I'm So Over People Telling me I Need to go Travelling

3pm hits at work – a sedated mid-afternoon lull that can only be cured by 15  30 minutes procrastination on the internet. Cue a skim-read of several “inspiring” articles on Medium, Huffington Post, or Elite Daily written by older writers that are
a) trying to make major hits in a digital written world that’s already drowning in clickbait
b) condescend all millennials across the globe with articles that generally go something along the lines of 20 things this 30-something writer would like to tell their 20-something self!

And you can guess that “travel the world!” often comes in at number one.

The reasons why? When we’re in our twenties, we have very little responsibilityapparently. We can do it on the cheap, apparently. And, of course, we’re all in the position where we can work for a year, save for a year, then quit our jobs and just go. Apparently. Then it’s all usually neatly packaged under some faux-inspiring quote like: it doesn’t matter how much or how little money you have, make it work!

I mean, how easy does that sound, right?! BRB, just going to book a flight using all the pennies that fell through the ripped lining of my old Primark handbag…

We all know things are so often easier said than done. In fact, if you look at the major issues us millennials are facing today – a tonne of debt, the housing crisis, and did you just see that tumbleweed blow through the bleak abyss that we call the job market? – then it’s hard to think of anything else more out touch with reality than someone more comfortable financially, career-wise, and housing-wise telling us to just make it work!

The truth it, I would desperately love to go travelling. Not in a Gap Yah way, not because I want to ‘find myself’, not because I want a spiritual reawakening, but simply because I’m curious. Stories my friends tell me fill me with both desire and envy to go and see the things that they have seen. What wouldn’t be exciting about experiencing new cultures, seeing beautiful things, meeting new people, and just learning something that you can’t by simply sitting in front of a desk or mindlessly scrolling through the #travel hashtag on Instagram? The closest I have got to it was a 10 day holiday to Thailand, that I oh-so-now ironically chronicled in the Travel section of my blog… (which unsurprisingly, is looking pretty empty)

Pro tip: if you’ve ever wanted to get yourself excluded from conversations with your new middle-class colleagues and pub pals, tell them you haven’t been travelling – it works a treat. At Uni I was in a bar with my very insanely attractive friend. A group of men enclosed around us all vying for her attention, totally ignoring my very existance. Engrossed in conversation about their travels to SE Asia, one of them turned to me and said, whilst spilling some vodka Red Bull on me, “so, have you ever been travelling?” At the time, the closest thing I had been to travelling was taking the 150 mile trip from Leicester to Cardiff when I moved to the city, so obviously I said no, and before I could even spit out the second letter of the world he had swivelled back around to stare at my friends boobs whilst pretending to actually listen to what she was saying.

Going travelling is like membership to an exclusive club of cultured, more worldly people. It’s a badge of honour, and if you haven’t done it, then you’re a massive failure to the grown up girl and boy scouts club that’s called Adult Life. You’re made to feel like an uncultured peasant who stinks of their own western privilege all at once – a total paradox, no? Besides, there’s only a certain level of interesting you can reach if you don’t have stories to tell about how you nearly got murdered by a gang on a remote island, had a whirlwind romance with a 6ft 7 Swedish guy called Henrik, drank snake blood from a shot glass in a backstreet bar, or won a Thai kickboxing fight despite being utterly intoxicated after 6 buckets. As for me right now? I’m coming in at an ever so weak 10% on the interesting scale. Nothing quite beats the inadequacy you feel during a group show-and-tell of shit tattoos you got when you were travelling when the only shit tattoo you have to exhibit was the one that you got in Magaluf…

Despite how easy the writers try and make it seem, realistically, it’s not so simple to hit pause and let go of a life that you’ve worked so hard for – especially when you’re just starting out. I don’t have children. I don’t have a house with a mortgage. So you could say I don’t have any strong responsibilities holding me back from going travelling. I did however work my arse off for a BA and MA degree – leading to a mound of student debt  – before finally securing a job that only just covers the cost of actually living in London with enough left over each month to buy the necessary Tesco Value baked beans for sustenance. Are the writers suggesting that I work for a year, after eventually scrambling onto the career ladder, only to step off the ladder to go travelling? Are they entirely unaware of how the job market is notoriously bleak for graduates, so when you get a job you want to clutch hold of it like your last slice of pizza after a night out? When you step off the ladder, it means you start from the bottom when you get back on, so forgive me for not wanting to risk it all.

