Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

We need to encourage young people to travel.

Don’t you wish you had the blessings to travel more?

Adults are pretty heavy on kids. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is something each kid gets asked.

And because kids want to please us, they usually conjure something up.

We train kids from a young age that their career is the Holy Grail. The everything. The crappy thing is we went through the same thing, so the cycle continues. But we can change that.

I was terrified I would screw up.

I had this nagging feeling that I would screw up royally my first year in college.

When I graduated high school, I was awarded several scholarships (not because I was brilliant, but because I applied for them and was pretty good at filling out forms).

I sent in my application for college – because that was the expectation. Cause nice girls go to college, right?

The summer before my college intake, I had the opportunity to work in Ireland, so I did that. That was awesome. But that damn “start date” of college hung over me like a black cloud. I was tortured … what to do?

I knew I didn’t want to go. And equally, I didn’t want to lose money or “look” ungrateful.

I was totally scared.

I also felt obligated to use the education fund my mom diligently saved for me (even when just paying regular bills was tough for us – she made those monthly education payments). Thanks, mom.

But, as September loomed – I was panicking. I was having the time of my life working in Ireland, and I wanted to go to Southeast Asia and Australia after that.

So I called my mom and got a reality check. She told me it would all work out. And to calculate the cost of delaying my education, which was a few hundred bucks. I was willing to live with that. (Teachable moment: Sometimes we make things bigger in our mind  than they really are. Get out a piece of paper and calculate how much your “thing” will actually cost you. In cash and time. Often, it’s less than we think. For extra help, check out Tim Ferriss’ “dreamline worksheet” here.)

It’s a new world, with new revolutionary rules.

I didn’t end up by going to college that year … and I felt a million times better. Thrilled actually.

The trend in hiring Millennials (kids born between 1980-2000), is that personality trumps education. Why – because companies know that skills are taught – but personality is inherent.

We all know that the regular trajectory of college – job – pension is dead. I read business news constantly and follow entrepreneurial stories. Education isn’t the deciding factor of success. GRIT is. I find that refreshing, and I hope you do too.

We can’t continue to lie to young people and say:

1) The only way you’ll be successful is to do A, B, C.
2) If you don’t get an education, you’re done.

There are new rules – and a new economy. Even if you’re a parent – you don’t write them. The current reality does.

And, we all know … student debt is freaky! In the U.S., it’s now more than credit card debt – over a trillion dollars

“Right now, America has $1.1 trillion of student debt. That’s more than credit card debt.”
— Mark Warner, May 29th, 2014

In this amazing time we’re living in, there are incredible chances for young people to gain skills that aren’t just taught at a desk. I know you know that, and you care about that – because if you didn’t you wouldn’t still be reading.

Yes – going to college or university is a great privilege. When I eventually did, I learned skills that I’m very grateful for (like writing!), and some of the best memories of my life were in college. And the friends I made there are among my closest allies.

But I am suggesting we expand the possibilities of education for our kids. To me, that means traveling more.

Below is a hot-list of travel opportunities for young people.

This isn’t exhaustive – just the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure you know other cool travel stuff, and I would be so grateful if you added programs you’ve heard of in the comments below. Here’s a start:

Global Citizen Year

Thinking Beyond Borders.

Peace Corps

Semester at Sea

Operation Groundswell


More volunteer opportunities here or here or here or here.

Or … you can just get a plane ticket and go for it.

Here’s me, age 19, backpacking in Mexico.



That’s me again, age 22, in Australia. We lived in a van for three months. The van was shelter, transportation and entertainment. Then we sold it for more money than we bought it for — which was just a fluke — but a nice one.


You may also like my related articles that focus on experience, not cash.

How to Travel Even When You’re So Broke Your Mom Won’t Lend You Money.
How to Stay For Free in Italy.
Are You Overpaying for Luxury? Meet the Best Hostels in Europe.


Let’s encourage our kids to travel more. Guide them to the amazing programs and opportunities available to them that will support a global education. Check out this short op-ed by Rick Steves if you need the confidence to let your baby birds out of the home-country nest.

With love + Birkenstocks,


10 Responses

  1. Travel young, when you dont mind sleeping in ditches, hitchhiking and living on plain rice. When you travel past the age of 25 it changes.

  2. great post Bianca…travelling IS the best education, especially when you’re young. Unlike a university education, in which much of the learned material is quickly forgotten, the lessons learned travelling return many times over your life. An academic education is much more fullfilling later.

  3. Great post! My parents have always encouraged me to travel. I have only been out of the country once, but it was one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Lauren,
      Thanks for your comment. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

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