[Finding My Voice is a series of blog posts on key decisions I made in my 20s.]
Defining decision: Travel while I was single
I heard it said once that the decade of one’s 20s was for personal and career exploration, one’s 30s for development, one’s 40s for establishment, one’s 50s as the prime years and one’s 60s and beyond were for passing on the wisdom to those who were younger. This made sense to me, so in my 20s, I took what opportunities I could to explore more of who I was. Part of this exploration included travelling.
Venturing into new cultures and trying new experiences in new places was an education that I would not have been able to find anywhere else. I learned a whole lot in my time abroad. Not only did I learn a new language, discover new foods and see a different way of life, I learned about myself – my likes, my strengths, my weaknesses and how I related to people, among other things. Living in a place other than the context I had grown up in exposed things about me that I would never have seen otherwise. I also learned more about what kind of work would suit me best. My experience of and relationship with God were enriched by travelling because He became my only constant as the people, places, languages and cultures around me changed.
The decision to move to another country and to live there for over 2 years was, in retrospect, a smart thing for me to do while I was single. Now that I have a husband, a mortgage and a child, it is much more difficult for me to just pick up and move. Not that it is impossible. Just considerably more challenging. [Updated note: I'm not saying that travelling while married or with young or grown up children is not as rich or rewarding, just that travelling while single allows you to focus on personal exploration and development more than travelling during other stations of life.]
Traveling in my twenties, I also had the energy of youth on my side. I could spend a whole night sitting in a hard seat on a crowded 18-hour train ride and my body could handle it. What I ate and where I slept were also of less importance to my general well-being (compared to now). Financially, it also cost less – food and shelter-wise but also, there were often youth or student discounts I could take advantage of.
I used the decade of my twenties to try new experiences and discover more of who I was. I worked various jobs, met different people, read books and attended many events. But the most rewarding and illuminating times were when I was travelling.