Thursday 13 March 2014

Travel when young

There's a Chinese saying that travelling 10,000 miles can be more illuminating than reading 10,000 books.

Do it when you are young. 

School vacations or after graduation are the best times to do so.

If you do not have time at this age, pray tell when you will have time when you are running on the treadmill? After marriage with kids?

Even better if you don't have much money! You will discover how resourceful you are when it comes to raising funds (this skill-set may come useful in later life).

Do it the back-backer way - not package tours. The kind where you arrange your own tickets and hostel bookings, use public transport, eat out at road side stalls or cheap cafes.

If you have a silver spoon in your mouth, try it see to how long you can survive on your own for the fun of it! Nothing wrong in discovering you are your daddy's boy or girl forever... And banish the thought of being your own man or woman for you are not.

I should be talking. Did I travel when I were young?


And I wasn't thinking about retirement when I started work at 16. People like us with no silver spoons in our mouths were too busy making a living to worry about retirement!

It's good to start early when it comes to financial planning; but not at the expense of youth!

Money lost can be re-earned. Youth lost is forever gone.

I am now making up for lost time. But somethings are not the same when it's done at 18 and at 40. Trust me. 

OK, maybe don't. Go ask your parents or other elderly relatives.

I was so proud of myself when I took public transport as in bus from the airport to my hostel at Romania, Bucharest. That experience encouraged me to do the same at Bulgaria, Sofia.

Remember, can't read a single word, and the drivers don't speak English. I was in my early 40s and was in my 2nd tour of duty working overseas, so nothing much to celebrate here. But as a sheltered (big daddy takes care of everything) Singaporean? Woo hoo!

So imagine how impressed I was with those 18 year old vacationing students I met in Bucharest and Sofia! 

There's something to be said about young French girls... Ah, how I wished I were young again. So fun to see the Italian and American boys trying to chat up the two French girls staying at the same dorm with me. I should be so lucky!

What's the point of travelling young again?

If travelling alone, you may discover whether you can function without rules and order. If you can't, you may want to work for big daddy or MNCs where there are protocols, standard operational procedures and guidelines and all. Start-ups and SMEs are not for you.

If travelling in a group, you may discover whether you are more of a leader or follower. Good at working in a group or better doing it alone. Whether you are a contributing group member or just a free-loader. Again, this helps in your choice of job speciality? No?

If travelling with boyfriend or girlfriend, you may discover what traits you definitely not want in your future husband or wife. When it's better to remain as lovers, and when to put a ring on her.
You interested in a whining boyfriend? How about that girlfriend who die die must visit Disneyland never mind you are running a high fever?

Travelling is self-discovery.

If you understand yourself more, a better job fit, a better relationship, who knows? Better at financial decisions tailor-made to our personality?  

If we are happier, than the journey towards financial freedom is one of achievement, and not about "escape".

Don't worry if you can't comprehend the difference between journey to achieve and journey to escape now.

All in due time.



  1. Probably why more students going for Exchange Program cum excuse for traveling.

    Already there why not extend for another 1-2 months to travel.

    1. CW,


      I always encourage my junior colleagues to extend their business trips - especially in Europe.

      The main cost of long haul air tickets were already paid for by "ah kong" (company for those weak in Hokkien).

      The side trips by train or plane are quite affordable.

      So your daughter got come back with French boyfriend?

      Ah! Paris is quite romantic. Not very clean at the parks though... Dog pooh everywhere.

      That's the city where I discovered speaking England is a minus. I switch to "bonjour" and "wee" followed by Mandarin to get better service.

      The French love free spending Mainland Chinese tourists ;)

  2. When young, we have energy and time, but not enough money.

    When working at our prime, we have money and energy but not enough time.

    When old, we have money and time, but not enough energy.

    Can't remember who said this, choose your best combi

    1. sillyinvestor,


      It's good to instill financial literacy in our young; but we should be mindful we don't produce tightwads, scrooges, and kiam siap guis...

      Man afraid of entering into "wrong" profession; woman afraid of marrying "wrong" man.

      Get these 2 right, "retirement" will take care of itself.

  3. Hi SMOL

    Ahh speaking of this, im going for a business exchange mission to spain in october later for my school module. Gonna be fun.

