With the heart of a traveler but the mind of a college student, I took a giant leap from exploring the world to corporate America this summer. Of course, this meant dressing in fancy clothes each day and learning about big business in the United States, but more importantly it meant that I was working full time, 5 days a week and therefore did not have many opportunities to travel for longer than a few days at a time. Some of you may think – how can you be a travel blogger without traveling? Well, the sad reality is that this summer has been extremely difficult for me, as a travel blogger, staying put in one place for months instead of being out in the world. When I was putting together my summer plans, I had to choose between having a stable job and doing what I absolutely love.
At the end of the day, I realized that though I am in one place for now, the savings, friendships, and network I will come away with from this summer will enable me to travel as much as I want after graduation. I will always be a traveler, first and foremost, but as a student struggling with loans, career options, and entering the “real world,” I have quickly realized that I also need to focus on building a future that can sustain me going forward.
College students have an extremely tough predicament a lot of the time because travel often conflicts with the things we need to construct the rest of our lives. We are in an interesting situation because we haven’t yet had the opportunity to establish ourselves within the working world. In today’s post, I want to address some of the issues common with college students and how I’ve managed to balance my college life, my future, and my travels.
“College Is Expensive”
Let’s face it – college isn’t cheap. The sticker price of Rice, my school, comes at almost $30,000 per semester…a steep price to pay eight times over four years. Without financial aid, scholarships, and savings, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford going to school at all. Mine is just one example of many that college is becoming increasingly more expensive, and as a result, college students all over the country have to take out loans while juggling a side job in order to pay for school alone.
So where in those finances does travel fit in? Surprisingly, there are a lot of options. Studying abroad is an opportunity that enables students to take advantage of scholarships and financial aid in order to live abroad for a semester or a year. There are also hundreds of contests, fellowships and service opportunities that students can apply to in order to get grant money or funding for international travel. Whatever motivates you or inspires you, whether that’s creative writing or aeronautics, there are opportunities available if you dig for them. All it takes is a quick Google search or a trip to your school’s international programs office to start your search.
“There Isn’t Enough Time” or “I Need to Focus on Serious Things”
Between classes, internships, extracurricular activities, and sleep, college students often have challenged with time management and finding balance. As I mentioned, I had to choose between spending my summer traveling, or spending my summer saving money and working. I chose work because I knew that it would afford me countless travel opportunities in the near future.
Travel is like any extracurricular activity – you need to find time to fit it into your busy schedule. As students, it can be difficult to find breaks long enough to justify the costs of going abroad, but school breaks can be an excellent start. Three months during the summer is an extensive amount of time to dedicate to travel and personal development, and if you combine that time with a scholarship or some money you’ve saved over the semester, you can learn a ton over that summer that classes or work cannot provide. Don’t discount travel as pure fun – it’s also a rewarding learning experience as well. (Plus, it looks GREAT on a resume!)
“I Have to Choose Between My Future and My Travels”
I’ve addressed this one last because it’s something I still struggle with from time to time. As a student entering my last year of college, I have the real world, the future, and employment to think about, and they are thoughts that plague my mind each and every day. Most students go to college in order to get a job directly afterward, and with the increasing difficulty of entering the job market, it’s easy to think that we are at a huge disadvantage when competing against other students and experienced hires.
For me, the best way I tackle this concern is to find activities that combine the two. Studying abroad was one way I was able to combine my studies and my passion for travel. Now that I am looking for jobs, I am only applying to global positions where travel is a distinct possibility within the job descriptions. I have also made the decision to save up as much money as I can this year, sacrificing a few opportunities to travel internationally, in order to travel long-term once I graduate. I know that being able to travel for months on end will help me learn more and better myself for the future, so I am willing to sacrifice a summer to make that happen.
What this summer has really instilled in me is trying to find opportunities to travel that are closer to home. I recently took a weekend and had a “staycation,” where I explored areas of the massive surroundings of Houston that I have never visited before. In many cases, I felt like a tourist…in my own city! Other weekends, I have had the opportunity to take short road trips to nearby cities (Austin, San Antonio, and Kemah are good examples) and even flew out to Chicago on a few occasions. Just because you’re working towards a future goal or career doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all travel, it just means that you have to find different ways to incorporate it into your life. For me, my traveler’s heart will always be eager to get out and explore new areas and try new things, no matter how near or far my destination is.