I don’t mean don’t travel at all in your 20’s. Hear me out.
I would absolutely love to go to Europe. I would love to sit and read books in French cafés and write stories in Irish pubs. I would love to fill my Instagram with pictures of the Eiffel tower, beaches in Italy, famous historical monuments and museums and, of course, exotic foods.
I would also really love to pay off my student loan debt and start putting money aside to buy a house.
Lately, I have been seeing articles and blog posts about how everyone should travel as much as they can in their 20’s instead of getting into a career with good benefits and 401k that destroys your will to live, and I think that’s terrible advice. I think there is a way to do everything that you want to do in your 20’s without spending all of your money and ignoring all of that student loan debt.
It starts with finding a job that you actually like.
What if, instead of quitting the job we hate and traveling the globe, we could pay for our adventures with the income from a job that we loved or, at the very least, liked? When I started searching for my first post-college job, I made a list of the most important qualities I wanted in a company. Here are a few examples:
- I want to work for a company that values their employees.
- I want to work for a company that has opportunities for growth based on merit, not tenure.
- I want to work for a company that allows me to take time off to visit my family.
- I want to work for a company that pays well.
After having a few jobs that I really hated, I decided it didn’t really matter to me at this point if I got a job that aligned with my career path. It was more important to me to find a company that had all of these characteristics above.
And I did.
It didn’t fall into my lap. I had to babysit for a few months while I was job hunting, and luckily I didn’t have to pay rent during that time because I was living with family. It is doable, finding a job that you actually like. Since you spend most of your day there, you might as well have a good time, right?
Now you’re ready to travel, but make sure to travel smart.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I like to have spending money when I travel. It’s not appealing to me to envision a very frugal vacation where I am sleeping in cheap hotels and watching my spending every time I go out to eat. Plan your vacations in advance and set money aside for them so that when the time comes, you don’t have to stress out about overdrawing your bank account or asking your mom to Venmo you some extra cash while you’re away.
Make a list of all the places you want to go and start researching them. What time of the year is it best to go? Where can you get the cheapest flight deals? As much fun as spontaneity is, it’s usually more expensive.
My last piece of advice is to pay off that damn student loan debt. The sooner you get rid of it, the sooner you can use your money to travel more or buy a new car or put a down payment on a house. Set yourself up on auto pay for the minimum monthly payment, and use any extra money to pay off either the smallest loan or the loan with the highest interest rate. It is theoretically financially smarter to pay off the loan with the highest interest rate first, but it is often more motivating to pay off your smallest loan first so that you feel accomplished and ready to tackle the next one, so figure out which works best for you.
In short, you don’t have to wait until your 40’s to travel, but you don’t have to wait until your 40’s to start saving for retirement either. I know that we’ve heard all our lives that money can’t buy happiness, but financial wellness can greatly improve your health and well being and it can allow you to do all of the things that make you happy.
New headline: Become Financially Strong and Travel in Your 20’s.
Let’s make this a thing.