And then there’s the money aspect – the idea that us twenty-somethings can travel the world on a shoestring budget because we don’t mind sleeping on a cockroach-infested hut with some stains on the bed that we quite can’t work out if it’s blood or the aftermath of food poisoning (and quite frankly, we don’t know which answer terrifies us more…) This. Is. Just. Not. True. And even if it was, travelling is still expensive. When you’re living and working in London, 2/3 of your income most likely goes on rent and bills, what’s left goes on travel and socialising. Does that leave any money to save at the end of the month? Hardly. By the time you actually manage to scrimp enough, you’ll probably have been promoted so high that jumping off the career ladder to go galavanting around the world is an even scarier prospect than it was when you first started out.

Contrary to what the writers say, I do feel like I have a lot of responsibility – the responsibility to myself to put all of my hard work to use and make something of my life. Us millennials already feel so left behind compared to what older generations had achieved by this point in their lives that we’re stuck in a game of catch-up, and travelling is a luxury that we cannot afford in time nor money.

What’s a girl to do? Quit her first full-time job to go travelling, then come back and start all over again? I suppose what use really is a career when you have some epic exotic bikini pictures for your Tinder profile and a shit tattoo on your back that you definitely don’t regret in the slightest?

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  1. YES. I love this post Sophie, and it really resonates with me. I'm pretty much the only one in my group of girls that hasn't done the travelling thing, but I also landed my first full time degree-related job. Like you, I worked my ass off for a degree and getting my first job through lots of unpaid interning so to give that up for travelling right now seems silly but maybe one day! For now, it's city breaks instead 🙂

    Tilly x

    1. YES GIRL! It really makes you feel like something is missing, which is shit, but it feels so hard to let go of something you've worked so hard for. Guh. Life. x

  2. You have no idea how much I agreed with this post! I'm tired of people telling me that your 20s are when you have no responsibilities and that you should just go travelling. As if saving money for travelling is the most easy thing to do. I'm finding it impossible to find a job even a rubbish part time one so it really gets me down when people tell me to "just get a job" it's seriously not that simple. Thank you so much for posting this!

    Ella xx

    1. Yeah I mean I totally get that when we're in our thirties we will have way more responsibility and look back at our 20s like it was a breeze, but that doesn't mean we don't have responsibility now too! xx

  3. I love this post Sophie. I completely resonate with this. I would love to go away and see so many places still left to explore, but I just don't feel like I can after having worked so hard to get where I am. I couldn't have put it better myself, you write so beautifully xxxx

    1. Exactly! We're in such a bad job market, it's more competitive than ever before, living costs more than it did, and especially in the fashion journalism industry it's so cut-throat, if you step off that ladder it can feel like you're back at square one. gahhhh millennial struggs huh ? xx

  4. This post is great! Never really thought of it like that. I've always wanted to go travelling and thinking about getting it out of my system before going onto the job market. But it still isn't that easy, you need money to start with! And what do you do after when you're back – no money, no job. Live off family members and friends lol. Some people are lucky i guess.

  5. I really enjoyed this post. Like you, I love the idea of travelling because I am curious and want to see the world. Like you, I live in London and just dropping everything to see the world isn't feeisable or something I'm happy to do. I'd rather save for mini breaks whilst working and freelancing, thay way you get the best of both worlds. Maybe that would be an option?


  6. I LOVE this! So true, of course we would all love to travel but the idea of packing in my job spending all my money to come home to no job, no money etc is not the easiest thing to do! I plan to hopefully see as much of the world as I can bit by bit on annual holidays xx


  7. Your blog is all I aspire to be: stylish and sassy. Your writing is so comedic but still thought-provoking and unique. You've summed up exactly what this is like for us perfectly. I'm about to graduate so I'm in a perfect position to fly off travelling – except I'm poor as fuck and torn between trying to get on that career ladder and just taking any ol' job just to get some money quicker! Ah, the perks of being a graduate.

