I've always loved traveling, and I spent the first five years of my twenties taking off whenever I could, mostly in between study semesters. In between, I'd work three jobs and save every penny, planning for the next trip, hankering for those weeks that would go by without showers, sleeping wherever there was a hard surface and luxuriating in the carefree lifestyle of a backpacker. I will always love travel. It's something I plan to do in excess forever. It's the most wonderful way to gain perspective and to make yourself feel very, very small, but very, very capable and uplifted at the same time. Plus, there's a lot of really incredible food out there, and I need to eat it. All of it.
But a terrible misconception about people who are born with a wanderlustful spirit is that they are inherently flaky, flighty people for whom sitting still and settling down will always be impossible. This, honestly, could not be less true. A love of travel is not the same as an inability to commit, or put down roots, or invest in places and people in a long-term kind of way. In fact, if anything, traveling — really getting out and exploring the world on your own — yields the kind of life lessons, self-discovering, and perspective that will, in the end, make the mindful traveler infinitely better equipped to lay down roots when the time comes — and they won't be constantly feeling compelled to uproot themselves once they do, because they will have already gone out there and seen what the independent, suitcase-bound lifestyle is like.
Also, for all of its great qualities, traveling does have its down sides too: I've been forced to sleep on the street in Paris, been robbed in Romania, and run down by a motorcycle in Thailand. It can be as stressful as it is relaxing, and as frustrating as it is enlightening. So with all the wonderful lessons you learn about other cultures and your place in the world, you also learn a lot of unexpected lessons about the virtues of home and stillness. Strangely enough, being a seasoned traveller also prepares you for settling down, and I think in some ways make you much more prepared for it. Here are the reasons why traveling can actually make you a lot better at settling down:
1. Because you simply get tired of moving around a lot
Travel takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of thinking and moving and doing and interacting. You're always on. You're always seeing, learning, feeling, eating, running, jumping, swimming, etc. Which is why it's wonderful to travel; It pushes you further outside of your comfort zone than just about anything else you can choose to do. At the same time, it's bloody exhausting. Packing yourself every few days to move on to the next city or country can take its toll, and when you've taken overnight trains and lived out of a suitcase or backpack for weeks, you really start to see the merits of home base. As exciting as many places can be, having just one place can be just as exciting for its ease and comfort.
2. Because it makes you appreciate building relationships with people
Being transient means your relationships are too. When you're traveling, you can have a best friend for a week, never to see them again once you part ways. I think there's something really beautiful about that, because even if you never have contact again, you're two strangers who will be telling stories around the campfire about one another and your adventures well into old age. Isn't that incredible? But at the same time, traveling really makes you appreciate long-term relationships, and the effort that goes into building and maintaining them, which is a notion you'll always remember, and appreciate, when you're settling down. I'm not saying your travel relationships aren't real, it's just that you'll see the merit of your permanent relationships too.
3. Because you've seen...a lot
You're more ready to settle down when you feel like you've achieved in any capacity, and having traveled gives you that sense of satisfaction. I can't even imagine what it must feel like to settle down without ever having taken a trip and seen something else in the world. I know people do it. I know some people definitely aren't interested in travel. It's something that's hard for me to relate to. I often wonder if those people ever wonder what else exists out there. Once you've traveled, there's no wondering. There's no what if. You know what's out there. And you know it's great, but you also know the grass is perfectly green on your side too, so you wont feel restless when you settle down.
4. Because you're always poor when you're traveling
Unless you're rich to begin with, which most of us are not, traveling makes you poor. It's one of the absolute more wonderful reasons to find yourself broke, but still, being broke isn't easy, even if you've traded a financial cushion for invaluable life experiences. The amount of times I slept of a beach or a train station or a street while traveling makes me feel lucky that I was never seriously hurt. It's a really horrible feeling to have to think about every penny, and go without in order to keep traveling. It's obviously rewarding and character-building, but it will also help you appreciate consistency, and how unique and precious the feeling of having a fixed income and a job is.
5. Because there are a lot of people out there who are the worst
Let's not mince words: A lot of people are the worst. When you travel frequently, you meet a heartening number of wonderful people, but you're also exposed to the ass end of humanity. When you finally decide to settle down, having traveled a lot will prepare you because while you might miss meeting all the great characters, you'll definitely be relieved to be spare the awful ones. As in number 3, you'll never be left wondering what's out there, because you'll know: it's basically just a lot more jerks.
6. Because home is really where the heart is
When all is said and done, home is where the heart is. There's a reason we so often refer to being "homesick" — there's a reason why you feel physically unwell when you're away from home for too long. One thing you'll notice when you're traveling: No matter how thrilling it is, nor how much fun you're having, you'll have, even if they're little, moments of completely missing home and everything that's there. That's the wonderful thing about settling down: you can still take trips, but your heart will always return to the place you've anchored it.