Travelling gave me the post-uni confidence boost I needed
By Alice Crossley
"You lose any meek self-consciousness you may have had in the face of strangers. You feel free to share aspirations you’d previously lacked the confidence to even whisper to yourself." Alice invites us to look beyond the "gap yah" clichés, and see the value of post-uni travels.
I t’s about time we shift in our perceptions of travelling after university. Many of us are choosing to delay the traditional gap year till after graduation, but for some reason, it is often dismissed as a delaying tactic. People view it as way to avoid the responsibilities of adult life, when in fact it can be a life-changing cultural opportunity. Travelling gives us a chance to slow down, take a deep breath and stops us rushing into the rest of our lives.
I was guilty of internalising people's negative misconceptions about travelling. I have lost count of the times I fell into the self-deprecating trap of telling people I had escaped to sunnier climates simply to delay the 9-5.
In truth, when you look past my countless clichéd Instagram posts, travelling was an extremely important and beneficial part of my post-university experience.
It helped me to eventually reach a place where I was more equipped to start my career. Socialising with people from a mix of backgrounds, ages and interests in hostels all over the world, made me to realise the importance of bursting out of your bubble - particularly if your bubble is one built on privilege.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the expectations of graduate life. It feels like a ticking time bomb counting down to the big “move out” - that moment when you are forced out of your parents house and sent to find a (non-existent) well-paid dream job in a career you love where you’re making instant impact and have instant respect and can see yourself working in it till you are eighty.
After one grad-scheme rejection too many, I decided to scrape together the money I’d managed to earn over the summer, along with savings I’d accrued over the year, and I impulsively booked a flight to South-East Asia.
Little did I know, the people I would meet and befriend would provide me life and career advice and wisdom which would help me form and structure my plans for the future, thousands of miles from the home I thought knew me best.
There was Robbie, the 27-year-old who’d left all his belongings and carpentry career to run a hostel on a remote beach in the Philippines, completely in love with his lifestyle. His approach to his own day-to-day became a unique and important lesson for me that the best way to be authentic is simply to listen to what you actually want to do. There was the 50-something Cirque Du Soleil technician who had followed his adrenaline junkie instinct all the way into a totally bizarre and awe-inspiring career. There was the group of Masters students finishing a semester abroad in Singapore; travelling almost every weekend, using their intelligence as a passport for both academic and cultural education.
All the people I met had incredible lives, but not one of their day jobs were options I had ever been told about at school.
Each person had a life I considered to be filled with success, despite the fact that not one of them had formulated or followed the structured five-year plan I had become so obsessed with creating for myself. I’d considered travelling the last and only option, following my failure to begin adult life in the way I’d been told was the best way - with one of those coveted “grad-schemes” apparently supposed to be some sort of “holy grail” or “golden ticket”. And yet, here I was being inspired and encouraged every minute of every day, miles away from the home filled with everything I had looked at before as an “opportunity”.
The endless cycle of meeting new people whilst travelling can also teach you valuable lessons about what you admire, respect and look for in others. It can, in turn, reveal things you cherish and aspire for in yourself.
Recounting your achievements and aspirations helps you build a better understanding of who you are and what you want to be.
You lose any meek self-consciousness you may have had in the face of strangers, empowered by their lack of pre-knowledge of anything about you, and your total indifference to their judgement. This freedom affords you the opportunity to share aspirations you’d previously lacked the confidence to even whisper to yourself. Hearing these word out loud when spoken to eagerly listening strangers somehow consolidate your own ambition and makes it all feel a bit more concrete, and worth fighting for. This personal growth can begin to rebuild the self-esteem the competitive and seemingly endless grad-scheme applications have already stolen from you.
So, my advice to you is this.
If you can travel, do. It’s worth the early mornings stacking shelves at your summer job or the gruelling admin of a dead end job for the first six months post-graduation.
Do not see it as a choice between that flashy grad-scheme and travelling the world with your best friends. Want both. Do both.
Travelling does not have to be a symbol of weary defeat or procrastination of the future. It allows you to unwind and relax giving you the peace and quiet to decide who you are and who you want to be.
This being said, I’m aware both travelling and university are great privileges. If you’re even more interested in and encouraged to try the former, after reading about my experiences, then great!
But of course, the elephant in the room is always going to be the cost.
Here are a few tips I picked up before and during my travels that helped me fund my travel, and make it something that was happening in real life, not just in my head! I’m sharing these in the hope that it might help you scrape together the pennies to get on that plane to the other side of the world. And trust me, after making it through third-year you deserve a million mojitos on the beach!
Top tips for saving money:
I worked as a nanny during the summer. This is a good and easy way to make money and sites such as Student Nannies help connect you with families who have connections with industries you might be interested in pursuing in the future.
The sudden influx of all your belongings from university back in your family home can leave you with an excess of unwanted items. A great way to make money is selling clothes on Depop/Ebay and old phones, iPads and laptops on Envirofone/ Music Magpie.
Don’t book tours - you can do it yourself for a fraction of the price and with all the freedom to pick and choose exactly what you want to do, all it takes is a little planning.
Flights can be off-puttingly expensive but use Hostel World to make sure you are finding the cheapest hostels. Try to book hostels with kitchens and buy cheap essentials such as oats, rice, pasta, tinned tuna and cereals so you can cook your own meals and avoid having to eat out excessively. Making meals with other travellers is also a great way to make friends! Packing a small Tupperware pot in your backpack is a piece of money-saving gold dust, as you can have the leftovers for lunch on the road the next day.
Hostels that offer free breakfasts are also an excellent way to save money, fill up for the day essentially for free.
It sounds obvious but walk as much as you can! This saves money on travel and gives you the chance to see more of the country and burns off those beers on the beach…
Take your student ID! This can get you discounts in museums, art galleries and all kinds of other experiences.
Talk to locals! They know the area better than anyone and will likely suggest ways to stray from the beaten path and find unique means of exploring the culture and landscapes, which will likely be far cheaper than the main tourist attractions.
** DISCLAIMER: Quarterlife Magazine takes no responsibility for the decisions of individuals choosing to reject investment banking graduate schemes to pursue a shell necklace business on the beaches of Bali following the publication of this article.
Images by Alice Crossley