Why You Should Not Drop Out of College to Travel

This post was a long time coming. It’s the emails you guys.

Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing from readers. However, I get a lot of emails from people asking me for advice- which honestly, it’s hard for me to understand why anyone would ask ME, the girl who can’t be bothered to change out of sweatpants most days, for seriously life advice.

People do though, and I always try my best to give them a wise answer that hopefully won’t totally screw up their life if they listen to me. Which isn’t always easy.

Anyways, a very common question that I am asked often is some variation of this:

I’m a sophomore/junior/ incoming freshman in college. I am desperate to travel and see the world! I want to leave right away but my parents/friends/ conscience thinks I should wait and finish my degree. What do I do?”

Listen up: I have no control over your life, nor do I want to have control over your life. That said, I am NEVER going to advise someone to drop out of college.

Now maybe I seem like someone who would be sympathetic, and trust me I am. Take a year off before/after/in the middle of college to travel if you want. It’s good for you. But don’t throw college out the window entirely.  Here is my reasoning:

Education is Valuable

The friends you make in college are valuable!

Someone in the comments is going to try to debate me on whether a college degree is worth anything anymore in this economy, I just know it. That’s not what I’m talking about. Credentials can be useful, but even more useful is knowledge.

If you do it correctly college teaches you so much. I can honestly say there is no way I could be doing my current job without those 4 years of education under my belt. Critical thinking, time management, work ethic, college taught me all these things. Not to mention how to write clearly and comprehensively. My job may not directly require a degree but without the writing skills that I learned in college I would never in a million years be able to make a living this way.

You Can Travel AND Go to College

Study abroad!

The fact is that travel and education are not mutually exclusive, in fact they go together really really well. There are a ton of opportunities to travel while you are in college.

Study abroad programs are the most obvious answer. I never understood why more people don’t take advantage of study abroad options. Theoretically you could spend as much as half of your college years living in other countries (I know people who have done it). Studying abroad is also a great way to get your feet wet with the experience of living abroad.

If that doesn’t work with your academic schedule, there are still tons of other opportunities: volunteer trips, summer programs, hell even just backpacking around on your own one summer. Our write Kay is a full time student and she has written tons of articles on the subject including: Challenges of a Traveling College Student,  The Honest Truth About Studying Abroad and Ways to Travel Post-Graduation.

The World Isn’t Going Anywhere

This may sound off from someone whose website tagline is “Why Wait to See the World?” I think that’s why I get a lot of these emails: people feel this urgency, that they need to take control of their life right now or it will never happen, the opportunity will slip through their fingers like sand. I totally understand that.

But I also know, from experience, that is not how it works. This is not your one chance to seize the world.

Do people drop out of college for good reasons? Sometimes, yes. My Dad dropped out his sophomore year and drove cross country. He went back though because he realized that education is important in all of it’s different forms. He went on to get two Master’s degrees.

Finally, I will leave you guys with the piece of advice I give most people who write to me: If you are asking random people on the internet to weigh in on your life choices, chances are you already know the answer to your question. Deep down you know it, you just can’t, or don’t want to acknowledge it.

This is a blog about living a purposeful life. College, like travel, can have a huge impact on your life when done correctly. Don’t sleepwalk through your education, embrace it, use it, make it work for you. Then take it for a spin around the globe.

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26 thoughts on “Why You Should Not Drop Out of College to Travel”

  1. Hi steph! I love this post. It’s such a well balanced and wise approach to the dilemma many face with college and travel. I was definitely there many times where I wanted to drop out of my music program. I’m glad I stuck through. You can read my post on my blog http://www.creativeheart-travel.com about how I stayed in school and traveled during the summer time.

  2. I dropped out of college. Not to travel but I’m very glad that I have more time to travel now. I would love to be able to get my degree and study abroad but it’s just not possible right now.

    So far since dropping out of school I’ve started one small business and I’m working on another project right now. While I’m sure having a degree will open more (different) doors for me while traveling I refuse to let not having one hinder me. By the time I’m actually able to go back to school I probably won’t even need to.

  3. I would volunteer the idea that education is NOT the same thing as intelligence. A good education will teach people how to think on their own, however, a life of travel does that as well. There are also those who attend prestigious schools merely to add them to their resume for a semester or two in order ti network within a certain arena and then drop out to pursue the success they need without the high and ever increasing price of college tuition. Mike Rowe said it well: “We’re lending money we don’t have, to kids who will never be able to pay it back, for jobs that no longer exist.” Ultimately, to each their own. 🙂

  4. I don’t regret my life choices for one minute BUT I dropped out… not of college, before that. I didn’t even finish high school, tho’ at the time it was not mandatory to stay in education past 16, I dropped out a year later.

    I am not by any means stupid, or unintelligent. I quite like learning, but I fell in love with a boy who lived in Spain and I wanted to be with him. Long story short, I was put under a lot of pressure to forget him & rebelled. I lived in Spain with him for 4 years. I learnt a language, I had a good job there, too.

    Since coming back to the UK, I have taken other courses, and considered a degree several times but with the rising costs & the fact I want to work as well, it just hasn’t been feasible (especially since I’d need to do an extra year to catch up). I don’t regret my choices, only I wish I’d finished high school. Plus, honestly, I still don’t know what I’d want to study, or what I’d plan to do with it once I’ve got it– and it’s an awful lot of money to spend & not know what to do with it.

    Regarding the ‘study is not for everyone’ comment above. I do agree to a point, my brother who is four years my junior, he cannot read or write. Again he’s not stupid (tho’ don’t tell him I said that), he’s a genius with computer’s, and encouraged in the right direction he’s become incredibly successful (even writing program’s for facebook a year or so back- at least that’s the one that impressed me the most).

    I think what I’m trying to say is, don’t close doors. Don’t throw away chances. Finish high school, and if you don’t want to go to college straight away, defer. Or apply after travelling for a year. Keep your options open.

  5. I agree 100%. College was one of the best times of my life — when again will you have the chance to learn so much from people so much smarter than you? When will you get the opportunity to meet and mix with people that have similar interests as you? Plus, college teaches a lot more than academics — I gained so much life experience in college, I can’t even begin to put it into words. You might discover things you never knew you liked, meet people you never would have met — many of the same things that are appealing about travel. So why not do both? Study hard, save your money, and then take a gap year after college 🙂

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