At some point during the last few months of my RTW trip planning, I was having dinner at my parents’ and my mom finally “got it.” We had actually let the conversation lapse from my travel plans for once, but suddenly she looked up and said to me, “This trip is like your baby.”
My mother has been a childbirth educator for nearly 20 years. Everything comes down to pregnancy, birth, and babies with her. She’s always known that I have no desire for children and been completely understanding of that. But my wanderlust has been a harder ticket to sell.
I have deep roots in Virginia. I lived in Charlottesville (with brief exceptions for college and study abroad) my whole life. My mother’s lived there her whole life. And her mother died on practically the same hilltop where she’d been born. My mom’s first time outside the United States was to visit me during my semester in England – if not for that, she probably still wouldn’t have a passport. With that kind of background, wanting to leave home just isn’t an easy thing to wrap her brain around.
I don’t know what it was that finally clicked in her mind that night. It certainly wasn’t anything I said. I had been focusing more on the what and the how than the why. But she was right – travel is my next step, the major life event of my 20s. It’s where I’ve put all my money, my time, and my energy.
I could be buying a house instead. My annual trip budget is about the cost of an average down payment. Of course, a year of travel won’t leave me paying off the mortgage for the next 30 years and there won’t be any maintenance issues to fret over.
I could be going to grad school. My year’s budget could get me through the first semester, but then I’ll be looking at student loans. And for what? Another degree so I feel even more overqualified for the work I’m able to find?
I could be getting married. With another year or so of saving, I’d have enough to cover the cost of the average wedding in the U.S. But why on earth would I blow that money on one memorable day, when I could have 365 instead?
Long-term budget travel is less expensive and more valuable than any other major life event I could experience right now. Instead of burdening myself with debt, I’ve learned to manage my finances and can enjoy incredible, unique adventures for the next year. Instead of pouring my energy into maintaining a house or a marriage this early in my life, I can make the most of my youth and freedom. I’ll get all the memories from a life-changing experience without the lifelong commitment that I’m barely old enough to make.
There are many ways I’m privileged, and a lot of people will never be able to embark on this kind of trip. But anyone who can justify spending thousands of dollars on a house, a degree, or a wedding needn’t ask me how I afford to travel. This trip is my baby. My next step. And with it I can work on myself in ways I’d never be able to otherwise.