It seems that in the days of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) driven by ever accessible social media, the “travel bug” is one of the most common illnesses to catch. Seeing pictures of beautiful places around the world that you have never visited have a bigger impact than many could imagine. Many studies have connected the travel bug to dopamine (the bodies’ “feel good” chemical) levels in our bodies. According to one study, traveling evokes feelings to that of when you take risks. Humans crave the feeling dopamine gives us, so it only makes sense that traveling gives us such a rush.
64% of people in the United States have never left this country. Many say that this can be attributed to a lack of days off of work, the high cost of many aspects of travel (airfare, lodging, attractions), and just a simple lack of motivation to put in the work that comes with planning travel. This statistic is a sad one, for the benefits of travel are bountiful. One excursion alone can help keep the mind sharp by the new experiences you are introduced to; it can increase your connectedness with the world outside of your day-to-day bubble. As much as people like to think the world revolves around their lives (especially those of us in the United States…), there are a host of people different from you outside of your home that you can learn and grow from. Travel can even benefit your physical health. 89% of people on vacation agreed that they could let go of their stress and simply relax after only a day at their destination. The benefits of travel are ones that are lifelong.
Teens are in a peculiar situation here. Many teens do not work, with school and other commitments preventing a job, so throw lack of days off out of the window. Even with the teens that do work, a staggering 24% of people in the United States who earn at or below the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) are teens between the ages of 16 and 19, so the chance that teens could put any portion of their paycheck towards a nice vacation is slim.
But would teens benefit from travel? Teens are arguably more stressed out now than ever: even more stressed out than adults.
Now more than ever in the world of international commerce and technology, teens need a worldwide perspective to be the next generation of thinkers and leaders.
Coming from a collectivist viewpoint, we cannot have sheltered people entering the workforce, without having been exposed to a lifestyle outside of their own. Traveling increases workplace productivity and bolsters the economy.
All of this information begs the question: What can us teens do to stifle the travel bug and prepare us for a more worldly viewpoint?
The short answer is not too much. Young people can explore the place that they live, which can offer a surprisingly eye-opening experience, especially if you live in a city that’s backbone is in its neighborhoods (e.g., Chicago, Philadelphia, and much more). You can become as culturally aware as possible through research: reading travel blogs, watching travel YouTube videos, listening to stories of people describing their cultures.
But until society starts to realize the importance and need of youth travel, I guess we’ll just have to sweat out the travel bug for a few years longer.