Getting to the Heart of Millennial Travel
by - Published February 21
Why meaningful travel speaks to the millennial’s soul
Often, a set of characteristics defines a generation. The Baby Boomer is work-obsessed and materialistic. The Gen Xer grew up with a working mom and TV babysitter. Then there’s the Millennial...and boy, oh boy, does the world have some something to say him.
But we’re not here to touch on media’s favorite topics of how Millennials are “destroying commerce” with cheap spending habits, deflating the population with a preference for fur babies, or even taking on 20 side gigs to make ends meet after piling on crippling student loans. Instead we’ll look at the generational phenomenon of meaningful travel. There’s something the concept that envelops young people in its sweet caresses and gently whispers into their wireless-iPhone-earbud-filled ears, “let’s get out of here.”
Anyone would be crazy to think it’s just the destination, however. Cruises, group tours, and pointless lounging around is for the geezers. Heck, Millennials don’t have time to relax. We’re too busy figuring out how to multitask and save the world. That’s exactly where the meaningful travel comes in.
Take a deep breath. You smell that? It’s the scent of a generation with an insatiable appetite for a purpose-filled life and the perspective that international borders are nothing more than an intangible suggestion. Oops, we should have mentioned that wanderlust is airborne. Gotcha!
Grab a coconut milk latte, take a seat, and let’s have a little chat just why meaningful travel speaks to the Millennial’s soul.
We’re the most educated generation
In a , the Pew Research Center found that 40% of workers of Millennial age held at least a bachelor's degree. Among Baby Boomers, that number hovered around 26% when they were roughly in the same age range back in 1985.
Regardless of the reasons why more and more young people are opting to stay in school longer, additional education means increased exposure to world affairs. No matter your field of study, there are an infinite number of opportunities abroad that help expand your understanding and can give you a competitive edge once you’re out in the workforce.
After spending an entire life surrounded by classroom walls, of course we jump at the opportunity to learn out in the wild by studying, volunteering, or adventuring abroad. Why read women’s healthcare access in Uganda in a textbook, when you can instead be a part of providing it? Enough outdated language textbooks and repetitive role playing dialogues with classmates—try ordering your lunch in Italian instead.
Millennial travel has evolved to fulfill a larger purpose and educates us in a way that no formal institution ever can. That thirst for distant knowledge and the challenge to make sense of it ourselves drives us to look outside our comfort zones. As Albert Einstein said, the only source of knowledge is experience.
We can take on the world with nothing but a WiFi connection
As the professional landscape continues to evolve, so too does the and availability of remote work. Many Millennial characteristics in the workplace perhaps stem directly from the fact that we’re the very first generation to grow up immersed in the internet. Tech savvy, expectant of instant gratification, and ridiculously innovative when it comes to finding work on the web on our own terms are just a few commonly cited traits.
Even if you don’t personally know someone who’s quit their job to travel, dozens of testimonials from Millennial bloggers are scattered throughout every corner of the internet. If you’re wondering how anyone can afford to travel the world on no income as you’re still scratching your head over how to fund meaningful travel, consider the power of WiFi.
Think what percentage of work you can get done over the internet, and it may just explain a bit how small a role physical location plays. Even for longer term Millennial travel, spanning months to a year, homework assignments, bill payments, taxes, and side gigs for extra cash are all just a few clicks away from the comfort of a creaky hostel bunk bed in Prague.
We crave a sense of purpose
In the workplace, we’re known to be job-hopping, fickle employees, oftentimes more obsessed with the value of our work than with the compensation itself. Millennials have set out on an endless pursuit of happiness and balance both professionally and personally, lending to popular lifestyle philosophies like the Norwegian hygge and Swedish lagom. We change our diets to be more environmentally conscious, and applaud companies that provide their employees with free yoga classes throughout the day.
How does meaningful travel fit in? It’s purpose-infused travel! Whether you’re packing your bags to educate orphaned children in Nepal, learn sustainable practices in New Zealand, or expand your educational horizons in Japan, the ultimate goal is something more than just a trek in a foreign country.
Millennial travel fulfills the need for self-betterment and the exploration of the unknown. Knowing that a volunteer trip helps others in the end, for example, makes it a no-brainer over a bland one week tour through South Africa.
We’re more globally-minded now than ever
The interesting thing meaningful travel is that one doesn’t actually have to leave their community at all in order to find it. Volunteering at a local shelter and taking courses at the college right around the block can get you the same level of fulfillment. So why is it that meaningful travel, which has no hint of “abroad” in its name, usually translates to international experiences?
“The world is your oyster” isn’t just a cliche saying. International boundaries have been increasingly fading, and the sheer amount of diversity that the Millennial generation grew up with may be responsible. As America continues to shift to being a “,” so do attitudes and norms. Being different isn’t weird or eyebrow raising, it’s just a part of humanity. Having shared classrooms with a colorful mix of nationalities, ethnicities, and religions, we hardly bat an eye at the prospect of stepping out into foreign territory.
With the internet as our life guru, any cultural oddity, ritual, or bizarre cuisine from abroad is hardly a secret. Whereas earlier, life on the other side of our country’s border remained shrouded in mystery, today we have quite literally an unlimited number of virtual resources to prepare anyone for meaningful travel abroad. Blogs, videos, expert articles, program provider websites, and forums are just the tip of the iceberg.
We prize intangible value over materialism
How noble is the backpacker, for he has forgone material possessions in the name of experiences. He has transcended above us mortals to travel with his life belongings strapped onto his back, brushing off a car or dresser full of clothes as unnecessary trifles. His home is the world and his friends are yet to be met at the next destination.
The backpacker is a bit of an extreme case, but numbers don’t lie. How Millennials spend their money is defined by experiences, not stuff. This means we’re dishing out more on concerts, a nice dinner out, or meaningful travel, and less on clothes and nicknacks. Millennial spending habits are living our best lives through experiences that become treasured memories.
If life’s necessities can fit into a suitcase or two, then meaningful travel is already tailored to our needs. There’s something exhilarating the challenge of squeezing months’ worth of belongings into a little bag. It’s a welcome invitation to narrow down what really matters—all into a small handheld compartment.
Why wait until retirement (because it may not even happen)
Just as avocado was made for toast, meaningful travel was made for the Millennial generation. Let’s rediscover the childhood joy of exploring a whole new world, make a difference during our lifetimes, and challenge our understanding of the norm. As much as we like to generalize entire generations, there’s one thing that no article or news outlet can ever make sweeping assumptions : your individual travel experience.
Meaningful travel = the Millennials’ rite of passage
Millennial travel is the distinguishing factor that sets you apart from your peers, gives your resume a special sparkle, and serves as the underlying inspiration for the rest of your days. In a few years, you may find yourself sitting by the fireplace telling wild stories of your international shenanigans to your great, great grand-dogs...
The days you fearlessly splashed with elephants in a Thai wildlife sanctuary,
The smiles of countless children as you sung pop songs together in South Korea,
Or the microfinance system you helped implement in a Costa Rican village that created entrepreneurs…
No matter where your life leads and what great professional mountains you climb, it’s these timeless, distant memories that will forever hold tight onto your heart, as with countless others in our generation.