#ESSADebate – Youth Travel

Julia Pham and Justin Liu


September 22nd, 2017

It’s no secret that Millennials love to travel and explore the world. But given the budget constraints of the average twenty-something year old, is it really the wisest hobby to indulge in? Julia Pham and Justin Liu battle it out in an #ESSADebate on whether you should pack your bags, or stay put. Have a read, and then vote for your favourite in our poll below!

Julia Pham

What’s wrong with spending your hard-earned money on something you enjoy?

This semester I’ve crammed before tests, pulled all-nighters and managed to go to four parties without repeating an outfit. Are you telling me that after all of that hard work I don’t deserve a little break?

Travel is a way to de-stress, rejuvenate and get some me time. It’s a nice opportunity to get away from the humdrum of Melbourne, uni and experience something new.

Sure, I could just spend that time at home, going through Netflix and tagging my friends in memes. But there’s more to life than memes. Life is about personal development, constant improvement and becoming a better person. And a good way to do that is through travel.

Sick of internet commenters telling you to get out of your bubble? Get out and explore the world. Enjoy unfamiliarity. Expand your horizons. A few weeks in New York or a semester abroad in London is sure to introduce you to cultures other than our own. Come back from India with some henna on your hands. Or get back from South America with a cute pair of headphones and penchant for loose-fitting clothing. Engaging with the local culture can force you to challenge your own assumptions and expose yourself to new perspectives.

Travel gets you out of your comfort zone and helps you to learn and discover things about yourself. Meeting people with different backgrounds, life experiences and political viewpoints can be transformative and make you a more open-minded individual. Speaking from personal experience, the culture shock I encountered in regional Queensland is something I never would have experienced had I just stayed at home in Melbourne.

It’s easy to dismiss travel as a vapid pursuit, personal growth that money can buy. Op-eds in major newspapers chastise Millennials for not putting enough aside for medical emergencies, houses and a comfortable lifestyle for future progeny. Bernard Salt, pot-stirrer and human briquette, has criticised young people for treating themselves and posting images of themselves in Bali on social media. But clearly Salt has not considered changing priorities, disillusionment with the decisions of Baby Boomers and scepticism that government policy has young people’s best interests at heart. He has also never heard of Tigerair’s return flights starting from $1 sale.

I’m not saying you should live like you’re an Instagram Influencer or a presenter on Getaway. I’m just saying there’s nothing wrong with leaving home for a bit and spending your hard-earned money how you want.

Also, travel pics are really good at getting likes.


Justin Liu

Let’s quickly review the merits of travelling: a whole bunch of likes on your Instagram shots, and artistic license to wear that wide floppy brimmed hat while whispering “Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer”.

Other than that – what else is there?

Money is a scarce resource, and especially in our university years, is exceedingly onerous to require. It would make sense that following on from here, conserving the amount of money saved is preferred to spending it without regard, or in the event that it is spent, it is done so in a prudent manner.

I’m going to be upfront here, and concede that travelling is an amazing experience. There’s a potential to better yourself, and the opportunity to create life-changing experiences. But do you know what else is also a life-changing experience? Being involved in a serious accident, and being no longer able to work. Add medical bills on top of that. And rising costs of living. Add in other unexpected costs. Running around life with no safety net at all is technically living life on the edge, but we shouldn’t celebrate it in this form.

Let’s say you are fortunate enough to never need to withdraw savings for emergency reasons. If you were adding $200 a month into an account that returned 8% a year in gains (which is quite realistic when invested in the stock market), and did so for 45 years (which is also a realistic timeframe in when to retire), you would end up with over $1,000,000. This is not “doing it wrong”. We also wouldn’t be talking about Australian personal finance if we didn’t bring up ballooning property prices and the seeming inevitability of owning a house (and being able to eat avocado toast). While it is certainly difficult to reach such a goal, is the correct response to give up entirely?

A reasonable critique of this expectation to save is that young people do not have the margin in which to save. Rising costs of living and other assorted fees mean that many students live paycheck-to-paycheck, and setting long-term goals for saving and allocating funds to savings is a nigh impossible task. It is unfortunate if someone is in this situation, but it is also difficult to rationalise why an individual would choose to travel if their financial situation is unstable to begin with.

What this really comes down to isn’t advocating for living like a miser. Nor is it advocating for you to spend every cent you have living your life to the fullest. As always, there is a balance for what works out for you, and strangers on the Internet should not have any say in what that is. Make no mistake, in most situations, “long-term gain for short term pain” most definitely applies, especially when considering compound interest. However, it’s important to still have fun in life – otherwise what are you saving for? Have a think about it next time you skip brunch or going to the movies, or when you buy those next plane tickets.





#ESSADebate – Who was your winner?

Julia Pham
Justin Liu

The views expressed within this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of the ESSA Committee or the Society's sponsors. Use of any content from this article should clearly attribute the work to the author and not to ESSA or its sponsors.

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