About a month ago I received an email from a young traveler who had recently found herself trading in her junior year of high school for a round-the-world education. She had started a blog called Dear Lunch Table, and once I paid her blog a visit, I couldn't help but wonder how a 16 year-old goes from sitting behind a desk to traveling the world and blogging about it. So I decided to ask KJ, and 4 other young people, to share some of their thoughts on traveling the world.
KJ @ Dear Lunch Table - Age 16 - Currently Cycling Across Vietnam
So KJ, last year you are sitting in classes as a sophomore and now you're biking in Vietnam. How did this happen and why?
I’ve never been the most conventional person in a room. I’ve always had wacky ideas that seem to be somewhat judged with an air of, “Well, that was weird. Good weird, but weird.” It’s also correct to say that this gene of unconventionality has been passed down to me from my parents, and so it’s also safe to assume that my parents and I share a similar idiosyncratic passion for strange thoughts. And this uniqueness sparked our yearlong world trip.
The proposal of traveling, and the committal to the idea, just kind of happened. It was in February of 2011 when my parents asked my brother and I if we wanted to do this . . . to travel. We both had the mindset of, “Why not?” and the only bump in the road, for us at least, was that we didn’t want to be held back in school. I was a sophomore and I couldn’t imagine coming back after a year to see all of my friends becoming seniors while I sat in an 11th grade classroom. So, it took about two weeks to figure out how to be “world-schooled.” And then, we just said, “Okay.” And so we decided to hop on a plane to Bogota, Colombia in August. Yes, we’re not exactly the best planners.
So, while the decision to go on this trip took about 2 weeks, the whole idea of this world travel experience came from quite a few factors that were stirring through our family since 7th grade, when we moved to Nicaragua:
1) There was a definite routine I was falling into at both school and home that was driving me into a pattern of acceptance instead of questions. What I mean is that I was so caught up in getting straight A’s and trying to breathe under books, soccer, and social life, that I forgot to interrogate the idea that there were other ways to look at life than through the words scribbled in a textbook. Okay, so at first it was only my parents who realized I wasn’t seeing the fact that climbing “monkey bridges” through Vietnam villages was providing the same, if not more, valuable information than the two paragraphs about poor Vietnamese villagers that I read in a history class. But the second day of running through the streets of Colombia changed me. I get it now.
2) This is my one shot to be 16 and to travel the world. (Okay, so perhaps when I’m 99 years old they will have created a time machine, but for the purpose of my story, I’m just going to go ahead and say, “No, there isn’t a time machine.”)
Anyways, the point is that you’ve got one life so live it to live, unless you are a Hindi because you would then believe in reincarnation. So don’t stand around waiting for opportunities to happen. You’ve got to be brave enough to create your own chances. But yes, that was pretty much it. I would rather be sitting on a park bench in Peru, watching Peruvian life happen, being part of it, than sitting at a desk I’ve studied in for over 10 years, and reading about it. So, yeah, that was that.
3) Oh, and I was also pretty sure that George Bush had screwed up the world and edged a negative view of the United States into everyone’s minds. So, of course, I had to go check out the world to see if I was right. I kind of am, but then again, I’m kind of not. Because it turns out, the world is a much more forgiving place than I ever thought was possible.
So, I guess, to sum it all up, last year I was sitting at a desk as a sophomore thinking this was my only option for learning, but now I’m biking through Vietnam, feeling like I can make every opportunity in the world open up for me, except for maybe being an Olympic gymnast, but besides that, pretty much anything. And that was the purpose of the trip: to create a life that’s crowded with chances.
Joy @ FamilyTravelBucketList - Age 13 - Living It Up In Costa Rica
How is life different for a traveling teenager?
Life for a traveling teen is VERY different from a normal life in the U.S. Some things are weird or not so great, but others are really neat and cool to experience. You really can't dig into your favorite Lay's chips whenever you want, because after a while, you'd go bankrupt. Things from the U.S. cost a lot more, because of the shipping prices. And moving from place to place isn't easy, each time you move, you leave new friends and cool places behind and still find more in the next place. It also gives you a new appreciation for other people around the world and cultures, too.
It is really cool to tell your friends in the U.S. about all of your experiences around the globe, but sometimes you just wish they were there to experience these things with you. Sometimes, life is lonely, and you want to go back to the U.S., but other times, you never want to leave where you are!
I love to travel the world.
Miro @ Raising Miro - Age 12 - Just Landed Back In Peru
Tell me the single best and worst aspects of traveling?
Well, I think that the best part of being a travelling teen is obviously not going to school. I am unschooling, so I am learning, but it's not the same as going to school. I mean, this way I get to dodge all that crap I have no interest in learning. "What about math?" people ask. "Screw math." I reply.
Then again, on the other hand, travelling prevents me from having a group of friends I can hang out with. I guess there's Skype and Facebook, but its not the same.
Hannah @ Edventure Girl - Age 15 - Checking Off Countries. Next Destination, Asia!
You've been traveling a long time. Where do you see yourself in 5 years, and how do you think your travels have impacted your plans or thoughts on the future?
Travel has definitely changed my outlook on my life and how I want to live it. I can’t see myself undergoing a magical transformation throughout my college years and becoming the normal American I always expected to be before I started traveling. Back then, I assumed that as a teen I would go through high school and then move on to college, following the “normal” life expected of the average American teenager. I then assumed I would get married, settle down, raise a few children and perhaps build a career from home. Traveling the world was not on my agenda, and my family’s decision to become world travelers was a huge shock. However, travel has opened my eyes to the possibilities surrounding teens and allowed me to dream bigger than I ever have. No one has to live the “normal” life, and frankly it sounds quite boring!
In five years I hope to be still working on my lifetime goal of visiting every country on the planet, a professional travel writer and videographer, and possibly working as an environmentalist around the world. I would never have even dreamed of doing these things if it weren’t for the life of adventure my family embarked upon just four short years ago.
Kate @ Life Changing Year - Age 15 - Making Her Way Across Cambodia
It's only been a month, but if you could go back to home and school today, would you do it?
If I had been asked this 2 weeks ago, it would've been a definite yes! I guess that the fact of having a somewhat normal life with normal friends and your education and job at McDonalds is hard to leave when it's basically your second nature. As much as I miss my friends, I don't think it would actually be worth it to follow through on my first decision to go home! I presume that now that we are actually here, and in the neck of all of the experiences, my opinion has changed & I don't think I'd be able to live with the regret if I chose to go home.
Firstly, I guess that south east Asia has so far exceeded my thoughts about what exactly we would be experiencing, and it just makes me realize : if I choose to go home, what else am I missing out on? Not just here in Asia, but in America, and Europe, the places that are definitely on my "to visit" list!
Secondly, as much as I keep telling myself that I can live without my family for a whole 12 months, it is a little bit of a white lie. When we get lost, or if something goes wrong, we are all here together and we help each other get through whatever is blocking our path. I consider my best friend to be family, but when you actually think about it she can't give me mothering advice, or information gathered through experience.
And, lastly, this really is the trip of a lifetime! Why would I consider giving up on it and going back to living a normal 15 year old's life- when I can have this for the entire year? The places we are visiting are sometimes places that people will never visit in their entire lifetime and here I am experiencing it, while I'm still young!
And I secretly think one of the reasons I'm enjoying it so much (!!) and looking forward for what's to come is because I don't have to pay!
Thanks to all those who contributed. Good to see there are so many possibilities out there in the world. And I have to say, I agree with Miro. Screw math - except when it comes to travel budgets.
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