The rise of generation big

By | Category: Travel rumblings

My brother has just quit his job so as to see some of South America. His decision, at 32, to swap teaching for travelling has caused consternation among certain members of our family. Our parents point out that they were married with a mortgage and two children at his age, so shouldn’t he be thinking of settling down rather than strapping on a backpack?

As a die hard travel enthusiast, it goes without saying that I support my brother’s decision to take a little time out and travel – the best form of education. My big hope is that my brother – who up until now has never left home –  will come to discover that “travel is more than seeing the world; it’s seeing the world in a new way.”

But my brother isn’t the only one suffering from a severe case of wanderlust. Jiten, a 27 year old hospital radio colleague, has recently relocated to Toronto while Sonia – a 30 something French lady who has spent the last 13 years living in London – went to Tel Aviv on holiday, fell in love with this city of cosmopolitan cool, and quickly found a way to move there. Meanwhile my mate Karen, 38, flits back and forth between basing herself in Blighty and Barbados respectively.

Meet Generation big – the modern twenty and thirty something professionals who are pulling up as opposed to putting down roots. Of course there are plenty of young professionals who have stayed put in one postcode, become parents and are juggling jobs, feeding schedules and big bags full of baby equipment. However there is also a (not unsizeable) number of us – myself included – who aren’t.


Why? Well that thorny issue – money – is a undoubtedly a major reason. The legacy of the recession means that most twenty and thirty somethings are financially worse off than our parents were: we’re the generation that has been saddled with student debt (and subsequently struggles to get on the property ladder) but simultaneously was brought up to believe that we shouldn’t start a family until we had achieved stability.

However it’s also because we just don’t feel ready: despite leaving adolescence a long, long, long time ago, we still don’t feel as though we’re cut out for kids. As someone who can survive for days on a diet of caffeine, crisps and wine, the idea of being responsible for another being scares me senseless.

That said, I am sure we are all perfectly capable – after all is anyone ever really 100 per cent ready for parenthood? I’d argue that nothing apart from actually having a baby can prepare you for parenthood. And while we can now reproduce at virtually any age, if you do want kids then make no mistake: the later you leave it, the harder it can be.

But if you’re in your thirties and genuinely don’t want a baby and backyard, then don’t beat yourself up about it just because society is screaming that you should. Different people want different things as I rediscovered on a recent press trip to Limoges.

It was while in Limoges that I met Sabi – a 38 year old lady with a lust for life who had actively chosen to remain child free. Sabi explained that, while she loved being an Aunt to her siblings’ kids, marriage and motherhood simply weren’t for her. She didn’t just like her life, she loved it and was counting down the days until her imminent trips to India and New York.


I get it. In the last month alone I have flown to Tel Aviv, Atlanta, Limoges and Louisiana  and have never been so happy. Or as Ryan Bingham – George Clooney’s character in Up In The Air – puts it:  “Last year I spent 322 days on the road, which means I had to spend 43 miserable days at home.”

I have been able to live this international lifestyle –  despite earning substantially less than my parents did – thanks to low cost airlines like easyJet who make seeking out new experiences and adventures accessible to all (who want them). It’s as easy  to visit my mate, Murray, in Geneva than it is to see my family in Ely – and cheaper too. The world has gotten smaller: frequent, low-cost flights have enabled an entire generation to have totally new experiences.


For my contemporaries and I, the challenge is no longer journeying to our destination: it’s where to eat, drink, stay and play on arrival. There’s a world of possibility that just didn’t exist in Pictures of Italy – the travelogue Charles Dickens wrote way back in 1836 when travel was purely the preserve of the rich and famous.

Of course while we can all now weave our way across the world, not everyone wants to. I understand this but at the same time I  wish that those at home for whom the travel bug hasn’t bitten would stop tutting and recognise that, in the words of JR Tolkien:  “Not everyone who wanders is lost.”

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