By Bennett Erickson, Age 17
I always considered myself a homebody. I enjoyed my house, my space, my stuff, my friends, my school … my life. When life is good we think it’s foolish to rock the boat.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
But … I’m learning life is unpredictable and you never know what is coming your way. Change came my way. And it was a huge change.
Now that I’m away from home and traveling the world, I don’t think of myself as a homebody anymore and I think my life has improved. Travel made me better at embracing change, newness, challenge and opportunity. My thoughts are changing too. I now think:
“I am young. I only know what I know and that’s not much. I should get out and see everything because who knows what the next bend will bring. And, mom and dad are paying for it so now’s the perfect time!”
I know. I am only 17. But I have some advice for other kids and teens drifting and sailing through the ocean of travel.
My first nugget of wisdom is to embrace this opportunity of travel. I don’t want to sound like your mom, but she is right on this one. Not many people get to travel, ever. And certainly not at our age. Our poor peers are stuck in high school, slaving away for hours and hours at pre-calculas and physics. We travel kids still have to do that stuff too, but we get to see amazing things, people, and places!
What I’m saying is don’t fight against the idea of traveling.
When my parents told me I was going to be pulled out of school in order to travel the world with the family, I was devastated. I thought that this couldn’t be true. What about my friends? My car? My rugby team? The marching band I loved so much? It was my senior year for crying out loud and travel was going to mess it all up! I was insistent I would not be joining my family on the plane out of the US.
Looking back on that time and seeing where I am now, I realize how my arguments against travel were valid and real. But so were my parent’s arguements for why we should travel. They helped me try to resolve my concerns and get on board, but I was reluctant, vocal and certain I was not going. Ultimately, they played the parent card and trumped my protests.
Always remember your parents are your parents. They love you. And they will get you on the plane no matter your protests. I hate being wrong, but I’m happy to have been wrong in this case. Traveling has been the best time of my life so far.
Secondly, I advise you to get involved in the travel and all it can offer. If your family decides to put down some roots for a while in a city, find some ways to meet with kids your age.
My brother and I, we joined the scout troop here in Chiang Mai. I didn’t need more merit badges; I was already an Eagle Scout. But I was pleased by the idea of time with people my own age. The guys I meet and formed friendships with were a great help to my mental stability. Without them, I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed the time here in Thailand as much as I did.
Another meaning for getting involved is to go see the sights and experience the city or place offered. Get out of the hotel, the house, the hostel and hit the streets, or trail, or beach, or goat path, or train. We are traveling to see amazing stuff, meet people, learn about history. We travel to watch, ask, try, feel, explore, question, relax, and be better people. Getting out and doing stuff makes travel come alive. Sitting home makes you depressed and sad.
Thirdly, find something productive to fill your downtime with. You can only be out touring, etc. so many hours a day and then you will have massive amounts of downtime. Don’t waste your downtime!
When I wasn’t doing online school, I spent hours reading, writing, blogging, vlogging, and playing with my brothers. I never had enough time to do this back home. I also love to play video games. My parents aren’t big fans of gaming, but it gave me ways to connect with people back in the States and with the friends I made here. Use common sense with all these downtime options and you will grow as a person.
Again, I don’t suggest just idly waste away your travel days browsing the internet or watching TV. You can do that at home when you want to avoid your homework. Challenge yourself to try new things which will engage your mind and make you stretch. We all get bored. Blogging can be boring. But, boredom can be fought when we learn new skills and generate new ideas. So that’s why I blog. And because my mom agains plays the parent card on me.
Long term traveling is hard. The stress of leaving home, not knowing anyone or what they are saying is difficult, and trying to figure out how to fill a day can be overwhelming. I get it, I’m living it.
I also know traveling has changed me for the better. I’m more open, social, confident, capable and interested in life beyond the end of my nose. I can now drive a motorcycle and solo navigate my way back to the apartment after wandering. I can contribute to a blog and my writing has improved. I can tolerate, even enjoy, my little brothers and family. Leaving my known life and entering an unknown life has made me a better person.
When it’s your turn to travel, make the most of it!