Why You Need to Travel After University
I previously wrote a post on why you shouldn’t travel after university. Obviously, this isn’t the path I ended up taking! I went traveling straight after university – in fact, I left Ireland the week after my final exam at Trinity, two years ago, and I’ve only been back briefly twice since then.
I didn’t actually plan to go traveling for so long – read my post about my plans to move straight to America after college to start a proper job, after a short trip to Thailand. Well, that didn’t happen, and one month turned into 16!
During my travels, I was always making choices in the moment, but also still had a long term goal (to move back to the USA), which actually did affect my travel experience and itinerary as a whole and made it different from the usual backpacker agenda. I knew I wanted to end up back in New York, where I had studied as part of my degree at Columbia University, and I had to make sure I accomplished little goals during my travels so that I would get there. I put time into internships and my own projects, meaning that a lot of the time I often had to stick with the big cities and couldn’t spend long amounts of time living in the exotic wilderness or an isolated Australian beach town.
I don’t believe in regrets, but I don’t believe in being glad with every decision I made either. It is how is is, and what was, was. What happens, happens. All you can do is make the right decision for that moment, and whether you look back and say, yes I’m glad I sacrificed this, or darn I really regret doing that, is irrelevant. “I wouldn’t change a thing” – well, if you could, then you would have just ended up at a different place than where you are in the present, forming an equally nostalgic outlook on the alternative moves and decisions which got you here. Got it? Got it.
My final word? Travel after university. JUST GO. DO IT. If you don’t experience all the points which fall under “Why you shouldn’t travel,” (read my previous post for more on this) then I truly believe you will live a less rich, less wise, less challenged, less authentic and humble version of your twenties. Travel will leave you with a lot of grit, but also an amalgamation of memories and stories, experiences, and change.
1. You don’t know as much about yourself as you think.
Have you ever heard the expression, “You travel to find yourself?” Well, in my opinion, the reality is a screwed version of that. When you travel, you lose yourself. Everything is new and different. Your interests will stray, your hobbies will change, the company you keep varies constantly. With each new connection and experience, a shift occurs and distracts you from the elements which made up your pre-travel self.
“I found myself when I went traveling” is never something I will say – because for me, that’s not what travel is about. “Finding yourself” feels too safe, and leaves little room for vulnerability. I lost many aspects of myself while traveling. Finding them again felt like bringing a piece of home back into my heart, filled me with much gratitude and helped me understand myself and the life I want and need to live. So you will lose, but you will rediscover, and gain.
2. You’ve been in a system your whole life.
We spend our whole lives, from the age of 5 to 21 (or 18 if you skipped university) in a system – the education system. We lived our daily lives according to this system, its rules and its necessities. You did the exact same thing and had to be at the exact same place every single day of the week. Everything is structured and dictated for you. And you don’t really question anything or have to doubt any of your moves, because you don’t have a choice in your actions (I mean in terms of broader life path choices, and how you choose to spend your time).
Once you finish college or your leaving cert, suddenly, it all stops. It’s over. There is a void. A gaping void. It’s fabulous, don’t get me wrong, but how many of us were expecting that? Do you truly understand how abrupt the change is? I’ll talk more about this in a future post, but traveling most definitely does not follow any system. It’s the most autonomous situation you will ever find yourself in. Everything is 100% self-motivated.
Which is why you need to try it. After almost two decades in the education system, it’s time to discover the possibilities of life outside the structure of work and study and reaching society’s next established stepping stone. Be curious, and be brave – and jump into that void!
3. You’ve seen very little of the world.
Although many people are lucky enough to have traveled throughout their childhood and school, even then, when we graduate from university, we have seen so very little of the world. Beyond a holiday or a weekend trip, there hasn’t been a chance to immerse yourself in completely new cultures and environments (of course, plenty of people do get a chance to study abroad, but still in the content of the education system – still a mighty adventure though!).
The time straight after university is precious and golden – sure, you can travel anytime in the future, but not with the same lens. The older you are, the more removed you will feel from new places, whereas in your early twenties, there is still an unconscious willingness and propensity to immerse yourself in the new, and collect invaluable impressions which will shape the rest of your life.
4. Travel exposes you to new ideas.
You will discover jobs, industries, careers, hobbies, activities, practices, which you never even knew existed, and which may even guide and influence you in your future career choices – even if you have staunchly known your whole life “what you wanted to be when you grew up.”
When I left college, I was 100% sure I would go back to study English or journalism at graduate level. My notions, propensities and aspirations have flown about wildly the past two years, and I now find myself working in an industry I was not the slightest bit familiar with back then, and researching graduate courses in areas of study I didn’t even know existed. Give yourself that chance to discover more, and don’t be afraid to change, as long as you always stick to your core values.
5. You’ll find your tribe and soulmates.
Even if it’s only for fleeting periods of time. I met people traveling who have made my life infinitely more colorful. Of course I made amazing lifelong friendships during college, but when you travel, you will stumble across people who have the exact same specific interests as yourself, people who will broaden your interests and introduce you to new possibilities, people who help you, influence and teach you.
There are a million reasons more to travel after university, but these are my top 5 motivators. Did I mention how exciting it is? To take off into the oblivion, follow the sun and fruit and beaches, after you’ve graduated, rather than jump straight into a full-time job or yet more education? Sure, a new job and continuing education is also a big change and fun, but I would definitely encourage everyone to take that plane to unknown lands instead.