Travel to know yourself

Ardent tourists believe that travel is the gateway to the inner self and an opportunity for personal growth.

More youngsters are choosing to use the year between ending their education and starting work for self- discovery. They do so hoping to come back from their travels with a gold-drenched profile, armed for the future.

"Society spends about 17 years shaping your choices - what could be more liberating than travelling the world?" asks radio DJ Penny Lebyane,above.

A modern mother, Lebyane says she will pull out all the stops to encourage her son to follow his heart.

"We grow up with a familiar, constant voice making us choose from a set menu what our career will look like.

"But, as far as I am concerned, there is nothing more pitiable than someone with the rosiest credentials stuck in a job he hates."

Lebyane quotes a line from India Arie's song, There's Hope. In the song, Arie tells the story of a young, blind Brazilian with a better perspective than hers. Arie attributes the success of her current album to her travels around the world.

But would you invest a fortune in your child's future if you knew your hopes for him would be snubbed?

"My son went to the most expensive schools while I spent many nights labouring and praying for him to turn out well," says retired nurse Nobelungu Zama. "I hoped that he would help me raise his younger sisters.

"He went to London and while I was hoping that he would get full-time employment, he had his own plans.

"He came back and announced that he had decided to be humanitarian volunteer in India."

It is a noble choice that most parents would support - if it were a neighbour's child who made it. But television presenter Mpho Sono, right, says Zama should be proud that she allowed her son to find himself.

"Sometimes you choose to help others. There are not enough people to do what her son chose and that should be appreciated.

"I would praise her son for choosing his path, though she might never get financial compensation for the money she spent on him," she says.

"Financing your children's education is to empower them to find their place in the sun. That they can financially help you out should be seen as a bonus, not a debt."

Mbuso T, above right, a well-known DJ, says there was nothing to match the experiences acquired in travelling.

"You can never realise your potential until you are out of your comfort zone," he says.

"You dig deep inside yourself for strength, reliance, motivation and support. You might even realise that you care more for your family than you thought, which is a realisation that comes as a shock for most teenagers."

But is one year enough to realise and cement these profound lessons?

Lebyane thinks that students need to be given as much time as they need.

"That's because taking a career path is often an irreversible action. Young people should be free to take enough time to make that choice."

Like Lebyane, Sono thinks that travel should be part of every high school's curriculum.

Travel bookings agent Angelina Mathe says she has seen a growing number of black youngsters applying for an international student identity card. The card offers students international discounts on packages.

"I always recommend a website called statravel.co.za. It has valuable information for first-time travellers.

"Students are able to make choices on the site about which travel set-up would work best for them.

"The options are vast. For instance, one can choose to be hosted by a family and au pair for them, or decide to work while you are travelling. The world is your oyster if you are young.

"But I would recommend travel even for people who are working.

"Sometimes, you need to shrug off the blanket of familiarity because it can limit your horizons," she says.

The most popular destinations are London, Australia, the US, Brazil, Thailand and India.

Lebyane suggests that students who can't afford to travel overseas should consider touring a country in Africa.

"I tell people who plead poverty to go beyond our borders.

"You will be amazed at the hero who emerges once home is far away."

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