share the amazing experience of travelling overseas with you little sister, and will never forget all of the fun we had in the process!

Out of curiosity, how do you feel about travelling while you’re young and carefree? Do you see the value in it? Or is it something you’d rather save for later in life? I know some people are quite content to stay at home and that’s that, but that’s just not me (or Alycia anymore). I love to travel, I love to see new things, and I love feeling totally lost in a completely foreign land. It’s unparalleled!

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