Why You Should Be Travelling During the School Year

Why wait for the next seasonal break (or even graduation) to travel when the reasons to travel now are so enticing.

By Jessica Huynh, Storyteller for RU Student Life

The semester’s almost over and I feel like I’ve spent more time flying on planes than I have walking on solid ground. Last month, I visited Lisbon for the first time and this weekend, I flew to Calgary to attend my sister’s convocation. Not to mention back in August, I attended Osheaga in Montreal and plan on booking a vacation to somewhere tropical next month (or perhaps I’ll save those plans for February Reading Week when I will inevitably be itching to escape the Canadian winter). I’ve been non-stop travelling anytime the opportunity strikes, despite being in school full-time.

When my obsessive vacationing gets brought up in conversation, a lot of people quizzically ask me how I’m finding time (and resources) to travel amidst everything I’m holding down: school, a job, and an apartment. The answer is simpler than you think: I travel because I make it a priority. That, coupled with saving, dedication, and a great deal of planning.

But I’d be lying if I said it’s been an easy journey jetting off a week before midterms and spending it fighting my internal clock to stay awake just long enough to squeeze in some quality studying. I’d be deceiving you if I said it hasn’t been stressful scrambling to do as much schoolwork as I can mentally muster prior to leaving. Because in all honesty, vacationing during school is mainly waking up early, staying up late, and saying no to a day of sightseeing so you can sit in your cramped Airbnb to finish your 2000-word research paper. In spite of these unpleasant downfalls to travelling during the semester, I still believe the benefits outweigh the negatives. Here’s why:

Cheap Flights — Everyone knows travelling during off-season can make the difference between penny-pinching on vacation or travelling semi-luxuriously. Reading week occurs early to mid-October and mid-February, which is arguably the best time to travel if you’re a student hoping to go anywhere abroad. If you keep your eyes and ears on the lookout, you can find some sweet YYZ deals.

Less Tourists — Travelling when everyone else is in school is a great way to experience a new city without craning your neck to see a cultural artifact, waiting in long lines to climb a bell tower, or squeezing in-between people to get that breath-taking shot. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi that lingers in the air when every fifth person isn’t holding a selfie stick. You can actually witness and interact with locals who tend to be warmer now that their city isn’t being swarmed with tourists.

Affordable Accommodation— Instead of booking the first available Airbnb/hostel/hotel that doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, you can actually choose from a wide selection of overnight accommodations that will also save you some extra cash. That’s right: another perk to travelling when it’s less busy is benefiting from the cheaper $/night value, which means more spending money for all the fun things you are bound to do.

Sparks Self-Efficiency— Planning for a vacation motivates you to be on top of your school work. I didn’t want to spend my vacation laboring over school the entire time, so I had to be super organized and hyper-efficient with my time prior to leaving. For instance, I mapped out my entire semester to determine what days I could leave and what days I could come back without missing any major deadlines. I had to take on the role of the leader in group work, so I could contribute my share while I was away. I’m more focused this semester than I was in previous years, and yet I’m experiencing so much more. It’s fantastic!

Creates Something to Look Forward to — Nothing motivates you more than knowing that your hard work will be rewarded. Even when I felt over-worked or stressed, I kept reminding myself that in x weeks and y days, I would be saying, “Hasta la Vista” to Toronto and experiencing new food, culture, and places somewhere far way.

Teaches You How to Budget — Realistically, you won’t be making enough money to go on an elaborate trip while you’re in school full-time (unless you plan on going somewhere affordable or you lucked out with a well-paying job). The bulk of your income will come from savings 3–5 months prior to leaving. As someone who pays my own rent and bills, I had to make sure those costs were accommodated before I could even consider vacationing. Luckily, I served at a local tavern several times a week and landed an internship that provided me honorarium. I was working close to 50 hours a week in the summer to keep myself afloat, while saving enough so that I could eventually vacation and support myself when I came back. Working all summer was worth it for me, but I can understand that some people would rather have a relaxing summer. The important takeaway from all of this is to budget appropriately to ensure that a vacation won’t put a strain on your priority expenses. At the end of the day, budgeting is all about making sacrifices. I sacrificed my summer so that I could travel during school because that was worth it for me.

Opens Up Your Summer Options — The primary reason I’m travelling so much over my last year of school is so I can keep my summer open to career opportunities. I graduate this upcoming June and my goal is to find work as soon possible, which means I won’t be going down that ‘Backpacking after Graduation’ route that many graduates will surely do. I’m treating this time in my life as that last push before I embark on my career and as a little congratulatory gift to myself before the big send-off.

Whether you travel before, during, or after your studies (or not at all), it’s all about prioritizing what you want and executing. There’s not one way to go about life. For me, travelling during the semester was the ideal solution to kick my travel bug to the curb while remaining true to my long term goals. As they say, “If there’s a will, there’s a way!” Even if that means waking up groggily at three in the morning to communicate with group members on the other side of the world.