Becoming a father for me, like all parents, was a life changing moment. There is nothing that can prepare you for the first time leaving the hospital as you seemingly feel like you’ve been thrown into the wild with no supplies or knowledge of how to survive. Even something as simple as putting them into a car seat is foreign ground. You can’t help but laugh as the first thing that comes to mind is.... what do we do now?
Aside from all the obvious reasons, the part of parenting that I found hardest to comprehend was the notion that you could raise a child to hold any belief system, speak any language, enjoy any past times and basically influence every part of their personality and behaviour. This one life changing realisation that my attitudes and actions now are no longer just a reflection of me, changed me for the better
Our children are born a blank canvas. They have two natural fears from birth, the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. They have no care for their appearance, what clothes they wear, how they smell or even how bad you smell. They have no care for what’s happening tomorrow nor for what happened yesterday, they live in the present moment only seeking happiness and new experiences, curious about everything that’s presented in front of them and most importantly they have a complete and utter unconditional love for anyone that plays some part in their life. Everything else is a learned behaviour with everything and everyone that surrounds them, moulding their values, fears, attitudes, personality, likes and dislikes. Conscious of the fact that my daughter will ultimately make her own decisions and choose her own path I still wonder how could I best guide her to be happiest and what do I wish someone told me when I was growing up
Now just over 2 years into parenting I am no longer too worried about making mistakes as I very quickly learned that we are not all perfect, but we can wake up every day with the knowledge that there is opportunity for growth in any situation good or bad. I also learned that kids ‘don’t break’. They fall over, hurt themselves, get sick, eat dirt and do things that we don’t want them to do. I do however really think that these failures and mistakes are the best way for anyone to learn.
I caught my travel bug in 2009. I was 22, quite a late start for my first overseas trip for most these days. It was to Fiji where they spoke a different language, have different customs and the landscape was worlds apart. Seeing a completely different culture for the first time opened my eyes to how much more is outside the very small box that was my home. I was instantly hooked, not only was it an enriching life experience, it was just a bloody good time.
Since then I've seen Full moon parties in Thailand, Climbed mountains at sunrise in Bali, had cocktails on the beach in the Bahamas, chased music festivals across the USA, Christmas in New York, New Years in Times Square, drank steins at the beer gardens in Munich, Smoked weed in Amsterdam, Gambled in Vegas, backpacked solo through Hungary, had a picnic at the Eiffel Tower and even went through Italy with my wife and a Toddler. Its not all been amazing, I've fallen off scooters, Lost my Luggage in Brussels, had Bali belly on a plane, got stuck in an airport for 19 hours, and ran out of money several times. All of these experiences good and bad have given me invaluable treasured memories as well as an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for how lucky I am to have had the chance to do it. Still even though I have been able to do all of this and will continue to do for the rest of my life, I still have the regret that I didn't take a gap year to explore the world without the shackles work schedule or holidays available
I often hear the argument made that you can always travel when you get older, which is obviously true. But for me that’s the exact reason you should travel before beginning a career, because the reality is you do always have the option to travel as you get older, that will never change. You also do always have the opportunity to start a career and you don't need to begin straight away. I myself didn’t find mine until I was 32 (15 years after I left High School) 87% of people don’t love their job regardless so chances are you would be forgoing a trip of growth, education and experience to do a job you don’t like anyway.
But once you pass up on the opportunity to travel without attachment, the stress of financial burden, without study, bills and mortgage or with a lack of responsibilities and dependants in your late teens/early 20’s you’ve missed your chance and can never get that time again. Sure you could hit up Ibiza if you are 40 and looking for a party, yes you could have a great time but you'll stand out like a sore thumb and you'll still be left thinking why didn't I do this when I was young. Also its inevitable that just like you grow less attached to drinking and clubbing with age you will seek less of the party destinations and more of the adventure side. I'm not saying one or the other is better but travelling at any age, solo, to party, for adventure, with friends, spouse and with kids all offer new and differing experiences and to miss out on one of these is to throw away an opportunity that will never present itself again. I myself now get sick at the thought of spending 2 weeks in Thailand with the lads, out until the early hours of the morning every night only to get up and do it all again, but its an experience I am glad I had.....many times
A gap year or even three, where you can live in another country, try different jobs, stay in hostels and try things you haven't done before brings a wealth of experiences and will give you time to think, helping you realise what you do like and don't like. You may be able to make a choice more in line with what you want, instead of rushing into a decision. You don't need to be in a rush to start the 'serious' side of life, you have another 70 years for that.
As my daughter starts to see the world, she will make mistakes of her own to help her learn from but until she can start doing it herself, I can only give her the advise I wish someone told me. One of my favourite sayings is ‘the world is a book and those that don’t travel read only one page’ for me travel is an investment in yourself. Its said that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, not in material wealth but it gives back with invaluable experiences, knowledge, lessons and a perspective that makes you far better for it. For those that don’t see the world and all it has to offer you are experiencing but a fraction of life’s gift.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did" - Mark Twain