Millennial Travel: Namaste like you mean it
Cliché as hell, but travel really is the only thing you can buy that will make you richer.
Growing up ain’t easy—there’s a barrage of decisions to make as you find yourself, figure out what matters to you and what you really value. (Oh yeah, and a job you love!) Yep, being a Millenial is a tough gig, but tag - you’re it.
We spoke to Professional Wanderer/Student Flights Assistant Manager, Rhys Johnston, at Fountain Gate in Victoria about what it’s like to visit 35 countries in 3 years and why he believes travel is about learning respect for other cultures, and finding resilience and understanding of yourself.
Pretty deep, right? Yep. And he’s only 22.
Let’s start at the beginning, Rhys booked his first ever overseas trip in the Student Flights store he now works in today. Most people want to check out Europe or Canada for their first trip, not Rhys, he wanted to go to Egypt. Alone. He’d been into seeing the Pyramids ever since his Grade 4 teacher came back from a holiday there. And so began the Adventures of Rhys.
Egypt was a real eye-opener, Rhys says, “I saw a rocket launcher for the first time! And it’s no big deal to see semi-automatic guns everywhere with the armed guards and military checkpoints. One night I was sitting in the street smoking shisha and playing an Egyptian checkers game with some locals and all of a sudden these two massive military trucks roll through and sirens are going off and they say that happens most nights. I love that when you’re travelling you can get immersed in the sights, the sounds, the people, the food and the culture, and all it takes is one quick moment to remind you where you are.”
When Rhys got back he applied for a job at Student Flights. “After 9 months I was on the verge of quitting, I had the travel bug. My boss encouraged me to take leave; ‘go enjoy yourself and then come back’. The job is all about travel, so it makes sense that the more you do the more genuine experience and passion you’ll have to share with your clients. I spent every last cent I had but felt all the richer for the experience.” (p.s. - thanks mum and dad for the loan when I came back broke” he says, laughing).
But that’s just it, right—travel when you’re young is all about living in the now, it’s a common story, a right of passage almost. And you’re only young once… (no pressure or anything). Rhys warns, “travel how you want to travel, not necessarily how your friends want to. “You’ve got to do what you want to do! So be mindful of who you decide to spend your trip with and how well you’ll travel together.”
For Rhys? He prefers to go it alone - backpacking through South America for 6 months during his time off work was the literal adventure of a lifetime.
“I caught the most dangerous bus in South America from Iguazu Falls to Sao Paulo. I’m a ‘I want to see the world for how it is’ kind of traveller.” Rhys’ carefree spirit makes meeting like-minded people along the way a breeze. “I met up with people I’d actually travelled in Peru with, we went to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro—it’s amazing—the whole city shuts down to celebrate life, we found the local parties and parades and danced in the streets. We hiked to Christ The Redeemer (most people take the cable car). Then after Brazil, I ended up in Costa Rica.”
With so many amazing memories to capture along the way, how is Rhys not glued to his smartphone like the rest of us? In India for example, where Rhys recently celebrated his 22nd birthday, he obviously wanted to get those epic shots at the Taj Mahal. So he got up at sunrise to beat the crowds, got his shot and then he’s like “You’re at the Taj Mahal—put it away!” Rhys travels with a film camera purposefully to only capture certain moments. “I’ll also take a photo or two on my phone to edit later. I turn off social media notifications and only turn on the data when I need to. I don’t post every photo on every platform - just snapshots along the way,” he says.
But what about every millennials dream of becoming a professional influencer and getting paid to travel the world? While Rhys can appreciate the life of an instagrammer, he gets that it’s not attainable for everyone, nor is it everyone’s style. He’s also stoked that brands see the value in authentic content styles like his too. And while Rhys’ goal as an agent is for you to have an once-in-a-lifetime ‘insta-worthy trip’ he says, “there’s definitely a certain ‘expectation’ we have when we’ve seen a certain iconic location before on Instagram, don’t let that preconceive your trip - be prepared to see it with your own eyes.” He recommends to seek out tips from the locals on where to go and what to see. “It’s the stuff you don’t think about seeing that sometimes is the coolest. Head out of the big cities to the smaller towns and villages, this is where you are going to have the most local of experiences—hire a push bike and go for a ride and see where it takes you!” he says.
As both a traveller and a consultant Rhys is all about that genuine experience, he says “people might not realise how much we do to create these amazing trips, and how much knowledge we have to share—we are here to help and create incredible trips, like an architect does for their clients, our clients bring us their dreams, visuals and ideas and we make sure they become a reality!”
More tips from Rhys? Here’s just a few of many!
- “Explore at sunrise and sunset—these are always the most beautiful parts of the day.” Speaking of sunsets, Rhys says sundown from the World Peace Pagoda in Lumbini, Nepal—the birthplace of Buddha is pretty remarkable.
- “Learn a little of the local language, it adds another layer to your experience and the locals love it,” he says. Like, in Cuzco, Peru when he had an impromptu Spanish lesson with the smoothie stall lady at the local market.
- “Check the price of basic items, like a bottle of water when arriving into a country to get an idea of how much you should pay for everything when you are there.”
- “Free walking tours are great to find your bearings in a city and an amazing way to meet people if you are a solo traveler.”
- “Dress like a local, if everyone is wearing conservative clothes do the same—it will help you feel and be treated like a local!” he says.
Ultimately, the best travellers are woke travellers. Rhys says, “Once you know the whys behind certain things you understand more.” When it comes to different religions and cultures, “you’ll see stuff you might not agree with or believe in, but you’ve got to remember your response is still a reaction.”
Being mindful when travelling is more important than ever, here at home you might feel like you’re on the poverty line sometimes, but in so many parts of the world, you’re practically a millionaire. “Seeing the poverty in India, it makes you realise that buying local can make a huge difference to a local family - concentrate on where your dollar goes, and small things like not getting a plastic bag. If every person who booked a Student Flights trip was more conscious about the little things… all of a sudden we’ve saved an entire landfill of rubbish.”
Then, when you come home from visiting those places, he says, “it’s a fine balance - you still have to be a part of society - and sometimes you will spend $17 on avocado and toast, but it’s about being happy with what you have and realising it’s about what you need in life, not what always you want.”
If you’re looking for a local travel expert with tips and tricks to help you get off the beaten path, disconnect from your ‘always on’ lifestyle and find yourself saying namaste and meaning it - speak to Rhys or one of your local Student Flights experts. Follow Rhys’ adventures this month on Instagram via @rhysjohnston_96
Rhys’ A-Z travel list… 38 countries and counting:
Australia ( yolo )
United Arab Emirates
United States of America