If I see one more dating profile that says “looking for a travel buddy” or “must love travel,” I’m going to throw my phone at something.
Among the many Millennial stereotypes, one I actually believe to be true is this: we value experiences over things. And a huge part of that is travel.
I cannot tell you how many online dating profiles are riddled with pictures of dudes scaling Machu Picchu, cuddling drugged tigers in some “zoo” in Thailand (FYI, guys, that’s not cute – that’s animal abuse), placing calls in a red telephone booth, et cetera. A heck of a lot of these folks have traveled the world. And the same goes for a significant chunk of my Facebook friends, now that I think about it.
In my senior year of college, I went to England for a month, and I count myself lucky for that brief adventure. But that was seven years ago. The only places I have been to outside of California since then are Las Vegas (once) and to a couple eastern states to see family. Honestly, I’m starting to feel like I’m not the norm when it comes to Millennials and traveling – at least, not the kind that gets blasted all over social media.
It seems to me that there are two sorts of well-traveled Millennials. There are those who aren’t yet sure what they want to do with their lives or haven’t been able to land a dream job. Instead of being miserable in their parents’ houses, they decide to take what money they have and get out in the world in the interim.
These types often work for room and board while abroad. I’ve known multiple people to take advantage of the Worldwide Organization for Organic Farming program, for example, in which you work on a farm abroad for meals and a place to stay but travel and explore when you aren’t working.
Then there’s the sort of well-traveled Millennials who are career-oriented but are also blessed with the Golden Millennial Ideal: “work-life balance.” These lucky folks actually get to take more than a few days off for vacation at a time – and have the money to do it, too.
Then there’s the rest of us who, either for lack of money or lack of time, can barely get as far away as Palm Springs for a weekend, if at all. You won’t find many articles online about our sort, although you’ll find an unending torrent of articles discussing our better-traveled brethren. I suspect this is because we’re not as glamorous. More about that after I predictably digress into some statistics so that you know I’m not full of hot air (or at least, not entirely).
A 2016 Eventbrite study found that 78% of Millennials would choose to spend their money on an experience or event over a tangible good, and that 55% of Millennials said they were spending more on experiences than they ever had before.
A report released by Airbnb in November found that of Millennials interviewed in the United States, United Kingdom and China (1,000 in each country), 80% are seeking unique travel experiences, particularly by living like locals when abroad. The company reported that about 60% of clients who have used its service are Millennials.
Respondents in the UK and China ranked travel as more important to them than buying a car, paying off debt and purchasing a home. U.S. Millennials, however, equally ranked traveling and buying a car.
Well, I’ve got a car, so there’s that.
“In addition to prioritizing travel, Millennials feel that travel is core to their identity,” the Airbnb report stated. “Over 70% of Millennials surveyed in each country said ‘travel is an important part of who I am as a person,’ and over 65% of Millennials said that ‘regular travel is an important part of my life.’”
While this attitude is a defining aspect of our generation, it is one that is at times blind to certain realities. I can’t count the number of times when, after listening to a friend or acquaintance regale wonderful tales of travel, I have had to say simply that I would share some of my own, but I don’t have many. I’ve been too focused on my career.
This response is typically met with condolences and encouragement to at some point just “drop everything and go.”
Sure, I could quit my job and travel the world with some of the savings I put away while living at home a few years ago. Or . . . I could continue pursuing my dreams and hope that, at some point, I will have the time for adventure. It’s a choice I consciously made. Opportunity came a knockin’, as they say. I don’t think that choice makes me any less a Millennial.
Plus, who will feed my cat?
Then there are the many, many Millennials who I am certain would love to travel but just can’t afford it. Are they any less well-rounded than this Bumble (that’s a dating app) dude whose profile I literally just pulled up – really, it only took me one second to find someone with this perspective, who writes: “I enjoy exploring new places and going on spontaneous adventures. . . . World traveler.”
So my point is this, fellow Millennials. Travel is indeed important. I would wager it is more important than spending money on material goods. But the next time you find yourself stressing this to someone else, consider their circumstances. They might be broke. They might be killing it at work. Or they just might not have someone to feed their cat.