I'm at the stage where I'm 18 years old, just left college and am taking a gap year before going to university. I am currently in a job that would kill me if I did it for any longer than 6 months. and I thought that with the money I earned I might go travelling. I don't particularly want to go, it wouldn't be the end of the world if I just lazed around at home for 6 months until uni but it's hardly an experience is it? It's just something to fill the rest of the year really.
So I booked flights, and am going to LA, Fiji, NZ, Australia and Singapore, going away for 4 months in February until June. But now I am having reservations about it all. I'm going on my own, so I am quite hesitant about it. I keep having dreams of people stealing my passport and me left stranded in a city I don't know with no friends and completely homesick. I now am not sure if I really want to go or not. Can anybody give me some kind words to either encourage me or some sensible advice on whether I should go or not?
Heh, this is something of an unusual question for these forums. Usually when people want advice on if they should go travel or not, they really want to, and are offsetting that against a more 'prudent' course of action wrt work, relationships, parental advice and all that.
Now... 18 is often considered to be on the young side for long-term travelling. If I look back on myself at 18, I wouldn't have been ready for it yet. On the other hand, if I'd have gone anyway, I know it'd have been really good for me, and my university years would've been - in many ways - a whole lot easier, simply because of the self-confidence I'd have gained, and the better understanding of myself I'd have had.
Anyway, let's take a look at your fears first: Yes, a small but not insignificant amount of travellers get really homesick. And yes, there are an unlucky few who have their passports stolen. And even, yes, every so often someone gets "stranded" somewhere. I'll deal with homesickness in a minute, but the other two should not be of any major concern. The chances of this happening to you are really, really small, and if you use basic common sense while you're travelling (e.g. don't go wandering through dark alleys in dodgy parts of big cities by yourself; don't go drink yourself into a stupor without anyone there who'll keep an eye on you, don't leave your passport lying in plain view on your bed in a sixteen bed dorm room while you're out for the day, etc), the probability drops away to effectively zero. As extra security, you can make a photocopy of the passport and keep this in a different location (maybe store an electronic one as an attachment to an email you send yourself). You could write down the addresses and telephone numbers for your country's embassies in all the places you'll visit. Always keep your money in two or three different locations on yourself. That way, even if you did get your passport and most of your money stolen (which won't happen), you could still make your way to your embassy and be alright.
With that out of the way, what's the worst that can happen? You go travel for a couple of weeks and really aren't enjoying yourself, get terribly homesick, cut the trip short, and return home. I'd say that'd be a very useful lesson learned: you'll know that the travelling lifestyle isn't for you, and won't ever need to try it again, won't ever need to feel as if you really missed out on an amazing opportunity which you'll regret for the rest of your life. It'll have cost you some money you didn't particularly need for anything else, and some time you weren't doing much of anything with anyway.
On the other hand, you might have an absolutely amazing time while on the road. The world is a truly gorgeous and amazingly captivating place, with more unsuspected wonders and sights to take your breath away than you could ever have imagined. You could be walking down the Sydney harbour and hear a loud screech above you; looking up, you'd see the majestic form of a sulfur crested cockatoo winging its way over the harbour; or you could be crossing a mountain pass in New Zealand with clouds hanging all around you - cresting the pass, you'd look out over the endless tretching plains of a highland, and just then the sun would manage to break through the clouds and cause an amazing golden light to cover this land... and you would know, nothing you could ever have experienced before could've compared to that singular moment, that sight you just saw, that experience you just had.
You'll meet hundreds of fellow travellers in the hostels where you'll be staying, getting to share viewpoints and ideas about how things work that you'd otherwise never have come in touch with. You'll gain confidence in your own ability to navigate strange cities and find a homely place for yourself no matter where. You'll see other cultures and gain insight in how life works elsewhere. All of which will prove to be a tremendous asset at the most unsuspected times during the rest of your life.
As for homesickness... well, when I first set off travelling, I kept expecting it to hit me any week now... for about the first six months. I ended up being on the road for 2+ years, and it just never happened. I don't know why; that is, I don't have a sure-fire way for not getting homesick which you could follow. On the one hand it'll have been because I was too busy experiencing awesome new things. But - and this is a guess at best! - I think what was most important in the way I travelled was that I didn't rush myself. I didn't have a checklist of things I absolutely wanted to see. Everywhere I went, I deliberately took the time to settle down a bit, to unwind and do nothing for an afternoon every so often. Sat down with a book and a cup of tea and let the experiences of the previous few days percolate through my subconsciousness. Just a little bit of me-time amidst the bustle of the travelling life. No famous landmarks to see, no transport options to research, no nothing. Just doing nothing and being myself.
I don't know if doing the same would work for you. But it's worth keeping in mind, I think. You'll have just as much of an amazing experience if you're constantly on the road for only 90% of those four months as you would've if you'd be on the road for 100% of the time.
Finally I should add that if you think things over and really don't find any desire in yourself to travel - that the cockatoo or sunlight moments above didn't connect with you at all - that you then probably just shouldn't go. Don't go because you "think you should". Go because you want to, or because you'd rather do something unknown and uncertain that you don't know what you'd feel about; but don't go when you know that you don't want to. Everyone is different, and many people really just wouldn't enjoy travelling. There's nothing wrong with it, and having realized this about yourself would be valuable just in and of itself.
I hope all that helps. Good luck with making up your mind, and if you do go, do let us know how you're doing when you're on the road.
I really love sanders reply on this!
When I was 18 I went on a 9 months trip through europe. I was a little hesitant about it at first, going through worst case scenarios in my head over and over again, but now that it's over, I want to do it again! You will experience/learn some great stuff, and have great stories to tell when you get back home and start your studies... if you really want to. I traveled with two friends and it was awesome, but I met so many fun and interesting people at the hostels that I know I would've had a great time even if I had traveled alone. Personally I think if you spend your time in private rooms alone in hotels on a trip like that, it's wasted.
It can get hectic at times! I lost my passport somewhere in germany, and instead of going to the embassy and getting things cleared up, I gambled that I wouldn't need it when crossing the borders to czech republic... but of course, we did get stopped and I had to go into an interrogation room with the german police who yelled at me and accused me of being a drug dealer (see? great stories you can tell!). Anyway, stuff like that can happen, but we're in 2008 and things like that get sorted out pretty quick. I had to pay a small fine, and got a temporary passport after they had a short phone call with the norwegian embassy confirming my nationality... that was the consequence of a worst case scenario!
A cellphone will get you out of most problems nowadays, and if you avoid going through back alleys alone in the middle of the night, you won't get robbed.
I doubt you will regret the trip, it'll be a lifetime experience, and you'll get to do something really fun before starting on your studies.