Almost one year ago today, I left my job, sublet my apartment, and booked a one-way ticket to Mumbai. Between bathing elephants in India, teaching English in Laos and trekking through the jungles of Indonesia, I’ve learned a lot about life. Traveling will do that, and by traveling, I don’t mean a long weekend in Miami. Here are some reasons to get out there and explore the world:
1. Traveling > Working, duh. Slaving away from nine to nine for stability and security is so…ordinary. And you have your whole life to be ordinary! Take a few months or a year, capitulate to those what ifs and why nots, empty your savings account, and make it rain in Southeast Asia! I promise there’s a happy ending…even if it’s just at a Bangkok massage parlor.
2. You won’t regret it. You’ve read enough of those inspirational “5 Things Old People Say From Their Deathbeds” to know that it’s the crazy experiences that make it all worthwhile. Life’s too short, take the road less traveled, just do it, etc. Steve Jobs spent seven months in India and then invented Apple.
3. Speaking of regrets…have you smoked dust, at a rave, with a fire dancer? Jumped out of a plane, and into a bed with two perfect strangers? Camped out on the beach? Dropped acid at an ashram? I’m not saying I have (Steve Jobs, on the other hand…), but I can say I’m living my life to the fullest.
4. A material world is a small world. Stop wasting money renting a studio apartment that more accurately resembles a closet or buying expensive gym class fads/designer clothes/beauty products that’ll make you skinnier/trendier/prettier/whatever. Collect memories, not things, ya know?
5. Traveling will actually MAKE YOU skinnier/trendier/prettier! Bike riding through Nepalese mountains is a real soul cycle. “Oh, this? I got it at a flea market in Paris” trumps “Bloomingdale’s.” Plus you’re St. Tropez-tan all of the time and, most importantly, you’re happy. And real happiness gives you a glow that they don’t sell at Sephora.
6. Think about all the Instagram pictures, Foursquare check-ins, Facebook friends, Flickr albums. When you’re traveling, everyone likes your photos, misses you tons, responds to your Twitter posts with “#jealous.” You’re like a celebrity and you’ve done absolutely nothing but what everyone wants — but is too scared — to do. Besides, you are where you go (so remember that when you check into *insert cheesy club name here* next weekend).
7. Eating like a local is all part of an authentic experience, which means greasy street kebabs, gelato and copious amounts of ramen are totally OK — even if you’re dead sober and it’s breakfast. Pro tip: Spend a week indulging in Indian street food when you start feeling the lb’s, Delhi Belly is a “five minutes to flat abs” miracle.
8. Every single person you’ve ever made out with, or thought about making out with, will contact you. Total strangers who want to make out with you if/when you come home, too. It’s never-ending, but you’ll be too busy hiking Machu Picchu, meeting hot Australians and learning Hindi to care.
9. It’s easy to get caught up in the petty sh-t when you’re lacking context. Spend a day in the slums of Mumbai or Cambodia’s Killing Fields and you get perspective, fast. The bump in your nose that looks huge in pictures, that guy who didn’t text you back, the presentation you’re stressing about — it’s all small in comparison. And you know what they say about the small stuff…don’t sweat it.