Why I Decided to Travel Full-Time After Graduation

It’s not uncommon for new college graduates to spend a few weeks traveling before jumping into the corporate 9-5 workday grind, but very few answer the question “so when are you going back home?” with a shrug. I often joke “when the money runs out” or say that I estimate “probably mid-January.”

I decided to disappear for an undefined amount of time without a plan of what happens whenever I return. At first glance, it seems crazy. But I have my reasons:

If not now, when?

Graduation cap with the words "I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself."Americans get notoriously little vacation time. Two weeks paid is standard in most places, although some companies (especially those working towards attracting and retaining millennials) have been implementing policies that favor more time off and location flexibility. My travel wishlist is too long for that.

My classmates at college, terrified at the idea of post-grad unemployment, often asked about the risk factors of traveling for so long. What will future employers say? How do you justify that? Aren’t you worried you can’t get a job when you come back?

But all the adults I’ve talked to about my plan?

They always praise the idea. Yes! This is the time to do it. I regret not taking some time off after graduation. You have your whole life to worry about work. 

I have my whole life to worry about work.

I joke with people that I’m starting my professional career with retirement, which is an idea that I actually stole from a Stefan Sagmeister exhibit on the science of happiness that I saw at the Museum of Vancouver.

happiness and time off

His idea is that because we live longer, we can retire later, and intersperse mini-retirement years into our working years to develop new skills, pursue individual projects, and grow personally in order to give more back to society (plus be happier and more productive).

I’ve decided that I’m super interested in pursuing a career in travel marketing/tourism PR, which means that I’m now framing this “year off” as a career booster to quiet the societally-ingrained voice in my head screaming that it’s a career ruiner.

That same voice keeps telling me to worry about work now, but I keep telling it to shut up and enjoy the moment.

I hate routines.

Routines are great and important and also terrible and unnecessary. I adore starting new projects and trying new things and breaking out of my habits–I find myself feeling stuck when each day is the same.

During college I was already scared of hating the rut of adulthood. Waking up early every morning, commuting to an office by 9am, doing some projects, attending a meeting or two (or five), leaving at 5pm on the dot, commuting back home, and quietly passing the time before climbing into bed to do it all over? WHY? When would I have time to pursue new passions? Visit new places?

Last summer I worked remotely in New York for a marketing agency back in Portland, and I loved the freedom that comes with virtual work to create your own schedule. I often alternated days of double work with days of all play, a style that fits my “I hate routines” trait way better.

Maybe I’ll pursue different structures of work when I return, or maybe I’ll make peace with routines after months without one. Regardless, if delaying the inevitable is my worst habit, I’m okay with that.

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6 thoughts on “Why I Decided to Travel Full-Time After Graduation

  1. Good decision! I ended up spending a few months doing nothing because after graduation we do need a break…
    Have fun and let me know when your are stopping in Paris!

    Like

  2. I completely agree with you. I wish I could have taken a gap year to travel. But where did you get the money? I don’t have the money to travel. Are you working in Europe or Asia?

    You must be extremely grateful that you had the money to even go to college AND travel the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I’m absolutely SO grateful! I’m very aware how much of a privilege it is to travel for a bit without working. I’ve been saving rather meticulously since I was 14, so this trip is many years in the making. That said I’m very lucky that my parents paid for my education (after scholarships) as well–it would be much trickier to spend money on travel if I’d paid my own tuition.

      Like

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