Chances are that your parents didn't travel after school (the majority of US citizens don't have passports), and maybe don't think you need to, either. And after you graduate from college, it's implied that you'll go straight to work for the rest of your young-enough-to-travel life. UK students, on the other hand, hit the road to Europe running right after finishing secondary school -- it's called a gap year, and means a year of traveling or life before or after college. You should take a gap year, too. Why? A million reasons you'll never regret... here are just five:
1. You're Free:
School's out for the summer -- for some of you, school is out forever. Here's a scenario: someone's unmarried, has no mortgage, just graduated and the new job doesn't start until this fall. Hey, that's you. So: hang around for the summer, or head for an exotic land (and it doesn't have to be abroad -- Utah's exotic if you live in Maine) and meet new people in very cool places filled with folks your age? You might as well go! You've got some time to pay off your student loans, right?
2. No More Discounts for 30 Years:
Some of the best travel discounts around are those given to 12-26 year-olds. They're generically called "student discounts," but you needn't be a student to get 'em -- you don't get these kind of age-based discounts again until you're a senior traveler (those aren't as good as student discounts, either) . A few samples: international student discount cards, 15% off Amtrak, 25% off Rail Europe train passes... you get the picture. But -- you need to go now, see.
- The Resources: Where to Find Student Travel Discounts
3. Your Resume:
Believe it! Employers like the look of time spent abroad -- travel really does broaden and mature the traveler, and it shows some initiative and resourcefulness on your part (you had to plan how to get there, get around, and pay for it). Plus, you'll be practicing languages where they're spoken -- you'll have to use that high school Spanish, enabling you to up the level of your proficiency on an employment application. Since most Americans don't travel abroad, you could conceivably have a leg up when it's time to travel on biz ("Send Jones to Thailand for the merger -- she's been there before...")
4. Hostels Are Made for You:
As you travel down the road of life, you may become familiar (again) with "family" hotels (except you'll be paying the bill this time), business hotels, and, eventually, "senior-friendly" spots... never again, though, will you have the kind of carefree digs, like summer camp or campus dorms, that are meant just for travelers the age you are right now: hostels. You can stay in hostels for the rest of your life if you like, but eventually you may be asking for a private room away from the bar. Take advantage now of the huge world of hostels where you'll find life exactly to your liking.
- More: Hostels 101
5. Transitioning to the "Real World":
In school, you're surrounded by people your age with whom you've much in common, and the homelife and tuition freight may be being paid by parents, loans or scholarships; you may have had to learn to work with a budget, get an apartment and even a job -- still, it's not quite the real real world... Travel bridges the gap. You'll meet people from all socio-economic levels. You may be figuring out day-to-day life -- ATM's, buses -- in another language. If you walk on the wild side in the third world, you may be completely on your own. Transitioning to life in corporate America will be a tame, easy snap in comparison.
Those million more reasons to travel that we mentioned? You'll find 'em on the road, on a trip that you'll never, ever regret, that you'll remember and relish for the rest of your life. Go, and enjoy!
- Get Started: Travel Planning