The question I am asked most often in reference to my blog and lifestyle in general is, “How are you able to travel so much? I wish I could do that.” It’s mostly people from high school or college who maybe had one study abroad experience and that was the extent of their travels. I always give the same answer: I made it a priority. You may have bought a new car, rented a nice apartment or sensibly saved up for retirement. I chose to spend my winter and summer breaks abroad. I’m sure it will come back to bite me in the ass, but as for now, I’m content with my choices. So if you’re in college, or even if you’re not, here are my tips on how you can make travel happen.
I had been on a few international trips when I left for college. In December of my freshman year, my friend Christine and I signed up for a tour with EF College Break to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. After that trip, I made one nearly every year. The next trip was to London and Ireland independently before Croatia after graduation. I considered study abroad, but the idea of having to go to class while the whole world is outside my classroom door didn’t sound realistic.
People often get sucked into the mentality of “I can always travel later.” Yes, you might, but you might not. More often than not, you will find some job that pays most of the bills and an apartment you’ve settled into and then it becomes much less feasible.
Being in college means you probably don’t have a family to support. You don’t have big, scary things like a mortgage holding you down. As people always tell me, “Now is the time to do it.”
Traveling only adds to your well-rounded education you’re getting. You can see the paintings you’re studying in art history in person, experience the financial crisis in Europe firsthand instead of hearing about it in economics or intern at an international firm you might one day like to work for.
As a student, you get all sorts of deals on everything from flights to food to hostels. And oh yeah, most students don’t mind staying in hostels because they’re not much better than college dorm rooms.
The best time to travel is on winter break because destinations are far less crowded, not to mention that it’s the Northern hemisphere low season, making everything cheaper. Summer isn’t a bad time either because once you start a job you only get two weeks vacation (assuming you’re working in the US).
How Can I Do This?
Most colleges and universities organize Alternative Spring Break trips in which students give up any party plans in favor of building houses and helping out in communities.
Companies like i to i offer online TEFL certification, so you can be getting your certificate while you’re in school. Once you have it, you can get jobs after graduation in nearly any country in the world. You are also more likely to get placed in countries with better benefits, like paid vacation time.
Easily the most common option, students study abroad in semester long and summer programs. Some universities even let you study with other partner universities abroad. Find out what trips your school offers, what classes it accepts for credit and check out GoOverseas for reviews of your chosen program.
You can spend anywhere from two weeks to a few months working for your food and accommodation on farms all over the world with Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Job requirements vary from farm to farm. Yearly membership is $40 and grants you access to searching for farms and contacting owners.
Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Ireland all have working holiday schemes with the US where travelers can spend a year working and traveling in the country. Popular jobs include farm work, bartending and au pairing. Visas last for a year and let you work for six months at a time. Some offer two years, but you could stay for as long as your schedule allows.
Where Do I Begin?
Compiling information can definitely be overwhelming, but here’s where I recommend you start.
Study Abroad Office
Even if you aren’t studying abroad, the office has great resources, like the ISIC card, which offers travelers currently enrolled in accredited colleges and universities discounts on everything from museums to food to tours.
Blogs and Websites
Travel blogs are the new guidebooks and there are so many good ones out there. You can find them on my links page.
Sites like STA Travel and Student Universe offer great discounts on flights, tours and accommodation for students and travelers under the age of 26. If nothing else, you can see what tours they recommend and follow the route your own way.
How Should I Travel?
You might not be comfortable traveling on your own right away and choose to go with a tour group. Or you might think you can do it cheaper if you plan it yourself.
For my first overseas trip without my family, my friend and I went with EF College Break because we didn’t feel like planning the trip ourselves. Other student and under 30 travel companies include Contiki, probably the most popular, BusAbout, who I traveled to Croatia with, and Trek America. Pros for tour travel include having most costs paid for before you leave, an expert who knows each city’s background and not having to organize flights and accommodation. You also have a set group of people to hang out with. Cons include visiting tourist traps like diamond factories and nightclubs that give the tour operators kickbacks.
Since my first initial trip, I’ve done most of my travels independently. I’ve found that I have more flexibility by booking my own flights and hostels and I can avoid overrated attractions. I can also cut costs if I am running low, which you can’t do with tours. But on the flip side, some people may not like the hostel atmosphere and find it difficult to meet people. I recommend CouchSurfing for both cutting costs and meeting locals. Sites like TravBuddy and Meetup are also useful. It’s also a good idea to send an email to friends and family before you go to ask if they have any contacts in the cities you will be visiting. They may not be able to see you, but they could give you a free place to stay or a free meal.
I hope this post has at the very least made you realize how easy student travel can be. If you have any additional questions feel free to contact me.