The Wanderlust Generation: Why Millennials Travel So Much

There has been a lot of talk in the past few years about millennials and what lies ahead for our generation. The reason for all this discussion is that it is a very important topic. There are 83.1 million of us millennials in the US, which makes up more than a quarter of the entire population. When you compare this to the 75.4 million baby boomers you see that our generation is a force to be reckoned with.

New businesses are springing up to meet our needs that change entrie industries. Old businesses are scrambling to connect with our generation in an authentic way.

There are also plenty of stereotypes about millennials. Some say that we are entitled, lazy, or we just think we know everything.

Instead of focusing on these negative stereotypes that our previous generations have so kindly donned upon us with, I’d like to focus on one simple fact.

This fact is that millennials travel more than any other generation.

In 2013 Expedia did a study that analyzed how often people from various generations travel. This study found that people under 30 years old travel 4.7 times per year for business versus only 3.6 times per year for 30 to 45-year olds and 4.2 times per year for 46 to 65-year-olds.

[bctt tweet="Millennials travel more than any other generation."]

It also found that millennials take 4.2 leisure trips per year versus 2.9 trips for 31 to 35-year-olds and 3.2 trips fro 46 to 65-year-olds.

The United Nations estimates that about 20 percent of all international tourists, nearly 200 million travlers, are young people.

According to a study conducted by Boston Consulting Group, 75% of millennials are interested in traveling abroad as much as possible. For non-millennials this number was only 52%.

As you can see, there are plenty of statistics about millennials and our constant wanderlusting desires.

But what is the story behind these numbers? Why are we so eager to explore the world?

Simply put, why in the world do we love to travel so much?

In this article we will take a look into the story behind why we travel.

The Impact of Social Media on Travel

Forbes and Elite Daily recently partnered up to do a study of millennials. This study found that we are not influenced at all by advertising.

According to Forbes, “only 1% of millennials surveyed said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. Millennials believe that advertising is all spin and not authentic.”

Social media and technology changed advertising forever. Instead of allowing TV commercials to shout at us to buy, buy, buy we fast forward. Instead, we pay attention to people we look up to and to our friends for guidance on what to do, what to buy, and where to go.

The Influencer Effect

Don’t get me wrong, advertising is still going on. However, the smart companies are going about it differently. Instead of telling us what to do themselves, they show us what to do by paying someone we admire.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide recently hired social media influencers to visit it’s new line of hotels and post about them on social media.

If our favorite Instagram celebrity visits a hotel and posts awesome photos we are much more likely to see ourselves there than we would if we saw a commercial about the new resort.

Similarly, when we see these people going on adventures it inspires us to have an adventure of our own.

The Perfect-Life Perception

We are not only influenced by ‘social media influencers,’ but we are also influenced by our friends.

Every day we log into Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat we are bombarded by pictures of our friends doing amazing things. It’s as if everyone is living an incredible life 24/7.

Yet, when you think about it, you don’t find yourself sharing the boring parts of your life because no one cares. You won’t get hundreds of likes with a picture of yourself doing laundry. But, you will get plenty of likes when you post your selfie with Mona Lisa.

Over time, through trial and error, we learn to only post things that will get maximize our likes. This creates the effect of everyone looking like they live a perfect life, leaving us to try to do the same.

Although this isn’t always a good thing, I’d argue that it pushes many of us to try new things. We see our friends doing something fun that we never even thought of before, so we go try it out too.

Crowdsourcing and the Sharing Economy

Where before we could only deal with companies, we now can deal directly with people. Crowdsourcing and the sharing economy are bringing the best of the best of traveling to light as other traveler’s share their experiences.

Crowdsourcing Knowledge

When most people hear the term ‘crowdsource’ they think of Kickstarter or IndieGoGo where people go to crowdsource money in order to launch a product or project.

Yet, you can also think of crowdsourcing in the form of knowledge. Think about TripAdvisor, Wikipedia, FourSquare, and HostelWorld.

All of these websites and apps have one thing in common: they are created or enhanced by the sum knowledge of other people. You have hundreds of people’s opinions and advice at the tip fo your finger tips whenever you want it.

This can make your travel experiences consistently incredible.

Instead of listening to one person’s advice on where to stay, such as your travel agent, you now can read the advice of others and find the right place for you.

Instead of just listening to your hotel concierge for advice on a restaurant, you can now look up the top rated place around and eat delicious food at every meal.

Our chances of having a bad experience seem to go down dramatically when we take advice from the masses. I mean if over 1,000 people rate a restaurant over 4.5 stars, it’s probably going to have delicious food.

This also pushes companies to improve so that they can be the ‘go-to’ place whenever someone visits. For example, Red Roof Inn just spent $150 million to renovate it’s properties based on TripAdvisor feedback.

Never before have we, as consumers, had such a massive direct impact on companies. We no longer have to settle for something that doesn’t meet our requirements.

The Sharing Economy

Not only do we have more of a say in what companies do, but we can also stay away from the ‘corporate’ side of travel if we choose.

Instead of walking into a hotel, checking in, and feeling like just another transaction, we can have a place to call home. By using AirBnB instead of a hotel we are more likely to save money and get a more local experience.

The sharing economy has flipped massive industires on their heads and us millennials are absolutely loving it. Sixty percent of American travelers ages 18 to 34 say they put their faith in services such as AirBnB, Home Away, Uber and Lyft, whereas other travelers only came in at 37%.

We no longer need to hire a shady taxi driver to drive us around. We can now hire a cool local as our personal driver with Uber or Lyft.

Once again it is innovations like these that are making it incredibly easy to have an amazing experience while traveling. One great experience leads to another and another as you are constantly seeking to learn more about the world.

