I recently ran across this article: “Self-made Millionaire: Millennials, don’t travel—yet.” This millionaire seems to feel he has in-depth insight into the mindset of all millennials. But I think he might be wrong. Here’s why…
The article starts out with a 51-second video featuring flashy images of the author, Grant Cardone, and millennials carrying backpacks. It then hits us with a stat: millennials are “23% more likely to travel abroad than older generations.” The gist of the article is this: millennials should postpone traveling. You can travel later. But first, you need to work hard, make money. Once you’ve done that, you can travel on your own terms. Granted, it’s a sound perspective but I respectfully and wholeheartedly argue that it’s not the only path. And I disagree with Cardone’s implication that millennials who travel abroad are self absorbed.
Some older generations tend to view millennials as selfish. We’re called the selfie generation — self-focused, self-centered, self-involved. Of course, as with any stereotype, this doesn’t apply to every individual. And I’d argue that those who dedicate a copious amount of time on travel, are not necessarily self-centered. On the contrary, when traveling abroad, whether solo or in a group, you have to adapt to new customs, try new foods, interact with diverse people, and accept differences. Judging from personal experience (having grown up privileged, attending a private, all-girls Catholic school where I wore a plaid uniform and lived a relatively easy life), traveling in foreign regions provided a glimpse of how others lived. Travel really opened my eyes.
A few years ago I went to Vegas for a marketing summit with my company. During one session focused on how to encourage different types of workers, the attendees, mostly in their 50s and 60s, spent much of the time talking about how to “deal” with millennials. They characterized us millennials as impatient, we want answers quickly, don’t stay long in jobs, and complain too much. Okay, true, we are job hoppers. And for good reason. Just a decade or two ago well-paying, skilled jobs also included things like pensions and retirement funds. That is often no longer the case. So most believe we need to start saving money for retirement right now, which leaves no budget for travel. But I believe you can have/do both.
Our generation is different, just as other generations before. The power of the Internet provides a new world of jobs. Many of those allow us to work and live anywhere. Take me, for example. I make a “normal” living, in an unconventional setting. Oh, and I have a serious savings plan to boot. To categorize us all as lazy is just, well, wrong. This study proves that our generation actually tends to leave vacation days on the table and opt for working long hours.
But that’s not the real issue. The real issue, which I think this article tries to prove, is that we need to wait until we are financially established to travel. We first need to build up our life and fortune.
I can’t help thinking about my mother-in-law, who worked hard her whole life. She was less than two years from retirement (a date she had memorized and could tell you to the hour) before she passed away from a severe form of breast cancer. My point: we do not know how much time we have on this earth. Yes, we should spend our time wisely, but also go after our dreams in the process. For me, doing both entailed spending a few years saving up and working hard before taking off to travel my heart out.
And I’m not alone. Interest in travel is booming. As a result, millennials are leading the way in evolving and concocting businesses to support every sort of travel endeavor. We have managed to bridge travel and technology to create things like AirBnb, Snapchat, Bumble, Lonely Planet, Uber… should I continue? All started by millennials. Travel opens the door to new opportunities and also gives insight into what the world needs to propel forward.
Travel opens the door to new opportunities and also propels the world forward. Take a look at this millennial woman traveler who set out to travel to every country in the world. It has opened her eyes to the needs of others, and in particular, her desire to work towards world peace. For me, travel has taught me responsibility, problem-solving, budgeting, and flexibility in a way nothing else could. Nothing will help you learn fast like finding out your passport and plane ticket have different names, and you have 20 minutes between flights to find proof of marriage online. (Long story.) It also helped me realize what I want out of life. And I’m not the only one. Travelers I’ve met (and I’ve met a lot, because we tend to seek each other out) are hard working, adventurous, go-getters. We’re an eclectic bunch, but I can tell you these aren’t hippie-dippy types, not the “I just want to take a break from my life, man” kind of people. Most are standup, feet-on-the-ground individuals who either landed a job abroad so they can see the world, or worked their butt off to secure a place away from home.
I get it, the article was enticing. Click-bait. And I clicked it. Until you have traveled the hard (also really fun) way, eating ramen noodles, squeezing into a tiny seat on a plane, and sleeping in a shared hostel, you can’t fully appreciate the private jet or, more realistically, business class and nice hotels. I’d also argue that you can’t fully immerse yourself in a different culture or setting if you’re above it all. I didn’t go to Thailand just to stay at a hotel and eat Thai food.
The article states: “The reason many millennials want to travel is because they have no purpose at home.” Thank you, for so eloquently telling me that I travel because I have no purpose. Purpose doesn’t stem from where you live, or what you do. In fact, I don’t talk to most Europeans about my job. I don’t attain purpose because I travel, but I do pick up skills, both personally and professionally along the way. I travel because I want to learn, grow, understand, relate, and enjoy my path. Everyone has a story and a set of valuable skills. Traveling doesn’t mean I am running away from anything. I am running towards discovery and understanding.
To travel is to learn to appreciate. Travel can be hard — long flights, little sleep, language and cultural barriers. Traveling not only teaches you to welcome differences, it opens your eyes to new possibilities.
Toward the end of the article, Cardone says, “Get obsessed with your purpose, and you’ll find that your travel plans can wait.” But I argue that your passion and purpose in life can merge. It can be pretty incredible to live out a dream that coincides with your life’s work. I am obsessed with my work. And I love to travel. Those two things happen to accompany one another.
Rather than “catch up” to the baby boomer generation, we millennials are carving our own path. Technology seems to have made the world a smaller place than it used to be. And most of the time, that’s a good thing. Our generation tends to be more open minded about things like sexuality, religion, and yes, where to live. So, respectfully Mr. Cardone, instead of telling us what to do, embrace the unique millennial outlook. You might learn a thing or two from us.