Why I Paid to Live Alone Instead of Travel in My 20s

Literally everyone says to travel in your 20s.

“Travel before you have responsibilities like kids or a mortgage.”

“Travel while you’re young and can bounce back from late nights and cheap mattresses.”

“Do it to figure out who you are.”

Traveling abroad during or shortly after college is the new norm and anyone who doesn’t is often left to believe she’s missed her only opportunity to do so.  What’s worse, those who do travel in their 20s regularly shame their peers for not doing the same.  How many sassy blog posts have you seen out there about why money isn’t an excuse for not traveling?  How many of your friends insist the only way to really develop confidence is to visit somewhere you don’t speak the language?

I get that traveling is a great way to discover who you are and learn about life but it’s not the only way.

Instead of traveling after graduation I jumped straight into a full time job.  To celebrate my first anniversary of adult sized paychecks I ditched my roommate and got my own apartment.  It cost me more money to live alone and it ate up my entire travel budget but the extra rent was completely worth it.  Living alone in my 20s taught me more about myself than I would have learned in a lifetime of travel. The extra monthly expense was an investment in my future self and it pushed me to appreciate local travel opportunities more.

Sure I got the occasional pangs of jealousy talking to friends about their international adventures and I considered trading my privacy for a lower rent more than once.  Looking back I’m glad I didn’t.  Unlike travel, living alone is something you can’t do when you have a family.  Once a spouse and a baby enter the picture, there’s no going back to a 400 square foot studio apartment.

Living alone was a wonderful experience and something I advocate for any twenty something transitioning to adulthood.  Travel, even solo travel, will always be an option but having your own space will not.  There’s such a small window between college roommates and family life to truly be on your own it would be a shame to miss out.

The benefits of living alone are very similar to the benefits of traveling.  You gain confidence, develop independence, and become an all-around more authentic you.  Each come at a certain price and are something you have to actively want.  Traveling doesn’t just happen if you sit at home and you won’t just magically end up with your own apartment.  Sometimes you can have both and sometimes you have to choose.  Ultimately it’s your decision and there’s no wrong choice.

I chose to live alone instead of travel in my 20s and I’m a better person for it.  I enjoyed my alone time while I could and now I’m having a blast traveling with my family.  It may sound strange but I swear parenthood has made me a better traveler and now that I’ve got a few years of work under my belt, I have a bigger travel budget than I ever could have dreamed of at 21.

Another added benefit of paying to live alone instead of travel in your 20s?  By the time you’re ready and able to explore, your friends will know all the best places to visit or avoid.

Enjoy your you time while you can.  The traveling can wait.

(Full disclosure:  I’m still very much in my 20s, both literally and figuratively.)

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