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5 Reasons Why Young Asians Should Travel Now


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Here’s a sad fact: Young Asians don’t travel as much their Western counterparts. And by travel, I don’t mean 3-day city trips or Europe-in-a-week tour packages. Those don’t count.

By say travel, I mean adventure backpacking—staying for an extended period, living like the locals, exploring the back alleys, and truly experiencing the rhythm of a place. So many young Asians join tour groups to take selfies in front of landmarks, but only a handful truly travel.

Perhaps it’s cultural. We are conditioned to fear what we do not know. It’s not safe, you’ll hear your mother say. Travel is dangerous. You have to stay in a five-star hotel. You can’t go alone. Asians grow up with an irrational fear of the road less taken. Our misconceptions keep us at home.

Money is another issue. Taking off for a month to travel means abandoning the responsibilities many feel for their parents or larger families. And tragically, even those who have some disposable income choose to stay exactly where they are, spending instead on a new iPhones and or a daily Starbucks fix.

I’m one of the rare Asians who spent their 20’s travelling the world. A huge chunk of my savings went to plane tickets, hostels, and the occasional tacky souvenir. I never bought the latest gadgets or front-row seats to anything—but I’ve experienced a bullfight in Madrid, camped on the Sahara, climbed Mount Kinabalu, gotten lost in Paris. Getting scammed in Bangkok? Check. Food poisoning in Sri Lanka? Check. My trusty travel bag and I have been to over 50 cities and towns, and I am still travelling.

If you’re a young Asian, I recommend you do the same. Now is the best time to go on an adventure. Here’s why:

1. You can still afford it.

When you’re in your 20’s, your body can take the beating of backpacking. You can survive on cheap street food. You can handle that overnight bus ride and lumpy hostel bed. And with all the budget airlines competing for your attention, you can now get flights for less than the price of a GoPro.

Being young also means having less job and family constraints. Blow your life savings on a trip around the world—so what? This is a freedom you won’t have when you’re 40 and sending your kids to private school. Right now, the only baggage you have is your backpack. Take advantage!

2. Travel makes you cooler.

If you are like me, you probably grew up in a middle-class Asian town without much diversity. Everyone looked and acted the same, and certain behaviours were expected. The problem with these confined societies is that they produce ignorant bigots, and you have to get out once in a while to save yourself.

Travel makes you more than just educated—it makes you cultured and infinitely cooler. You might have learned art in university, but standing next to a Kandinsky is something else. You might have taken a few Español courses, but you’ll only truly master the lisp in Northern Spain. You might have read about the empires of Asia, but have you seem Angkor Wat?

3. Travel makes you humbler.

Right now, you are young and arrogant. But worry not—travel will fix you.

Standing on top of a mountain or lost in the Marrakech medina, you’ll realize your triviality. That’s right, newbie—the world will go on without you! This humility is hard to achieve when you’re stuck in your office cubicle, basking in your know-it-all bubble.

There is nothing like travel to demonstrate your insignificance in the bigger scheme of things. It strips off any prejudice you might have developed and compels you to be more open-minded about other ways of life. By showing you the enormity of this planet and the billions of people you are sharing it with, travelling makes you a little less self-absorbed.

4. Travel gives you confidence.

While it humbles you, being in another country on your own can also be incredibly empowering. You suddenly see yourself doing things you never thought you could, whether that’s driving on the left side of twisty mountain road or walking around Colombo at night. Backpacking puts you face to face with people who are nothing like you, and in situations that you’ve never had to deal with before.

And you know what? You will survive. You will learn to savour experiences that are outside your comfort zone, and you will come home more confident that you can endure whatever life hurls your way.

5. You might never be able to travel again—so do it now.

A lot of young Asians put off travelling because they want to work hard, get married, buy a house, have kids, and see the world when they retire. But this plan will only work if you live long enough to enjoy a healthy, financially-secure retirement.

If something happens and you don’t live to see your sixties, what then? No one is guaranteed old age. There is no better time than now to see this gorgeous planet, while you can.

So to you, young Asian, I suggest travel.

Travel far and wide.

Do it boldly, with full abandon.

Because you will not always be young. And your future won’t always be about you.

Go on that journey. You don’t have to shoot too far. Start backpacking around Southeast Asia and make your way to other continents.

Become a person of adventure, culture, and compassion. The world has more beauty than you can ever see in your lifetime—and the younger your start, the more you’ll cover.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ingrid Cudia is editor of She travels the world with one carry-on and a laptop. Follow her here.

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