Why You Should Ditch Post-Grad Expectations and Travel Instead
Where I come from, travel is something middle to upper-class families do for a week at a time, maybe once a year during the summer when they leave their suburban homes and check into a resort. They certainly don’t pick up at 21 years old and move to a different country, alone.
But maybe they should.
When I moved to Boston, Massachusetts from the aptly named Littleton, Colorado, everyone in my hometown thought of me as brave, unusual, and a little bit crazy. I was one of twenty students in my graduating class to attend higher education out of the state, and the number of those who were traveling 1,000 miles away was even smaller.
Three and a half years later, I’ve graduated from said Boston college, packed my bags (again), and booked my visa and plane ticket for the green land of Guinness and craic, Ireland.
I suppose you can say I have the travel bug.
To me, a few years in one city is enough to make it seem small. Eighteen years in Littleton, Colorado left me itching for something bigger, something different than what middle-class America had to offer. Boston only made that itch grow. While studying writing and literature in one of America’s oldest and most beautiful cities, I lost myself in dreams of those faraway places written about in classic novels and epics.
I was exposed to more opportunities than ever before, from the Roman arches bloodied in Virgil’s The Aeneid to the sinking streets of Venice in Shakespeare’s Othello. After three years, I felt I had gained my New England experience, embracing its gloomy history a la The Crucible and The Bell Jar. It was time for my own epic, whether it be comedy or tragedy.
In the lush world of high society in America, it was (and in many cases still is) standard to send a young graduate to Europe to become “worldly” before returning to the States to spend the rest of their lives selling insurance in a grey office or wallowing in the joys of being married to an insurance agent, taking their week-long vacations once a year, weather permitting.
As a middle-class girl in the east coast on a scholarship, this practice was merely a romantic element in an Edith Wharton novel. It was both unreachable and unattractive – I was majoring in writing and publishing and didn’t want to spend the rest of my days in a cubicle or a fancy house on the Upper East Side. What I wanted was to follow the tradition of these Ivy Leaguers, but never return.
As someone who was used to defying the status quo, I decided to make it happen.
Photo courtesy of the author
I am currently writing from a cozy couch in a small coffee shop next to St. Stephen’s Green in the center of Dublin, sipping an Americano (some things never change). I’m still recovering from celebrating my favorite holiday, Halloween, in the country of its origins, and I am getting used to being surrounded by an accent that makes the English language sound like anything but. It’s taken a year of hard work to get here, as well as months of cutting apart every plan I had for my life before even leaving, but I made it.
It is possible to abandon the life that’s been set up for you and trade it in for the adventurous life of your dreams.
Life can become such a series of plans – bucket lists, travel boards on Pinterest, late night talks with friends in dorm rooms – that we forget how to take action.
When a Friday paycheck comes around, we go out and buy a sweater we won’t be wearing in a year instead of putting that money toward a flight to Cuba. We work our vacation days instead of using them to go somewhere that makes us forget about the long stream of emails awaiting us at the office. We continue to work at jobs we don’t love instead of taking risks and creating the life we want.
Obviously, opportunities are different for everyone, and the real parts of life do often stand in the way of picking up and moving to a new country. But don’t trick yourself into thinking that dreams are just that.
In high school, my dream was to travel the world and write, staying in one place for not more than three years at a time. When was starting to look at colleges and make real decisions about my future, I began planning realistic ways to make this dream come true. I would graduate in four years with a degree in publishing and writing, move to NYC, get a job at a publishing agency editing books, move my way up in the company over a span of five years and then take my work freelance, traveling and making money editing for the large clientele list I had acquired. That meant that in approximately nine years (if everything went according to plan) I would be living my dream!
I am currently on year four of that nine-year plan, already living my dream.
Don’t be afraid to throw your original plans out the window and take action now. You just might end up saving five years of your life from a 9 to 5 cubicle.
Don’t be Jane Austen when you could be Cheryl Strayed.
Whether you’re dreaming of partying at Oktoberfest in Germany or finally embracing your Parisian style as a Parisian local, stop wishing and start working.
If you were to write a novel about your life, where would you want it to be set? I’m already making plans to spend next year in New Zealand – I heard they do a great Christmas celebration.