Why You Should Travel Before Starting College

Deciding what to study in college can be one of the most stressful periods of your life. You feel the pressure from society, your family, and even yourself. However, it doesn’t have to be like that.

Sometimes, all you need is a break from all the pressure, so you can get a clearer idea of the path you’d like to take. In order to institute this break, some feel the best course of action is to take a gap year for travel.

More often than not, travelers come back home with a better understanding of who they are. Read on to see why.

You Might Change Your Major

It’s common for people who go on a year-long trip to come back with completely different plans. It’s not that they just changed their minds; it’s more like they saw that the number of possibilities was much greater than they initially thought.

For instance, you may want to take up a career in acting. However, during your trip, you volunteer at an elephant sanctuary and fall in love with elephants. Suddenly, you find a new passion for animals you never knew was there. You end up choosing a major in Biology but stick with a minor in Drama.

It Gives You Life Experience

Many students leave home for the first time when they go to college. Apart from dealing with their courses, they now have to do their own laundry, cook meals, and, most importantly, pay bills.

When young adults travel around the world, they get an instant crash course in day-to-day life. If they don’t learn how to budget and take care of themselves, they’ll have to cut the trip short. As a result, these young adults can start college with a slight edge over those that need to learn everything from scratch.

You Can Improve Social Skills

The traveling community is extremely welcoming. As such, strangers are rarely left out since it’s actually harder to be alone than it is to meet new people. You won’t become super extroverted overnight, but you’ll be more comfortable around people you don’t know.

It’s important to remember that, on the road, no one knows who you are — which is the ideal opportunity to “create” a new self. So, don’t be surprised when you get back home, and people say that you’re a different person.

It Can Boost Your Confidence

Many people don’t realize how strong and capable they are because there’s never a real challenge to overcome. However, when you’re traveling, you’ll be facing challenges on a weekly, if not daily basis.

The more you travel alone, the more confident you become. With each small win — be it getting a job, riding a scooter, or even flirting with someone at the bar — you understand that the only thing holding you back is yourself.

You’ll Meet Like-Minded People

If you ever felt like no one truly understands you, you may find yourself positively mistaken when you travel. One of the craziest things about traveling is finding people who share your interests, however weird they may be. It’s no wonder many of the friendships you make on the road tend to last for a long time (if not forever).

When you go back home to college, you can rest assured there’s someone out there who loves the same things you do.

It Can Be a Plus on Your Resume

In the past, traveling was perceived as a pointless activity when it comes to employability skills. Nowadays, most companies appreciate the skills gained from independent international travel.

When it comes down to it, travelers become more well-rounded people. Their exposure to different cultures, opposite points of view, and stressful situations make them capable of dealing with nearly anything.

You Could Learn a Foreign Language

If you’re a native English speaker, you probably don’t have the same need to learn another language as many people do. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! Although you can pretty much get by with English anywhere, you open many doors when you speak another language.

When you make the effort to learn and speak another language, you become a better communicator. Locals love it when you speak their language. Plus, if you’re fluent, you can understand the nuances, jokes, and will rarely fall for silly scams.

It’s Not Too Expensive

Traveling is as cheap as it’s ever been! If you’ve ever thought about traveling on your gap year but decided against it because it’s expensive, you should reconsider. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, smartphones, and apps, you have access to a wealth of information that can help you travel on the cheap.

Ideally, you should work and try to save as much money as you can before hitting the road. But if you work for accommodation or travel around cheap countries, your money will last a lot longer.

Look at traveling as an investment in yourself. Comparably, college fees will be a lot more expensive!

You May Choose to Study Abroad

Have you ever considered studying in another country? If you have a passion for fine arts or architecture, studying in Europe could be the perfect location for you. Maybe you visit Barcelona, fall in love with Miró’s paintings and Gaudí’s buildings, and decide to study there for a while.

However, you need to travel to new countries and experience the culture before making such a big decision. The moment you can see yourself living in another city and delving into its culture, you should check if it’s just a dream or an actual possibility.

It’ll Give You Perspective

Many people say traveling is so transformative because it’s the best cure for prejudice, entitlement, and ignorance.

Your hometown is tiny when compared to the rest of the world. As such, what you know about other places you probably learned from TV and the internet. However, reality tends to be very different when you see it with your own eyes.

You’ll understand your beliefs might be totally wrong when you meet generous people in dangerous countries, explore advanced cities in developing countries, or realize your country’s own culture is the one that’s backward.

You Figure Out Stuff on Your Own

If there’s one skill you’ll definitely acquire in your travels, it’s the ability to solve problems.

It’s impossible to travel for a long time without experiencing any mishaps. That’s a good thing because you always learn something from it. It might be annoying when your flight gets canceled or you lose your passport, but you’ll slowly become used to adversity.

When you get back to start college, you’ll see that the new problems are minimal compared to what you had to deal with on the road.

It’s Ideal Before Big Responsibilities

As you get older, traveling becomes harder because you start having more responsibilities. Although it’s totally normal to travel later in life, it takes a bigger effort to leave behind a promising career and travel with a spouse and kids.

When you’re young, you can be careless, to a certain extent, as you most likely don’t have a lot lose. It’s a great feeling to hop around the world without having to think about your mortgage, bills, or an elderly relative.

You May Skip College Altogether

After a whole year of new experiences, you may decide that you don’t want to start college just yet, and that’s fine. Maybe you want to carry on traveling a bit more and explore new cultures before making such a big decision.

It could be that you decide on a new career that doesn’t require an undergraduate degree, such as yoga teacher or diving instructor. If that’s the case, you can save the hassle (and the money) of studying something that’ll be pointless in your life.

Johnny Greig / Getty Images



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