On sending teenagers around the world

Back when I went to university – although it’s not all that long ago – taking a year off to travel before you studied was virtually unheard of and decidedly unpopular. What brief discussion there was usually ended with a harsh warning that if you lost the momentum of study then you’d never go back. 

Yeah, right. I would personally never give this advice and if anyone of any age came to with a plan to go travelling I would be right behind them. But no doubt part of that’s because I got used to travelling at an early age, and then because I’ve travelled extensively as an adult and have realised the huge number of benefits that’s brought me.

You might (understandably) wonder what this babble is all in aid of. Well, in the past week I keep reading stuff about young people travelling and how good it is for them. And I’m very happy to hear it! For example, at Matador they have a Brave New Travelers scholarship fund which sends American teenagers from low-income schools off on trips set up to be life-changing experiences.

It made me think of a friend of mine whose mother did something I considered pretty smart. She wasn’t rich (and my friend’s father had died when she was young), but the mother always said to each of her three kids, after you turn 18, I’ll buy you a round-the-world ticket and you can travel wherever you want. They’d have to pay for accommodation and everything else, but the big cost of the flights (especially from down here in Oz) would be taken care of. Good idea, right?

Enough of me, I’m curious to know if you agree with me or not. Is travel always life-changing for a teenager or young adult? I’m not talking a week in Bali by the pool, but pretty much anything a bit beyond that. Did you travel in that age and have it change your thinking or your path in life? Let me know your opinions in the comments.


  1. Of course I agree! I even spend my working time preparing young kids for travel. What I’m curious about, is which route you would pick yourself if you were to tell them where to go for let’s say the compulsory three months. Is it safety first, or would you send them to hotspots like Africa and some parts of South America?

  2. Ooh, your job sounds very interesting Geir! And your question is very good. I think I’d have to say, though, that it probably depends on the personality of the teenager, and whether or not they’re traveling alone or with friends or with some kind of organized group. In my mind it’s not exactly a matter of safety but more how much culture shock they’ll be able to cope with – which might depend on their general level of adventurousness, whether they are extroverted or introverted by nature, how much exposure to other cultures and languages they’ve already had, etc. I guess I’m also thinking from an Australian point of view, being that we’re a long way from nearly everywhere so even being immersed in another language can be quite shocking (whereas to an average European teenager this wouldn’t be odd at all).
    well that’s my rambling attempt at an answer, Geir – what would you tell them?

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