The Story Behind Millennials on a Mission
Almost every single day, I’m faced with some sort of negative sentiment regarding my generation. It’s usually something along the lines of: millennials are lazy, millennials are reckless, millennials are irresponsible, or millennials are ruining the world. There’s an ever-growing stigma that surrounds us, and a large population that doesn’t understand us. But the beauty of my generation, is that we’ve never cared about what others think.
The trajectory of our lives may not follow a traditional path, and our decisions might vary from generations before, but we believe in pursuing our passions and finding fulfillment in our own ways. We’re the go-getters, the groundbreakers and the difference makers writing the rules for our own lives.
My new series “Millennials on a Mission” will highlight those millennials that are taking risks, pursuing their dreams and proving that life doesn’t have to be lived one way. Sure, we might be a little unconventional, and to some that might seem reckless, but we’re just trying to live our lives the only way we know how.
Meet Meagan, a Millennial Solo Traveler
Meagan realized her dream to see the world when her stale, suburban existence began to define her. She wanted to lead an interesting life, but was playing it safe. The stability was swallowing her whole, and she needed an escape. When the internal struggle to see and experience something more became too much to ignore, she became determined to find a way out of her rut. “Traveling had been on my mind for a while. I needed something exciting in my life but I also wanted to travel with a purpose.” The then 26-year-old knew time was of the essence so deciding to take a solo trip before her 27th birthday made total sense. “I knew that my friends wouldn’t be able to get as much time off as I could, or wouldn’t be able to afford it but I didn’t want to wait because I knew if I didn’t do it now, I might never have the chance.” There was just one problem with her timeline; she had a full-time job and only one week of vacation available before her birthday. She knew this was the last thing in her way before she could officially commit to the trip of a lifetime, so she mustered up the courage to talk to her boss. Even though her company’s employee handbook mentioned a 30-day leave option for employees, she wasn’t convinced that her circumstance would qualify her for it. Much to her surprise, her manager obliged to her bold request. “I was lucky enough to work for a company that allows personal leaves of absence, and was even luckier to have a boss that approved of my request. Not everyone has this luxury, but for those that do, I recommend taking advantage of it. Although it was unpaid, my leave allowed me to travel for 30 days and still return home with a job so that was completely worth it for me.”
After the astonishment of receiving an approved leave from work wore off, she knew it was time to break the news to her friends, family and coworkers. “Many of the older adults like my parents and bosses were skeptical to say the least. My parents thought it would be dangerous to go alone and wanted me to find someone to go with. One of my managers thought I wouldn’t return because I’d be either kidnapped or killed.” But Meagan wasn’t backing down. She also had the support of her friends. “Luckily, most of my friends were excited to hear about my trip. I knew a few people that had traveled solo and they had only good things to say about it, so that helped.”
After four months of planning, Meagan embarked on a three and a half week solo trip this past August. Her travel adventures led her to six countries on three different continents, and provided her with a phenomenal opportunity to learn more about herself and the world around her. Now that she’s returned home and had some time to adjust to the time change (which took way longer than she expected), she’s reflected on her experience, and is ready to share her insights with others that are contemplating a trip like hers. Her key message in all of this? The trip was completely worth it.
Read about Meagan’s trip in the Q&A below.
H: Where did you travel to and what was your travel itinerary?
M: I spent my trip in 6 countries including the U.S., Canada, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Indonesia. My main stops were in Africa and Indonesia, but I did have shorter stops in other locations and took various connecting flights.
I first departed from Los Angeles and then flew to Buffalo. After landing in Buffalo, I ordered an Uber to Niagara Falls where I stayed for two nights. My hostel was on the U.S. side but I walked over the border into Canada while I was there. After my time in Niagara, I was headed to Zambia, but I had to take multiple connecting flights to get there. I flew out of Buffalo, landed in Jamaica, New York, then flew to South Africa, and eventually landed in Zambia. At the end of my stay, I headed to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and did a safari in Botswana. After Africa, I took many connecting flights and finally landed in Bali, Indonesia. I was in Bali for 5 days.
