I’ve been thinking a lot lately about turning 25.
Having only recently celebrated my 24th birthday, you would be forgiven for thinking my concerns are somewhat premature… but alas, I’m sure they’ll continue to haunt me for the following nine months until another number is reached, this time being the doomed quarter of a century.
For years I have been travelling the world nearly non-stop. Throughout this time I have visited 60 or 70 something countries, 6 continents, and flown in all sorts of devices from an aeroplane to a jet, through to helicopters and even microflights.
But I haven’t always been this fearless and I’m often asked by readers, mostly women in their early-late twenties, why I turned to travel and was it the answer?
Spoiler: You’re Doomed for A Quarter Life Crisis
According to the Wikipedia definition of the phrase, a “quarter life crisis” can occur any time between the ages of late teens through to early thirties. While there’s no guarantee it will happen to you, that’s a pretty wide berth they’ve given you to use this as an ‘out’, quite literally in the case of a plane ticket in my circumstance. If anything this should be viewed as a good thing as it means that when it does happen (it probably will and that’s okay), you’ll know what the hell is going on. Its also good to know that you aren’t the only one and that almost all of us go through this period of soul searching, of an undying desire to just stop playing the game of life, pack up and escape it.
It happened to me at 22.
It begins with doubt and it almost certainly never ends in certainty… but life is not about knowing things for sure, but rather about putting your faith in new ideas and directions anyway because you know the ‘right’ decision is to follow your heart and let the rest work itself out.
Take for instance the time you’re sitting at your work desk and realise just how much you hate your job. The routine Monday conversation that consists of “How was your weekend?” followed by the designated hump day, followed by “One day ‘til Friday”, followed by Friday itself, leaves only Tuesday as the one day of the week for anything spontaneous to happen. The rest, it seems, is already all worked out for you.
Or it might come at the completion of your education, when the fancy robe and tasselled hat are supposed to mean something, but you wake up the following day feeling more of a burden on your shoulders to find a job, rather than a lightened load.
Then there’s the moment you’re sitting in your friends’ lounge on her nice new couch in her nice new house, nursing her nice new baby and saying nice things about her life. You suddenly realise that you’re single, renting a house that pays someone else’s mortgage and have little to no desire to breed any time soon. After all, you can’t look after yourself let alone another person (cats on the other hand… you probably have twelve).
Why you should turn to Travel
What I’m saying is that it happens. At one point or another in your window for a quarter life crisis, you’re going to have one. You’re going to let doubt creep in for a second and before you know it, that small glimpse of doubt has manifested into a complete and utterly uncontrollable sense of misery. You’re not happy and you know it.
When it happened to me (post university degree that I didn’t really even want or need in the Arts variety), I turned to travel. I booked a one way ticket to London and said goodbye to the life I once knew.
I was scared, sure. But I was more scared of turning thirty and not being able to say I enjoyed my twenties, or worse yet turning forty and still not knowing myself, let alone the world.
I soon realised travel could give me a better education than any. I had spent years of my childhood, teenage years and early adulthood reading textbooks about places I thought I would never see. I studied Russian history at university because it excited me and the history of my own country was a mere hundred years old.
Once abroad I made more friends than I had in my life, and they were all more like me. They didn’t ask “why?”. Rather they, like me, asked “why not!?”.
Instead of merely reading about people, culture and history, I met local people in their hometowns and let them show me around their city. I learned more than the textbooks could ever teach me and I always made an effort to learn their language, if even for the life of me all I can remember from Portuguese is a warm “Obrigado!” (Still not remembering what that actually means but it sounds good anyway).
But most importantly of all, I learned about who I was. I learned what I liked and didn’t like. Before travelling to find out who I was, I wasn’t open minded enough to care to find out. It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey, just make the next step count.