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Travel versus college: the eternal debate rages on with no clear-cut winner. Faced with rising tuition costs and a less than satisfying job market, many would-be college students are ditching their knapsacks and textbooks for rucksacks and guidebooks. But is putting your future on hold for a year of travel the best idea?
Although both sides have their merits, there are simply some things you'll never learn from scribbling notes in a stuffy lecture hall. Struggling to choose between travel and college? Consider these six lessons travel teaches you that college never will:
1) You are capable of more than you've ever imagined.
No one can deny it: Travel is transformative. And I'm not talking about tired clichés like "how backpacking through Europe changed my life", but the ability of travel to affect a tangible and lasting impact on your life.
Travel can turn introverts into extroverts, bring confidence to the meek, and create adrenaline junkies out of thin air; it pushes your physical and mental limits, forcing you to quickly adapt to uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations.
Want to see what you're truly made of? Travel.
2) People are fundamentally good.
Whether you live in New York, Dubai or Karachi, human beings are driven by the same basic desires. We care for our family and friends. We seek to protect our loved ones. We strive to improve our lives day after day. Most importantly, we look out for one another.
Without experiencing the world for ourselves we often lose sight of that, relying instead on cheap stereotypes to guide our thinking. Travel reminds us that we are more bound by similarities than separated through differences.
Good is stronger -- and more prevalent -- than evil. Get out there and see for yourself.
3) You are but a tiny blip on a giant radar.
Our whole lives we're told were special. Starting at home, continuing into our school years, and even into college, parents, teachers, friends, and work colleagues all do their best to remind us just how important we are.
It can be painful at first, but travel will knock that right out of you. Travel humbles you; it makes you truly realize just how small you are in this great big world.
You are a mere speck in an infinite universe. Accept it: You'll see it's not so bad.
4) Stereotypes are ridiculous.
Hollywood can really numb your common sense. If we believed everything we'd ever seen in the movies, we'd think all Russians are villains, all American college kids are alcoholics, and that all Australians do is hunt crocodiles and surf.
Fortunately, travel clears your mind of (most of) that rubbish. Wander around a little and you'll discover that not all Germans are serious, not all Canadians are overly polite, and not all Swedish women are supermodels.
Well, maybe that last one's true.
5) The world is not a dangerous place.
Turn on the news at any given moment: Reports about civil wars, armed struggles or terrorist attacks are never too far away. It's no wonder that announcing travel plans for places like Turkey, Israel or Indonesia can send loved ones into a panic. (I speak from experience.)
Negative news sells, and without venturing beyond your backyard, it's easy to assume that chaos reigns as soon as you step out of your country's borders. Never do we hear those feel-good, heart-warming local news stories from around the world. They're out there. You just need to find them.
6) One person can make a difference.
Grand gestures get all the attention. With philanthropists doling out millions of dollars to charities, it's difficult to see how ordinary people like us can affect positive change.
Travel shows you the other side of the coin: how tiny gestures can add up to something truly meaningful. You'll see that don't need to save a whole village or solve all the world's problems to impact lives. Be the difference for one person at a time. Even the small can become mighty.