Hello, college students about to graduate and surfing online for “travel overseas” or “I just graduated college, now what?” or “How to travel for free”. Welcome.
One of the great joys of having this website is getting to influence 20-year-olds, and hopefully convincing them to travel before they are old like me (35), have a job (I quit mine), married (9 years and counting), have a house (sold it), and have kids (1 boy, age 2). Because while it is possible to travel when you’re married with kids and settled down, it’s a lot easier to do it when you’re young.
An insight into the minds of college students: every year, since I started this blog in 2008, I get a huge rush of traffic starting in April and it runs until June. Right now, thousands of people are reading two posts on my site:
In its peak, I’ll be averaging over 10,000 visitors a day (on just those two posts). Last year I had a single day with over 30,000.
I call it the graduation monsoon.
During this same period, I usually get a high number of seagull trolls: people who fly into your blog and without knowing anything about it, sh*t all over it. Then they leave. I got smart last year and closed comments on all old posts, because cleaning up the droppings from disenfranchised old people who either a) don’t care about travel or b) want to travel but feel trapped, became too much of a chore and ultimately, I’m not really able to help those people anyway. If you tell me, “I can’t travel because ______,” then I believe you. Even if I had a solution, you’ve made up your mind anyway.
College students, let my troll-problem be a lesson. There is not only a large number of people out there that will tell you that taking a year off to travel after college is a bad idea, but there are folks who will rage at the idea. It pisses them off. They are so mad about it that they’ll spend an entire afternoon fighting with strangers on a blog they don’t even read regularly. Even if you don’t end up traveling, there is certainly better ways to spend your time.
Lots of people want to travel, traveling after school makes sense, yet there are still people who will tell you that not only is it a bad idea, but that you’re some how ruining the lives of everyone around you. They are dead wrong.
Travel is important. It builds a healthy and realistic perspective that will stay with you for the rest of your life. It breaks you out of the cultural milieu you were born into, and let’s you try on worldview of different cultures, all without having to make any permanent life changes. You can still come back, get a job, get a spouse, buy a house, have a kid, make your parents proud. But the way you do those things and how you feel about them will forever be changed. You can’t un-see the world. Once you have a little dose of perspective, you’ll never be exactly the same. Isn’t that the point?
This week, my family and I are in Chiang Mai, Thailand recuperating after a stint in Beijing during their harsh winter. I tried to take a little break from writing, but I kept noticing this incoming flood of traffic, college students virtually banging down my door. I’m tempted to say, “Get off my lawn!” but really I’m glad you’re here. If you’re wondering if you should do it, try to travel, then the answer is yes. If you’re wondering if you can do it, if you can raise the money, yes. If you want someone to kick you off your butt and make you do it, well here you go:
Don’t be stupid. This is a cliché but you won’t be young forever. Also a cliché but true: you’ll never be in a better place to take off and travel. It won’t ruin your life, it’ll make it better. You’ll have the time of your life. I swear. You can do it. You should do it. I’ve been where you are and I waited. That’s okay too, but I kick myself every time I think of it. There’s a whole world out there waiting for you, you just have to choose to see it. Go.
The biggest thing is making the decision. Set a date. Figure out how much money you’ll need. Save, beg, borrow the cash. Get creative. Be willing to sleep on couches in Europe or camp your way through Central America. Take a bus to a major city. Get roommates. Work a crap job (or two). Find the cheapest flight you can and then just go. You can work at hostels or teach English or come home when the money runs out. No one is going to give you permission to do this, you have to decide, make it a priority and work out the details. Little, tiny, simple details that seem impossible now, but once you’re out there, once you’ve done it, you’ll always know that you have the ability to make things happen.
Travel. Or don’t. But decide.
And get off my lawn, you crazy kids!