Oh, to be 21 again. It's something that feels like both yesterday and 5,000 years ago depending on the day and how old I'm feeling. At the time I turned 21, I was a bright-eyed junior in college studying abroad in Accra, Ghana for the semester. The travel bug had already bitten, though wasn't yet in full force. But I was adventurous enough and loved travel enough to head to West Africa for five months, where I had one of the best experiences of my life and met people who I am fortunate to still call friends today.
I'm still strong-willed, I still think I know more than I actually do and I still have that itch to see more.
I then followed up my five months in Ghana with a summer study abroad stint in Paris, where I once again had an amazing time and met lifelong friends.
At 21, I was strong-willed, thought I knew more than I actually do and, at times, made questionable choices, though I was a mostly responsible young adult who just always had an itch to see more. Some of this has changed, most hasn't. I'm still strong-willed, I still think I know more than I actually do and I still have that itch to see more.
Now that I'm older, I look back at my 21-year-old self with some clear thoughts on the advice I would give on various aspects of life, including travel. Some of that advice relates to my travel regrets that have arisen over the years. Some of the advice is just things I wish I knew then. So, here it is, my 12 pieces of travel advice for my 21-year-old self:
1. Try to study abroad one more time before you graduate. Yes, you will study abroad for a semester and a summer, and that's much more than many college students do, but you'll regret not having done it as much as you could after you graduate.
2. Say yes to more travel opportunities, as long as you can afford it and it's not anything outlandish. Go to Giverny with your Paris study abroad class and don't stay home because you're tired. You can sleep later.
3. Keep writing more about your travels. It will come in handy one day and you'll be glad you have something to look back on.
4. Try the food. You won't die and you'll be experiencing something unique to a culture.
5. On a related note, do NOT eat food hours after it's been sitting out, especially that egg sandwich in Tamale, Ghana. It will come back to haunt you (and hurt you) in a big way.
6. Meet as many different people as you can. It will change your perspective and you'll make some more friends along the way.
7. Know that some people you meet as you travel are there at that moment for a reason. It may not last forever, but that's okay.
8. Always trust your gut, especially when traveling by yourself. When something feels wrong, it likely is.
9. Do your travel research. Travel doesn't have to be expensive or huge, and FYI you could've gotten that flight for half the price you paid.
10. Start earning those travel points and miles ASAP! Sign up for loyalty programs now.
11. Once you start working, don't let your full-time job stop you from traveling. Take more advantage of holidays, long weekends and those 10 precious annual vacation days.
12. Never lose your hunger to explore the world. Life is short and precious. You will stress over many things as you navigate your 20s but know that we only have one life to live, so we better make the best of it.
Do you have any travel advice for your 21-year-old self?