The first step you take when travelling is deciding what you want to achieve from your trip; namely where you want to go, and what you hope to do whilst you’re there.
Why am I going?
People travel for all kinds of reasons; to figure themselves out, to visit family or friends abroad, to see a place they’ve always dreamed of visiting or to take a break from the mundanity of the 9 to 5 slog, to name a few. I’m fresh out of university and I’m not certain what to do next. Should I study more? Should I get a job? If so, what subject do I choose? What career path do I take? And where should I go? A lot of people my age are in the same boat, and many are using evasion tactics. They’re adding extra years to their degrees or moving back in with mum and dad to stave off making a decision. I’m sure that many would argue that I’m doing exactly the same thing by squandering my savings on a “gap year”, but I don’t really see it that way.
There are countless places in the world I want to see and I want to make up my own mind about them; not just trust the word of a guidebook or fellow traveller. I want to observe different cultures, understand the intertwining histories and hear both sides of the story, have an audience with the famous monuments and taste the cuisines. That’s motivation enough for me to get up and go (like you wouldn’t believe). But this trip has another purpose; I’m not just after one long holiday! I hope that it will help me decide what career I want to commit to. I plan to seek opportunities to learn new skills and increase my knowledge. Meet people who can offer me advice. By this I mean volunteer and work, as well as sightsee and go out partying. But enough explanation.
Where am I going?
So as I have already mentioned, although I have some money saved, I’m not exactly rolling in it (and the less said about my student debt the better!). You may have heard of the Working Holiday Visa programme offered by various countries to British citizens. Canada, Japan, Australia… pay for the visa and you’re entitled to work there for up to a year. I haven’t applied for one yet, but my plan is to head to New Zealand and work there for a time. No language barrier and not too different a culture, popular with Britons and fewer animals that can kill you than in Oz. Plus the natural beauty of the country is indescribable.
But New Zealand is pretty far away and a direct flight there would mean missing out on a ton of incredible places in between.
The list of destinations is long; Japan, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, USA, Canada… maybe more. Possibly less. My plans are fairly fluid and my ambitions pretty big, maybe even naively so. I’m still working out the possible itinerary, trying to fit in with as many friends and contacts as possible, but a plan may be taking shape. A little more search is required before I feel like publishing it on here though!
In the meantime…
Because my university’s graduation ceremony takes place on the 22nd of October at the Royal Albert Hall in London, I’m not planning on leaving Europe before then. However I have a bit of money saved, some hospitable friends scattered about, and an extremely impatient nature that is leading me to do a trip to the mainland starting at the end of August. Patricia has invited me to stay in Santiago de Compostela, Northern Spain. Richard has asked me to drop in on him in Lausanne, Switzerland. Isabel says she’ll show me round Berlin, Germany. With places like Madrid, the south of France and Oktoberfest conveniently located on the way I can see a pretty awesome itinerary forming. I’d also like to take the opportunity to venture into Scandinavia, some countries I know less well, and do some volunteer work there. Staying in youth hostels and interrailing about to save cash means this trip needn’t break the bank!
A more sensible person would possibly use this time to get a job, learn transferable skills and increase the travel funds. But I say to that person that that’s boring and I’ve worked hard enough for the past three years! !!