8 things I wish I knew when I was 22

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So I was perusing the interwebs this afternoon when I came across this fabulous post about traveling a lot while you’re young! (You can find the original article here). Since I have inadvertently followed this guide almost word for word, I thought I would go ahead and share it’s (our) wisdom here hehe. Gotta love the shout-out to the Haymarket in Northampton, MA (one of my favorite spots). I dunno about you guys, but I am still working on #2 and #3 is true except for SallieMae, those jerks, and I’ve found out the hard way that #4 is even possible in Europe. And since I am also 22 years old, this article serves the purpose of reminding me that all of my cavorting around the world with just a backpack, sleeping on airport floors and random people’s couches hasn’t been in vain. It’s all OK because I am 22 and young and free!!! Money is just a symbol that you’re a slave to the man blah blah blah. Leave your cubicle behind and go see the world while you aren’t tied down by husbands and babies, and real people jobs. You’ve only got one life, go and live it and go travel the globe! Americans need to realize there are more places out there than NYC or LA and that the rest of the world doesn’t speak English, and Spaniards really need to realize that there is more than the town they grew up and move out of their mama’s house before they’re 30. And maybe date more than one person in their whole lives.

I’ve met so many people who ask me how do you do so much traveling? Don’t you have work and stuff? How do you afford it? I just want to say that for me, traveling is a priority, and I am perfectly willing to sacrifice other things like gym memberships, eating out and nice cars and shopping sprees (and since this year in Spain, a comfortable bed and heat too) if that means I can buy a flight somewhere I haven’t been yet. I also tend to think of things in terms of flight prices. I could buy a new laptop, or I could buy a flight to New Zealand. Hmmmmm tough decision. Also, don’t be afraid to travel alone. Traveling with friends can be really fun, but it can also be a pain in the ass and end badly. I once backpacked around Europe on the trains for over two months alone, and it was one of the best, eye-opening experiences of my life. As long as you are careful, prepared, and cautious, but also totally open to new things, people and adventures, things will go your way. Sometimes s*** happens, but you just have to accept it because that’s life. ATMs will eat your bank cards, you’ll miss buses, trains, and planes, sometimes hostel arrangements will fall through and your phone will die and there will be a transportation strike and sometimes it’ll all happen at once and you’ll end up wandering the streets of Paris alone for a whole night without a phone, credit card, hostel or transportation waiting for the next bus the following day (just an example). But hey, it makes for a good story later, right? So I guess my point of all this rambling is to not only justify traveling a lot to myself, but to you all as well! There really are few things in life that are as rewarding as leaving the comfort of your home to explore the world. So go pack up a backpack (unpack it and take out all those extra jeans, dresses and high heels because you don’t need them in South America) then repack it and go off on an adventure! Enjoy this post:

“When I was 22, I wouldn’t have listened to my old curmudgeonly self. I would have said, ‘You don’t get it’, then put my headphones back on and headed over the Haymarket. I might have written about it on my blog over at TheGlobe.com (remember that site?) under my pen name ‘nehalennia’. 1999 was a great year, and I was going to make a million trillion dollars working the internets. Instead I got laid off from my dot.com job and ran into the warm embrace of reliable employment. So despite the fact that I wouldn’t have taken my own advice, here are 8 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 22:

1. Pick a career you love; you don’t have to give into the pressure to be practical. Everyone changes careers over their lifetime; why not experiment with one that you are crazy about? Worst case scenario, you go get that crappy corporate job when you’re 28 and let the cool waters of 9-5ing wash away any memories of your failed Falafel-R-Us Gift Basket business.

2. Pay off your credit card debt and don’t buy so much stuff. Does every college do this? Offer credit cards at the student union, and in exchange for filling out an application, they gift you a candy bar? I was hungry! I was broke! Sign me up! Thankfully I was so thoroughly burned the first time, I learned my lesson.

3. Your student loans can be deferred practically indefinitely. After graduation, just call them and ask for a deferment. They will bend over backwards to make deferring easy to do. In six months when your deferment is over, call them up and do another. Repeat as needed.

4. It doesn’t cost as much as you’d think to travel. You don’t need to save $50,000 to spend a year overseas. If you’re young, willing to sleep anywhere (hello, couchsurfing!) and go to countries off the beaten tourist track, then you can survive on much less (I’ve heard as low as $1000/mo).

5. The job you have right now is not that important. If I were an employer I would only hire ambitious twenty something’s. They will knock themselves out working incredibly hard on stuff that barely matters. Try to get a 35 year old to take photocopying that seriously and you’re more likely to get your dog to iron your suit in the morning.

6. You don’t need a safety net. You can figure this out. The idea of being out there, with nothing to catch you if everything goes wrong may make your stomach do little flips, but really, you’ll be just fine.

7. This is the best time in your life to travel carefree. If you wait it’s going to be more complicated financially and emotionally. Now instead of putting on a backpack and heading out the door, I’ve got to cancel leases, forward mail, set up online payment arrangements, sell a ton of stuff, convince my family that I don’t need an MRI “just in case this idea is a symptom of a brain tumor”, and wrangle with complex stuff like dodging the “when are you going to have kids” question.

8. Did you read #7? Go Travel Now!

If you were giving advice to your 22 year old self, what would it be?

Sleeping in the Madrid airport with just a backpack and an awesome group of friends (2008)

Me and Pisa, Italy (2007)

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