Millennials choose travel over promotions and paying off debt

Angle down icon An icon in the shape of an angle pointing down. Two travel content creators are helping millennials not feel so guilty about investing in their own happiness. Carissa Boston; Alexa West; Alyssa Powell/BI Nearly half of millennials said traveling was a top goal in the next five years.Two millennial travelers told Business Insider that peace of mind motivates their generation the most.Their generation has been beaten down by the housing crisis, student debt, and inflation.

While Carissa Boston’s millennial friends spent their 20s having children and saving up for their forever homes, she was working two jobs to fund trips abroad.

Today, more millennials — who are between the ages of 27 and 42 — have joined her in bucking traditional financial goals in favor of a stamped-up passport. In fact, for some, it’s more important than being debt-free, advancing their careers, and even starting a family.

Business Insider, in collaboration with YouGov, surveyed more than 1,800 Americans spanning five generations. Some 49% of millennial respondents said travel is an important goal for them in the next five years, which was a higher percentage than any other generation.

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Two millennials who travel for a living told BI that they aren’t surprised by the findings. In fact, they’ve chosen to put off those life milestones to see the world.

Carissa Boston has been a world traveler since the age of 18, and adventures takes precedence over traditional financial goals. Carissa Boston

Boston, a 32-year-old Florida native, traveled abroad for the first time, to Iceland, when she was 18. By the time she was 25, she was making time to go on at least three trips a year.

“It was a priority at the top of my list,” Boston said. “I worked two jobs. One job was to fund the traveling, and the other job was for the bills because it was something that I felt like I needed to do for a peace of mind.”

Alexa West, a 35-year-old travel writer, has spent her adult life making travel a part of her career. She told BI she never joined the American workforce.

“The salaries weren’t going to be enough to afford the life that I had grown up being told that I could afford with a college degree,” West told BI.

Instead, West “went totally the other way” and opted to join the Peace Corps in 2011, then spent years teaching English in different countries before starting her own business.

Alexa West wrote a travel guide for people who want to see the world on their own. Alexa West

Both travel enthusiasts turned content creators emphasized how much exploring the world has helped with their mental health. Like other millennials, West and Boston were just entering adulthood during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009.

“I was very millennial in that I just didn’t want to start hustling in a job that didn’t pay me a salary that allowed me to afford a house,” West said.

Both women chose travel over material possessions. They told BI their lifestyle allows them to maintain a positive outlook and peace of mind.

Being an adult is challenging in 2023. Many Gen Z and millennials have said they lay awake at night stressing about their finances. Housing costs have been a particular point of pain for young adults.

The average millennial student-loan borrower has about $42,637 in debt, a recent study by TransUnion found. And the financial well-being of millennials has plummeted during the pandemic era, while their boomer parents have gained stability.

As a result, some millennials have stopped chasing the American dream and have picked up their luggage instead. They’re traveling more than both boomers and Gen Xers, an analysis by Morning Consult found.

This group of millennials has chosen not to “struggle,” as West put it, and are prioritizing their mental health by traveling instead of saving or working overtime.

Boston said instead of asking “why,” the question should be: “Why not?”

“It’s one of those things where money will return, but time won’t,” she said.

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