H: How hard was it to plan a trip to multiple continents?
M: It had its challenges mainly due to the distances and the time changes. I was already set on which countries I wanted to go to, I knew I had to keep my trip within 30 days due to work and I wanted to spend wisely on my flights. My first challenge was to determine the order of my destinations, how long to be in each place, what the cheapest days to fly were, etc. Then I needed to prioritize what activities I wanted to do and accept that I couldn’t see everything I originally wanted to see. From this trip, I learned what to do and what not to do….so now I’m ready to plan an even better trip!
H: Can you share with me some of your main expenses so others can gauge how much they might need to save if they want to take a three- to four-week solo trip?
M: The total expenses for a solo trip definitely depend on which countries you go to and how many activities you choose to do. I intentionally traveled to countries that are known for being on the cheaper side. I also attempted to spend wisely by walking to places as much as I could and buying food at the grocery store so I wouldn’t eat out at restaurants as much. I also tried to pick hostels that offered free breakfast and/or had a kitchen to help with food costs. To be more specific, here’s a general breakdown of my main expenses over the course of three weeks:
Flights: $4050 to go from California to New York to Zambia to Bali to Cambodia to California
Niagara Falls Hostel (2 nights): $31/night
Transportation: I walked everywhere. I only needed transportation to and from the airport, which was roughly $50 each way for an Uber.
Food: $30/day, the area is slightly expensive
Zambia Hostel (3 nights): $18/night
Visas: $110 (to cross into Zimbabwe and Botswana)
Food: I was fed all meals while at the volunteer house, so I only spent money when I went out. I spent roughly $50 on food/drinks during the time I was there.
Transportation: the volunteers would usually go out together every night and split a taxi, which was around $3/person each time.
Bali Hostel (5 nights): $15/night
Food: the hostel provided free (and delicious) breakfast. I made pb&j sandwiches for lunch every day and only allowed myself to go out for dinner. I probably spent maybe $10/day on food.
Transportation: the taxi to and from the airport was expensive, at $25 each way. I walked every day, but for activities that were further, I took a taxi bike for around $15 twice.
Activities: $15, very cheap here
Shopping: $100, I can’t help myself
H: What was the most frustrating part of your trip?
M: The flights!! And time changes. I had 11 flights during this trip so you can imagine the headache when one is delayed or cancelled, which happened a few times. I had some long layovers where I stayed at the airport, and with the time changes I was always tired but had trouble sleeping on the planes. For my next trip, I’m sticking to a general area instead of picking countries so far apart and in different time zones.
H: What was the best part of your trip?
M: First, the volunteer project in Zambia. I’ve never volunteered before, but I’m so glad I did and I can’t wait to do it again. I got to explore a new country, meet people from all over the world and help build a school….it doesn’t get much better than that. Traveling this way immerses you into another culture, and requires you to live more like a local than a tourist. I may not have had a hot shower the entire time I was there, but it didn’t matter. Eating traditional food every day, walking to my placement, playing with the kids at school, and spending time with other volunteers made my trip better than I could have ever imagined.
Second, the people I met. Everyone was so friendly. It’s fascinating to meet people from other countries and realize that we’re really no different, besides maybe our accents. I met new people everywhere I went, especially in the hostels I stayed in. Many others were solo travelers too and I enjoyed hearing their stories of where they’ve been and where they’re going. I was also able to go out with the people I met and had an amazing time, so this helped make my solo trip not so solo.
H: What things should someone consider before taking a solo trip?
M: Nothing. Just do it.
If you want to meet people along the way, I highly recommend staying in hostels. You’ll have the opportunity to meet other solo travelers or like-minded travelers in a great environment. Some may be skeptical of sharing a room with strangers, but this was never an issue for me.
Also have an open mind. Try new things. Don’t have every day planned. You don’t know who you’re gonna meet, or what you may feel like doing when you wake up in the morning, and that’s the beauty of this kind of trip.
Meagan took the trip of a lifetime and you can too! If you have travel questions for Meagan or need advice about traveling solo, comment below!