    Lyndsey | http://www.articletwentythree.com

    1. thank you thank you thank you! This is such a lovely comment. I felt in the exact same predicament. Plus, I was so anxious to get experience I jumped straight into my MA because if I had taken a year out to travel before I applied for that, I'd have spent the whole time fretting that I was stuck behind!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment xx

  8. This post is so true! I purposely did a year abroad last year because I knew for a fact that I couldn't go off travelling once I finished my degree. What's the point in doing a research heavy Masters degree if I'm going to go off for 2 years before I try and find a job – losing the skills I learned from that Masters before I even start? I've noticed that the people who have the opportunity to go travelling are those who didn't go to university but started their careers at the age of 16-18. They've been working for companies for 3-5 years, saved the money and can say to their bosses 'in all fairness – I deserve 6 months off' and so can do that.

    I would love to travel more and know that for the next few years at least I'll be lucky to have a couple of European weekend trips (which will be lovely – but I'd also quite like a few months in Thailand) due to not having the money or time off to spend here there and everywhere. I guess it just proves that whilst we'll hopefully end up better off (eventually…I'm not saying it'll happen overnight!) there are a lot more sacrifices we have made to be in the position we are in!

    Rachael at broomfie.blogspot.com

    1. Totally! And that's a really interesting observation too, damn uni for taking up all of our time and funds! I'm a fashion writer in my day job and it's so cut-throat there's no way I could ever ask for longer than 10 days off in a row without being cut loose and them hiring someone else!

      I guess one thing to take from it is being grateful we do have a great education and are making our way up the career ladder.. and we don't have crap cliché tattoos and a wardrobe full of weird traveller clothes! haha xx

  9. Sophie, I cannot TELL you how much I connected to this post. I feel such a failure sometimes for not doing that and putting my career/house at the forefront that I sometimes wish I didn't have it. Then I think, "NO, I worked bloody hard for this." To have someone turn their nose up at me for "not finding myself" is something I can deal with as actually I'm adulting (okay as it would seem, okay not great but I'm getting by!) I'll have my 3 or 4 week long breaks to look forward to whilst still balancing everything else!
    Bee | QueenBeady.com

    1. Noooo don't feel like a failure! I do get what you mean though, it is hard not to. When people start talking about all of their amazing travels and holidays and ask "oh have you been?!" I get so bored of saying no and dealing with the pitying look on their faces! xx

  10. This is amazing. I never went travelling, choosing to work instead and I now own my own home, but the number of people saying oh you should have gone is ridic. I know a number of people who won't actually look at the CV of someone who travelled now, as they did the same trip everyone seem to do. Aud-Thailand etc…

    I like to think that I will just go on trips as and when whilst working, and so I'm off to Tanzania for ten days in October. No reason you can't travel, no you don't backpack and take a year out, but working alongside is better for career prospects nowadays in this competitive world!


    1. I feel like people would complain either way in that situation. That's amazing you own your own home! And imagine if you went travelling and didn't do that, people would probably be like "oh why did you go gallivanting all over the world whe nyou should have been making a life for yourself?"

      Girl, we can't win! x

  11. Yes! The amount of friends who have said to me that I should just 'take a year out and go travelling', like it's so easy. My career sector is really difficult to break into so taking a year out is basically giving up on it as there's always more people fighting to take your place. I would love to go travelling but the thought of giving up full-time work and using all of my savings is scary after having worked so hard for it and I no longer have the security of living at home with my parents and I don't particularly want to go back to that. I think i'll just use my holiday days to take shorter breaks and get as much out of them as I can 🙂


    1. YAAAAS I relate to this SO much! I'm a fashion writer in my day job and it's soooo notoriously competitive. If you wanna take a month off to go travelling then you can pack up your desk and take your things with you because there will be someone wanting the place! xx

  12. YES, oh my god this post is so bloomin' perfect. You have written and articulated this so beautifully. I honestly couldn't agree more with this post, nothing irks me more than people saying how easy it is to just up and leave for travelling. I always feel a little discontent because I'm one of the few people I know who hasn't done at least a little bit of the travelling thing, but then again I'm in a good full-time job that I'm happy in and very proud of – I couldn't just leave that to go travelling because what happens when you return? A gap in your employment and a chunk missing from your bank account. While it would be an incredible life, it just isn't realistic for everyone.

    Katy / Katy Belle

    1. Good! You're doing awesome and you should be proud. Some things just aren't feasible, and unless you were born loaded it seems like travelling and having a killer career is one of those things x

  13. GIRL. Preach! This post is such a breath of fresh air. Your words completely resonated with me and my situation, and I feel a sense of validation and normalization. It's beautiful that women across the world (Chicago represent!) are creating a space to speak honestly and vulnerably about the feelings that get stirred up by the "I'm successful and full of wanderlust and so sexy all the time" image the media presents.

