California was technically my first stop on my travels. I wasn’t working and I had already moved out of my apartment. Clare, my best friend, and I went home for the weekend before returning to the Bay Area for a couple days. When you’re nomadic like I am and spending your days sleeping on the couches of friends, said friends tend to have jobs so there is a lot of time spent alone.
There I pondered a conversation I had a couple weeks prior with a recently admitted graduate student that was biting at the bit to start working. It is true; work experience is valuable and necessary for one to gain what Dr. Mega Jay calls identity capital. In her book, The Defining Decade, she walks readers through the importance one’s early 20s plays in their future. The first link is a Ted Talk she gave if you want to learn more.
I found this book incredibly interesting and motivating. I find myself referencing her work often. But the young graduate student I met isn’t a floater nor is he wasting away his youth without any direction. He is of the other breed from my generation: the type A, overly ambitious sort, where anxiety disorders are TBD. He graduated undergrad at an accelerated rate and intends to do the same with his doctoral work.
And to him.... this wildly bright 21 year old, I said, “Work is over-rated.”
That is how I feel at 27 years old. The struggle and the grind of a 40-hour workweek was one of the most difficult adjustments I had to make in my life. As a student, you have NO point of reference to that schedule. Most working adults don not get to take naps at noon, or run errands after teaching a seminar. Most of us, will spend our whole lives working hard to achieve whatever career and business goals we set out for ourselves often spending far more than 40 hours a week at the office.
Occasionally, small slivers of time come into our lives affording us the opportunity to take a break; to travel.
For me, it has been when I was in-between jobs, for some it is when they graduate college, for others it is a company granted sabbatical. Not everyone wants to travel but for those of us who have a taste for it, those moments can become the most precious. You have to recognize the opportunity because you don’t know when the next one is going to come along.
I put myself through college, which never afforded me the finances to travel while in school or so I thought. I spent way too much money on specialty cocktails, shopping and going out in Los Angeles. Had I lived under my means and tossed the credit cards given to me at the ripe age of 18, I probably could have spent a year in Europe studying while learning to speak French.
There is this common fear people have about travel. Yes it’s expensive but one can travel pretty far on $3,000- $6,000. You can earn that kind of money in additional income, by passing on Starbucks, fancy cocktails and working side jobs like catering, in 6 months to a year.
It is doable.
Work is so very important, I’m sure I will write more about identity capital and the failures of the American university systems later. But if you are thinking about travelling and have already knocked off some of those key self-investments such as education then I strongly encourage you to do it.
If any of you are thinking about doing long-term travel please feel free to email me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or share your own stories in the comments below. I’m not a professional but I’d love to help if I can.