The ‘American’ dream is to go to a good school that qualifies you to have a good paying job, which allows you to buy lots of things and eventually send your kids to a good school. It is a pattern that many people follow with their life, and being educated is very important however millennials are beginning to view their futures differently. Instead of valuing career over everything, many people are beginning to put their personal happiness as their main goal in life. Young adults are craving a healthy balance between work and play; employees are pushing for more flexible hours. The 9-5 workweek is changing because many jobs can be completed from anywhere in the world as long as there is WiFi. Society in 2017 is a lot different than it was 10 years ago, creating two schools thoughts for millennials when they view how they want to live their life. Is it more important to focus on having a career or to travel?
This generation has been a witness to financial depressions, and debt, creating a gap in the realistic idea of the ‘American’ dream, which has become a lot less appealing for millennials. We have watched our parents and grandparent work hard everyday of their lives yet they have little to nothing to show for it.
As a realistic generation, a lot people see that going to University and starting life off with a crippling amount of debt, is not tempting. But it is almost impossible to find a good paying job without a degree. This predicament forces many students to take out massive loans and then spend years paying it off.
Graduates understand that they will have to pay off their debt, but looking at a future of waking up everyday to pay off loans is mentally and physically draining. Before signing up for an office job, many North Americans I have met abroad share a similar story of wanting to travel before they begin paying back their financial obligations at a full-time job. But this reality does not offer a balance of work and play; it encourages living life to the fullest and paying for it in the future.
‘Travel while you’re young’ is a common phrase used to justify spending every dime in your 20’s. It is a fun, spontaneous, adventurous, and allows travelers to learn who they are and discover more about the world. But is it the best motto to live by? Wouldn’t it just theoretically add to the stress of the debt problem that most people will have during their late 20’s? Yet the argument of ‘travel when you are financially secure’ puts more emphasis on planning for the future, but will unexpected events prevent you from being able to travel? Travelling across South America will be almost impossible to do with a family and will your debt be paid off by the time you are 30 or 40? Life expenses of owning a house and car will add up on top of student loans. Is there really a perfect way to plan out the future?
The entire perspective of people in their 20’s compared to our parents is different because we have a shift in priorities. Now it is important to be unique, creative and to explore the world us. Yet, 30 years ago it was important to settle down quickly, then the focus progressed into having a prestigious career, and currently young adults strive towards personal happiness and not making the same mistakes of the previous generations.
Very rarely is the emphasis on wanting to build a family, now it is more individualistic and is a debate between working full-time or living out the nomadic dream. Instead of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ millennials are busy ‘keeping up with Kardashians’.
Focusing on social media we are more connected to the world. With constant photos of breathtaking places around the globe and by being able to watch people explore, causes the impatient nature of young adults to come alive and work towards their personal discovery. It is also more in style to have a minimalist life and not own a lot of possessions; instead of spending money on things it is more important to spend money on experiences.
The rise of technology is greatly changing whey people are demanding a more flexible lifestyle. Around the world there are communities of people who specialize in freelancing and they are living that ‘balanced’ lifestyle. They are able to set their own hours, live where they want. However, this is not ideal for everyone because there is almost no job security in freelancing, and it is a lot of effort to constantly find new contracts. With technology there is a surge of new jobs available and many millennials do not know what they should do with their careers. Yet technology has given youth insight into changing how they want to live.
A factor that holds a lot of millennials back in the way they see their future is the stigma of not being successful, having an establish career is prestigious while backpacking through France is not. Many young adults have broken away from their parents’ ideas of success, however it is not always easy to drop everything and go travel.
Visiting other countries takes a lot of planning and it is an extremely educational and eye opening experience. When people from the older generations view travel, often they think of hippies or dirty backpackers that have no purpose in life. Yet, it isn’t an accurate description of how millennials explore the world.
As a young adult who values travel over everything, I often have to deal with the stereotypes of being someone who isn’t successful and has no career. That is quite the opposite, I am very lucky and because of my work online I can still work and visit new places at the same time. This gives me a great balance of work and play, which allows me to live my personal wanderlust dream.
In contrast to me, many of my close friends have different priorities and it is important to discuss how other millennials see the world and what they value. One of my close friends is focused on becoming a lawyer; she is constantly working hard in the field of academia to make her goals come true. As I talked to her she shared her opinions about our generation and she said,
“Career is more of a personal goal because it is a thing that will establish the rest of my life, and through that I believe I will be able to travel to places. Plus through work I can meet people to travel with. Or even better, money won’t be an issue! I don’t think a lot of millennials think the same way because a lot of them feel as though travel comes first. Do it while you’re young because of kids and etc. And to be honest I don’t think I have the same priorities as most millennials do! I feel as though this younger generation is trying to find themselves when traveling. The Older generation would mostly go for vacation and ‘travel’ but they are not as open to new cultures. So we will go places that the older generation would not go. We want to explore and meet new people, I think that we are a generation that is not afraid.”
When it comes to the grand topic of the future, millennials often struggle with being able to envision their lives, there are so many factors to consider and suddenly the dreams of being able to travel or have a prosperous career seem unattainable. Within North America, children become students, and then continue to go to school until they find a job that is able to support them, while hoping to pay off loans. Getting trapped into this continuous cycle of what we ‘have’ to do instead of want we ‘want’ to do is exhausting for young adults.
In this whole process, many people are not able to have a balanced lifestyle and end up feeling burned out and tired by the mundane routine of life. Between skyrocketing rent prices, budgeting for groceries, and car payments, there isn’t much time to take personal goals and sanity into account. The secret to having a balanced life is a mix of creativity and thinking outside of the norm. It is important to consider what is your priority because before you know it you have lost the ability to enjoy life.
In summary, millennials view the world differently than the generations before them when it comes to their futures. Both options of either travelling or working first are great ways to spend your 20’s; they will just be very different realities. Each option has pros and cons but the more important aspect is for millennials to be happy no matter what their circumstances are. The complete change of focus and priorities from the Baby Boomers generation before us to our millennial mindset means that we will have very diverse realities than our parents. As long we are willing to embrace the daunting topic of the future, remember to live within our means and be happy with our realities; millennials will endure to be a positive change for society, whether they choose to work or travel first.