8 Reasons To Go Abroad Before You’re Ready To

A lot of people wonder if they are ready to go abroad, ready to travel, ready to jump into the unknown of a foreign place.

Let me just answer this question for you…

GO. REGARDLESS.

Seriously, do not sit around waiting until tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. Your life is now.

You should even go abroad before you’ve got your passive income and your “location independent” business set up. You probably should go abroad even if there’s a chance you’ll go into debt.

The more I reflect on it, the more I think that the key is just leaving absolutely everything and just going.

Here are 8 more reasons:

1. You might die tomorrow.

I know people who died in high school. I know people who died in college. Recently someone I knew died at age 30. The reality is that you are not guaranteed another second on this planet. An accident could take your last breath, a stray shard of glass could make you blind.

Don’t buy into the myth that your “free time” is some time other than now. Your free time is now.

2. The older you get, the less agile you are.

Somewhere along the line– maybe it was when reading the Four Hour Workweek– I realized the utter inanity of believing in the “deferred life plan”, which says that you should save up the majority of what you have until your best days arrive, i.e., your retirement.

That’s right… somehow when your body is old and shriveling, when your bones creak like an old house, when you can’t sleep well except on a special therapeutic mattress, when you can’t walk for more than an hour because your feet hurt, when you can’t eat anything because your teeth are sensitive, when you can’t carry your luggage up 3 stairs, when your eyesight is so bad you can’t find a location on a map to save your life, when the music is always too loud but you can’t hear when people talk to you from 4 feet away, when you can’t remember where you put your keys or your shoes or your bag or your glasses, when you have lived 60 years without learning another language…

… it is THEN you are supposed to have the time of your life. THEN is the time you are supposed to go abroad and celebrate.

This is insane. When you are old, you are much less able to adapt and adjust to things than when you are young. Hell, at 28 I went abroad and it was something I strongly feel I should have done 10 years prior.

Do two things for yourself: 1) Don’t believe in the deferred-life plan and 2) Don’t believe the demonstrable lie that you’ll be any more agile to travel when you’re older.

3. Your mind needs to expand as early as possible.

For me, going abroad and learning about location independence and internationalization significantly altered my life-view. I now consider seeking freedom and opportunities abroad to be the cornerstone of what I’m trying to do.

But if you don’t start this process early, it might be harder to incorporate it into your life. People tend to coast into certain ways of viewing the world as they age, depending upon how open they keep their mind. Sometimes people are so narrow-minded that they don’t even consider other ways of arranging their affairs.

Don’t fall into this trap. Expand your mind as much as possible. Go abroad and be open to new ways of looking at things.

4. Going abroad fuels, not delays, creativity.

Some people play off a false dichotomy that if you’re traveling abroad, you can’t be planning/ doing / creating new things. This is profoundly mistaken.

The truth is that travel opens you to creativity because you begin to know yourself better. You begin to trust yourself more, and you begin to realize that you have to get things done by yourself. This is the essence of a self-starter.

Plus, if you’ve got a laptop and an internet connection, there is literally nothing you can’t get started on, wherever you might be. With Google Docs, Gmail, Skype, Paypal, etc. you carry your dream maker with you.

5. You encounter completely different culture than you are use to.

The first time you go abroad and find one place that you are especially fond of, it can be a little unsettling. You start pondering the big question, that of leaving your homeland to actually live long-term in your foreign country.

You might also find cultures that you’re not so fond of, and that’s ok. It’s part of the game. The point is that you begin to have a more international perspective, where you are not a slave to your government and culture anymore, and thus you can leave to greener pastures if you so desire.

You also begin to see your own culture a lot better. You might even have reverse culture shock after a long time abroad. You might want to hire a Colombian over American. You might prefer a condo in coastal Ecuador to one in the US. You might want to date a Brazilian girl over an American girl.

You never knew there were so many wonderful options until you actually left home and explored the world.

6. Learning a language takes time… the earlier you get to it, the better.

I wish I had learned foreign languages a long time ago. Ideally, I would have been fully bilingual at 18, then gone abroad and picked up 1 or 2 more. So I would speak 4 by now.

Unfortunately, I started rather late… I can speak Spanish now, after living in Colombia, and I can speak a tiny bit of Portuguese. The biggest thing anyone has to do, though, is put in the time to learn the new language. Time is a resource you can’t make more of, and it’s best to start early on.

Furthermore, after you learn your first language, you will know what it takes to learn a language, and subsequent languages will come much faster. This is especially important if you want to sit at the polyglot table.

7. You learn self-reliance.

Like I touched on above, you begin to be more resourceful when you travel for extended periods of time. You grow better at getting done the important things, and being creative with everything else.

You also get to know yourself better. You make mistakes and learn. You have successes and learn. You also acquire a kind of stillness to really ask yourself the deeper question about your life.

You begin to become self-aware. And that is better than where most people are.

8. You give yourself concrete options.

I’ve written before that I’m not exactly traveling the world just to travel the world. I am looking for places to live. Once you put boots-on-the-ground in a place you’ve been wanting to visit, all your theoretical options become much more real. You really begin to see the options you have on your plate and the world becomes, as they say, “your oyster.”

You can only read so much online about foreign destinations. I read a significant amount about Ecuador before I went, but I’ve decided it’s not for me. The only thing that could settle it for me was actually going there.

All of which is to say, you can’t just read about travel and think about other options you might have. You have to actually go in order for those options to become concrete.

Are there any people to whom this doesn’t apply?

I would say the only exception to this call-to-arms would be if you are married and have children. If this is you, you really have responsibilities that come from sharing your life with someone else and raising your kids. There are other considerations to deal with based on the life you’ve chosen.

However, if you’re single and thinking about going abroad, consider this post addressed directly to you. “Waiting to be ready” is a way of mentally reflecting out of your actual life (which is happening now) into a phantom world of your fears of the unknown. You can become paralyzed with the question of whether or not you are ready.

I’m writing this today to tell you:

Go now. Before you are ready.




Published July 29, 2012

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  • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

    Excellent post and I generally agree, though I think your financial situation can definitely be something that can delay you.  The thing is that I’d rather delay things a bit right now in order to get my income such that it will allow me to travel continuously for as long as I like (many years) as opposed to leaving now and then having to do the work-for-a-few-months-and-save, travel, work-for-a-few-months-and-save, travel, pattern that I know a lot of travelers/backpackers/vagabonds do now.  Plus, I hate working for other people, the thought of working as an EFL teacher or bartender really does not appeal to me at all.

    Though I do agree with everything else, especially the bit about the “deferred life plan” (read that book several times myself, excellent).

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    • http://ryangoesabroad.com Ryan

      Well, it can be a trade off. For example, you can live in places abroad where your expenses are much lower than in the US. So you end up saving money by being abroad… Also, there’s only so much of life you have as a young person. I’d vote for spending it having a blast, wherever you are.

  • Talon

    If you’re married and have kids, then take them with you! Traveling with my son has been outstanding!

    • http://ryangoesabroad.com Ryan

      Ah yes, the other perspective! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=29628947 Levi Flint

    Awesome post. Can’t wait to board the plane!

    • http://ryangoesabroad.com Ryan

      Go man, go! :D