During my time in college I gained a passion for traveling through unforgettable moments like climbing the Great Wall of China and eating sushi in Japan. I vowed that after I received my diploma and entered the mythical “real world” that I would continue learning about and exploring the world we live in.
I’m currently preparing for my next great adventure and at first I was daydreaming of warm beaches, exotic animals and hiking through new lands. But after a few weeks, reality showed up along with bills, work and money.
That’s when I realized something every student needs to know: Travel as much as possible while in school. You’ll thank me later. Here’s what you need to keep in mind while planning your own life-changing adventure.
Unfortunately, not everybody has a job that enables them to travel abroad after college. Some companies only let their employees take off a few days at a time, so flying halfway around the world will no longer be a possibility following graduation.
College is virtually the only period in your life where you are able to not only visit, but live in another country for weeks or months at a time. You’ll have the chance to become immersed in a new culture, learn a new language and witness different traditions and holidays.
Once you graduate and find a job, your boss probably won’t appreciate you walking into his or her office and proclaiming, “Hi. I’m going to go to Europe for, like, four or five months. Try not to miss me. But don’t replace me either, OK? I’ll send you a postcard. Thanks.”
No matter if you’re camping in the Amazon or climbing the Himalayas, your bills will keep coming. Your rent, your water, your electricity and your student loans won’t stop just because you’re on a different continent. Debt knows no boundaries.
You’ll have to plan out your bills in advance, set up automatic payments, ask a friend to check your mail and so on.
When you’re in college, you can simply sign up for a study abroad package that usually includes flight, food and housing and ignore any other bills in your life. You can also move back home for the summer, find a cheap flight online, Google a couple hostels, and tell your parents not to touch your stuff. No rent payments, no utility bills. Once again, it’s easier to be a student.
The less you worry about money, the more you will enjoy your travels. But realistically, traveling is expensive, and most college kids are poor. But that’s where being enrolled in a university comes in handy.
Most schools will allow you to use financial aid to help pay for a study abroad trip where graduates can only rely on their credit cards. While you end up paying interest on both options, odds are the interest rates on your student loans will be significantly less than the interest rate on your credit card. Plus you can often defer payments on loans until six months after you graduate, but credit card payments start almost immediately.
Although you might be overwhelmed and have a million things on your to-do list, you actually have relatively few responsibilities while in college. You probably have no spouse, no mortgage, no pets and no children. Since there is nothing tying you down, you’re free to uproot and travel whenever and wherever you please.
The more responsibilities you accumulate throughout life, the more things you have to plan around. This makes living the college life all the more beautiful. You can just wait until your semester is finished, drop your stuff off at your parents’ house and that’s it. You don’t have to hire a babysitter or ask a neighbor to feed your dog. You’re able to go anywhere around the world at a moment’s notice.
If you decide to travel as a student, people will admire your thirst for learning. Most view studying abroad as a chance to expand one’s horizon and come back to America as a well-informed, cultured young adult. You might even have offers from relatives to financially support your international education.
Traveling after college has a whole different reaction. Some people will question your decision of traveling for months at a time, wondering if you are lacking direction in your life or if you are running away from the responsibilities of adulthood. Instead of seeing the value of visiting a foreign land, some people (i.e., your parents) will only worry about how much debt you are incurring or if you have a proverbial five-year plan.
From finances, to time, to family support, it simply makes more sense to travel the world during college. You might put traveling in the back of your mind or write it down on a bucket list, but don’t let your dreams fall to the wayside. Before you know it, you’ll be sitting at your first post-grad job possibly filled with regret and thoughts of what college could have been like. You need to chase your dreams now while they’re still within reach.
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