Digital Nomadism

The beauty of the internet is that it allows us to work from anywhere at anytime. We are no longer chained to a desk if we don’t want to be. Digital nomads are a new type of entrepreneur that have sprung up around the world. Rather than optimizing 100% for income, they are also optimizing for lifestyle.

[bctt tweet="We are no longer chained to a desk if we don’t want to be."]

Tim Ferriss and The New Rich

In 2007 Tim Ferriss unleashed a book that would change the way thousands of people viewed their lives. The 4-Hour Workweek is a book that brought to light a new idea to what it means to be rich.

As Tim Ferriss says, “Gold is getting old. The New Rich (NR) are those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility. This is an art and a science we will refer to as Lifestyle Design.”

People associate the word ‘rich’ with things like mansions and sports cars. Tim, on the other hand, associates ‘rich’ with freedom.

Now, many people get the wrong impression of The 4-Hour Workweek saying that working a 4-hour week is just not possible. But they are missing the point. The point is that money is not the only thing that matters, especially if you can never use it since you’re stuck in an office for 60 hours per week.

This opened the eyes of thousands of people who decided that maybe they don’t need to be working for someone else. Maybe there is another way to lead an awesome life.

When this clicked for me I quit my commercial real estate job, backpacked around Europe, and started Travel This Planet as a result.  

Digital Nomad Hubs

Overtime this sparked the creation of hubs around the world of people living the life of the New Rich. Entrepreneurs, now referred to as digital nomads, congregate in amazing cities around the world to build businesses.

What most people don’t realize is that many of these entrepreneurs are actually making more money working for themselves than they would have if they followed the traditional corporate route.

Joel Runyon, a digital nomad and founder of Impossible, recently said, “The type of entrepreneur first defined by Tim Ferris in the 4Hour work Week has grown up with real multi-million dollar businesse and they’re covering the globe.”

Us millennials now have the ability to work, travel, and live wherever we please. If we choose to we can get away from the typical corporate path and start something ourselves.

Although this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, the romanticism of this type of lifestyle leads others to at least want to experience the travel side of it. When you read stories about people making a million dollars in five years while traveling the world, you can’t help but think “mabe I could do that.”

There are entire communities built around building location independent businesses. The most prevalent one is Tropical MBA’s Dynamite Circle, which connects thousands of these digital nomads across the globe with the purpose of helping each other grow their businesses.

Distributed Teams

Tim Ferriss’ book not only inspired individuals to go start their own businesses, but it seemed to also create a shift in company culture.

More companies are realizing how important travel is to millennials and using this as a perk to woo them into a job. Instead of requiring employees to come into the office there are now virtual work forces and distributed teams where employees can work from anywhere.

Companies such as Mozilla, Upworthy, Basecamp, and Buffer all utilize some form of this to run their companies.

This was not an option when the other generations were growing up. For millennials it’s a different story. We can travel the world and work at the same time to optimize for work-life balance.

A Shift in Values

The Economic Downturn

The economic turmoil of 2008 and the great recession that followed appears to be a blessing in disguise for millennials.

Some argue that millennials got hit the hardest by the great recession. Employment opportunities, income, and what the future held for us seemed to be at an all time low.

Yet, I argue that this was all a great lesson for us at a young age.

All of the families around us were trying to keep up with the Joneses. Big houses, fancy cars, and new boats seemed to be everywhere. Everyone was upgrading and going for the bigger and the better.

When the economy collapsed we saw foreclosed signs on every street. We saw families lose all of their new toys. We saw our parents investment accounts get sliced in half.

This changed our generation’s view on what’s important. We started to treasure experiences over material goods. We began to value memories that can last a lifetime rather than big houses that can be taken away from us and sold at auction.

What Happiness Means

Fast Company recently published an article that seemed to strike a nerve within our generation. With over 1.65 million likes and ten thousand shares, it’s been making it’s rounds to everyone’s newsfeed.

The article is titled, “The Science of Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, Not Things.” It finally puts science behind what many millennials strongly believe: we should spend money on experiences and not material goods.

According to the article, people who don’t agree with this premise seemed to argue “that because a physical object will last longer, it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation.”

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a Cornell University psychology professor who has studied this subject for over two decades explains why this isn’t the case. He explains that people adapt to things over time.

You will get used to your big new house and your fancy car and they will eventually lose their impact on you. However, memories of experieinces will grow on you over time. You get to share these experiences with others in a way that doesn’t feel like a competition.

Final Thoughts

At the beginning of this article we set out to answer the simple question: Why do millennials love to travel so much?

The answer: Because we can.

Technology has provided us with an opportunity that no other generation got to experience. We are influenced by our friends to go travel and have amazing experiences. We then find ourselves posting about how amazing of a trip we had, which influences others to do the same thing.

Our ability to crowdsource knowledge and use the sharing economy to create consistently amazing experiences pushes us to continue seeking out new adventures.

Our ability to work from anywhere that we have an internet connection is a gift that we will continue to take advantage of. Whether we want to start our own company or work for a company there are plenty of options and communities out there that will help us do just that.

Our generation believes more in the power of experiences over material goods. We buy plane tickets over Porsches in order to seek out adventures that create memories of a lifetime.  

[bctt tweet="We buy plane tickets over Porsches in order to seek out #adventures. "]


Brian Kidwell "I started Travel This Planet to provide the best travel tips, hacks, and inspiration. You can call it a travel blog, but it is by no means about me. It's about you and providing you with the tools and inspiration to go travel. I've been fortunate to have experienced many different types of travel throughout my life and I hope to share the lessons and tools I've learned along the way."