    If I were still single, I would have taken the japan and korea route also to stay there for a semester. Im not afraid of getting lost, just worried getting lost in youth and life.

    1. B,


      Water too pure is bad for our body ;)

      Have fun in Spain!

      Eh... Since you are married, smoke only; don't inhale ;)


  4. In youth, most of the time is travelling to 'escape'.
    When young, not travelling is often due to lack of $$ but when old, it became got $$ but no energy. Irony of life.

  5. I need a job that allows me on business trips hurhur..

    1. Rainbow girl,

      Strategically place overseas trade fairs and conventions info at your boss' desk ;)

      Of course this trick only works if your boss can't function without you -
      you are the shadow powerpoint/speech writer, IT help desk, sounding board, girl friday, etc...

      I was the entourage until my boss got sick of travelling and sent me instead. Ah... Those man-whore days...

      By the way, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia don't require a lot of money and just nice for weekend getaways ;)

  6. Abit of the YOLO philosophy at work here? =0

    But then no regrets for spending thousands for a student exchange program 5 years ago! Sweet memories...

    1. Stoical Keynes,

      Good for you! You got your priorities right :)

      There will be some who will rebuke how silly of you to "waste" that few thousands... If saved and invested at 5% compounded for 30 years... look how much you have thrown away!!!???

      Some things, when done young and when money is tight, can be much sweeter.

      I remember the bitter sweet days when I had to work OT for several weeks in order to buy her a present and eat out at a better restaurant...

      Now it's hard to recapture that feeling.

      The irony of life. Things too easily achieved has less joy.

  7. Hello SMOL
    Does age matter? Maybe all we need is just innocent light curiosity & interest in life. Cynicism is probably the only thing that separates between being 16 and 36. Words of a late bloomer (not in travelling but other aspects).
    Happy travelling!

  8. The first time that I went farther than JB was during NS block leave at 20 yrs old.

    Mountain tortoise for 20 long years.


    1. CW,

      Life is fair.

      You got 10 baggers; I don't :(

      My passport got more exotic rubber stamps; you less :)

      You got lovely family with ah boy and girl; I on sale no body buy :(

      I single can still go havoc; you married worried about being caught :)

      Balance :)


  9. Ah plumerainbow, the wanderlust girl!

    Age DOES NOT matter when it comes to the human spirit.

    When I travel, I am a 18 year wide-eyed innocent when I come across something NEW...

    But that adrenalin rush is getting harder and harder to experience as the more I travel and see, the less that is "new". (Hmm, is that why men have affairs? Slap!)

    You are right, I am ever mindful when cynicism raises its ugly head... That's why its fun to mingle with the young ;)

    Age DOES matter when it comes to the body :(

    As a city walker, I now require more pit-stops, more conscious not to over strain my knees and heels, cannot sleep too late, and this one hurts the ego most - I now have to lift my glasses to read the labels!!!??? Argh!!!!

    Mom laughs at me when I come back after standing 8 hours during the weekends. My feet "sakit" (pain)!


  10. Hi SMOL,

    This really touch a nerve in my heart. I wanna travel but I'm always telling myself that I can't afford it or maybe I'm simply using it as an excuse not to step out of my comfort zone. Business trips would be a great start but my company has this few and far between.

    Your post has re-inspire me. I will set a solo trip as a must have next year. I will be 35. Hope I'm not too old.

    Thanks Bro.

    1. Derek,

      Solo trip at 35 will be different from at 55 ;)

      Biggest difference? Fear of stairs. LOL!

      Pay our own way also boleh. Especially with budget airlines, hostels, etc.

      First time I stayed at hostel was in Rome. So worried how to fit in with the youngsters and sharing dorm with 7 other strangers...

      Ai yeah! Then discover it's like BMT days sleeping together with one section of fellow recruits.

      The oldest back-packer I met was a 70 plus UK ex-seaman - half drunk most of the time. I not the oldest!


    2. I would like to back pack but by the end of the day, I like to check into a luxury hotel to rest my tired legs. Wait, is that still considered backpacking? I would still be carrying a back pack though. LoL.

    3. See? Affordability is not the issue here ;)

      Just as long you happy, who cares 5 stars or bunk-beds?


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