I was a very ambitious young 20’s college student. Not in the sense that I was pursuing my academics to the best of my efforts, more so because I couldn’t wait to graduate and explore the world.
Six months before I graduated college, I sold almost everything I owned. I watched a video about Minimalism that completely changed my life.
I decided to forgo material items in exchange for mental freedom and adventure (And a little extra cash).
Carrying two suitcases filled with clothes and personal items, I set off on what ended up being a two-year trip around the world.
There has never been a single moment that I regretted that decision.
Widen Your Perspective
My first destination was not everyone’s first choice of location. I landed in Chengdu, China during the summer of 2014.
The air was warm and humid, filled with the smell of oils frying up endless amount of street noodles. The juxtaposition of traditional Chinese architecture against modern buildings was unlike anything I ever saw before.
Yet, what came as the biggest shock, was that for the first time in my life, I was the one that stood out like a sore thumb. I was the foreigner.
Having grown up in Orlando, I am quite used to seeing people of different cultures coming to visit the land of Mickey Mouse. I would wonder why people behaved so differently; their attitudes towards personal space and how they treated people.
Now the tables were turned; I was the odd man out. No longer was I the one whose culture was the norm — I was immersed in a whole new way of living.
It was a tough lesson to wrap my head around, but realizing that the way other people live isn’t wrong, just different, was eye-opening.
It’s easy to live life in our comfort zones, but that leaves us with a very narrow view of how the world actually is. Cultures are so vastly different; learning how other people go about their daily lives and how they think is a vital way to create your unique understanding of the world.
Ever felt like people have the wrong perception of you? Or that you want to be better understood and not what people have known you like your whole life?
Travel is a means to that end.
When you go to a new country (or even city), no one knows who you are. No one knows your back story. No one knows anything about you, other than what you tell them.
I’m not saying to travel abroad and make up an elaborate back-story, but you pick and choose what you tell people. This determine’s a person’s perception of you.
Have you always been known as the nerdy kid? Well, join a local rugby league and explore your athletic side
Want to start tapping into your creative side via painting? Take up some painting classes or frequent museums.
Even if you’re unsure of who you want to be, travel is the opportunity to try new hobbies, interests, or join groups.
When I was living in Korea, I joined a board game club. I knew nothing about board games. Now I know all about the elaborate world of board game conventions and tournaments; I find it fascinating.
Try Out Different Jobs
When I first left for China, I never thought I would end up working as:
- A marketer in Chengdu
- A promo model throughout China
- An au pair in Spain
- A teacher in Korea
- A freelance Facebook Ads specialist in France
Those all just happened.
The fact is, I needed money to be able to travel. I needed to find a source of income. I became crafty, which led to a multitude of odd jobs.
As a result, I gained a variety of experience and learned more about what I genuinely like to do.
My point here is that taking time off after college can be seen as an opportunity to explore a new field or gain skills that will be valuable for you when you do start your career.
Make Friends From All Over The World
I deeply value my friends from college and high school, but they think much differently than my friends I met while living abroad.
I now know at least one person from every continent (except Antartica) from traveling. They span from a wide variety of cultures. They all have drastically different ways of thinking. These friends are open to deep conversations that quickly traverse superficial small-talk.
I’ve heard countless stories from what it was like being brought up in different cultures. Visited their families in places like France and Korea. I couldn’t have replicated these experiences had I stayed in the states.
Also, I now have places to stay all over the world — Bonus!
Travel Looks Great On a Resume
I interviewed with countless companies since I came back from traveling the world.
Do you know what has always been a unique topic of discussion and a selling point? My travels.
Potential employers interview a crazy amount of people for positions. Someone who lived in Thailand for a year? Now that’s bound to stand out from the herd.
To them, a gap year looks to them like a freshly graduated person that took time to get a deeper understanding of how the world works and better know their own interests.
A year of traveling will not make you look any less capable of a position than someone that just graduated college. A year isn’t that long at all.
Travel shows ambition, passion, ability to cope in new situations, excellent communication, and the ability to see things from a new perspective.
All great resume boosters.
My dad’s best friend, a man in his late 40’s, once gave me the advice to explore the world while I’m young because he wishes he had.
I’m sure if you thought about it, or asked around to a few people, you could think of a time when someone said this about their life.
I used this idea as a motivating factor for my gap years. I never wanted to grow up having wished I explored the world. What a shame that would be to regret something you could never go back and change.
Traveling is also a whole different ball game when you’re older (I assume, I’m still only in my 20's). I see my parents preferring luxury and convenience over spontaneous adventures.
When you’re young, were willing to forgo certain luxuries and throw inhibitions to the wind; You’re much more likely to take that last-minute bus to a remote village in Cambodia.
The stories that come with those spur-of-the-moment decisions are priceless.
The positive outcomes are endless when it comes to taking time off after college. The idea that you need to rush into a career is nonsense.
A better perspective gained is the most valuable asset you could have in life. You could never get that from sitting in an office.