  14. I love this! It is so true, everyone tells you to do it but never really explains how or why you give everything up. But then if you haven't gone travelling, or don't express a desperate interest in it, then there's something strange and not quite right about you! It's such a hard balance x


  15. I, too, want to make something of my life, and I have the same sense of responsibility in doing so, but perhaps we have a different perspective on what 'travel' is. Nothing that I part with my cash for makes me as happy as travel, and I don't mean some dramatic trip across Indonesia or Australia. I've never travelled outside Europe, but even a short break to another European city gives me new perspective on life. I think I'll always save my pennies towards travel, even if it means I have to sacrifice other small luxuries 🙂 I certainly wouldn't drop everything and go travelling though, unless there was nothing else for me to do, so I do agree with you on that point. However, in general, I think 'go travelling' is pretty sound advice. Interesting read, as is always the case with you! x

    Martha Jane | http://www.marthajanemusic.com

  16. I'm so glad someone has finally said how easy it ISN'T to just up sticks and go round the world. I too would love nothing more than to do a bit of backpacking and have felt so inadequate for not having done so thus far, but my career is my priority right now. I try and squeeze in a few short city breaks where I can to get that balance as I still love to see new places. Maybe one day I will get the chance to go on an extended stay, but for now I feel much more content in the knowledge that I'm not alone in this! So thank you Sophie! 🙂

    Josie x


  17. PREACH!

    I am so sick and tired of people telling me that I should go travelling, despite the fact that I've made it clear that I can't afford to do so, and I can't just drop everything and travelling. Right now, finishing my degree and getting onto the career ladder. I wish I could click my fingers and go travelling right now – I'd love to work as a travel writer – but I have to be realistic. As a student surviving on the basic loan and paying rent, bills, food, etc choosing to up sticks and go travelling is just not feasible. I couldn't take a year out and go travelling, that would leave a gap in my employment and I need money to travel. I've been abroad before but I think people forget that travelling is a privilege, it's not a right, and not something everyone can do all the time! If I took time out to travel that would really affect me – I'd end up broke and struggling to get up the career ladder because the industry I want to work in is extremely competitive, so I'd rather break into it first.

    I've decided that once I start working and earning, then I will go travelling during my booked holidays, and I would like to go on mini city breaks. That appeals to me a lot more. Plus I'd like to go on domestic holidays too – I really want to explore more of the UK.

    Also, people should realise that travelling is not the only way to "find yourself" and broaden your horizons. There are so many things one could do – learn an instrument, take up a hobby, volunteer, learn a skill/craft, learn a language, take on challenging activities such as rock climbing, trying a new cuisine, meeting new people, etc. The list is endless!


  18. Also, it's nice to know that a lot of people are in the same position.



  19. Sophie I love this! Angers me so much when people tell me how important travelling is to my life – I feel like I should apologise for focusing on building a career instead!

  20. I see what you're saying in this post and I agree that it would be hard to throw away a job you feel you've worked hard for, but I have taken a path more like the 'traveller' one and my life has been endlessly better since leaving the UK. I graduated in 2003, travelled for 6 months in 2004 and then came back thinking that this was it, career time. But I never even found an office job in the UK, so I worked in bars, shops and call centres throughout my 20s, I even did a Masters thinking it would help but it didn’t. It was getting closer to my 30th birthday and I spontaneously decided to go and teach English in Thailand, so I did an online course and went to Thailand for 6 months back in 2011, then I travelled in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, came home and knew I couldn't live in the UK anymore. So in 2012 I moved to Barcelona (with no job) where I've been ever since. I worked teaching English cash-in-hand for 18 months but I now have a well-paid creative job, a lovely boyfriend (another thing I couldn't get in the UK), I'm fluent in Spanish and training to be a translator, I rent a flat by the beach and I go on lots of trips and holidays because the cost of living is so much lower here. I’m now extremely grateful that I never had a good job I was afraid to leave. If you're 100% committed to living in the UK and pursuing a career then great, but it's never too late to make a change, and you really don't need much money to go and live abroad if you really want to.