You finally did it! You completed four years of college. Or maybe five... or perhaps six. Whatever. You're finished, graduation is here and you're ready to hit the pavement, beat feet and join the workforce. Yes? No?
Well, you don't have rush to join the real world just yet. Trust me, there are millions of us who -- daily, hourly even -- wish we had a chance to just do whatever we wanted, who long for a time when the world was still at our feet, ours for the taking, where either path was the road less traveled.
Why not take a little vacation? Or a big one? Why not grab that dog-eared copy of On the Road and do the thing you've been reading about. Pack your bag and hit the road, Jack. And yes, I said bag. Because if you can't carry it in a single pack, you don't need it.
Backpacking through a foreign country can be the thrill of a lifetime: immersing oneself in a new culture, skipping the obvious destinations for the more down-to-earth experience, savoring all that a new land has to offer. Don't let the word backpack intimidate you. I'm not suggesting you trek up Mt. Everest... yet. Backpacking simply means a low-cost, independent travel, where you take as little as possible, and do and see as much as possible. You don't need to be a hippie to travel like one!
Travel on a budget doesn't have to be cheap; it can be one of the richest experiences of your life. But to keep things affordable, there are resources to help you. Choose youth hostels over pricey hotels. Hostels provide a clean, safe, social environment for young travelers all over the world. Accommodations often include kitchen facilities, Internet access and local information to help you navigate your host country.
Let's get started.
Get a backpack and fill it with the following:
- Traveler's checks
- Two pairs of jeans
- A few t-shirts
- One hoodie
- Enough clean underwear and socks to keep Mom happy.
So where to? Take a look at five of the top destinations for independent travelers:
From the lively pubs of Dublin to the breathtaking mountains of Killarney National Park, and all of the green rolling hills, historic castles and ruins in between, Ireland is the ideal destination for the independent traveler. A hostel will cost you about $17 a night and there's plenty of public transportation to get you from coast to coast.
Although it's one of the poorest countries in the region, it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful with Bolivian Altiplano and the world's largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni. You can live comfortably on $20 a day with hostel costs ranging around $10 a night. Your biggest expense will be transportation, but the scenery and local culture will be worth it.
Visiting Western Europe is an obvious choice, but why not do something truly unique? With its rich history and culture, its medieval towns and old castles, from sandy beaches to magnificent mountains, Poland promises a rewarding experience. Be sure to stop by Kraków, one of the fastest growing cities in Europe that easily rivals the beauty and magnificence of Vienna, Prague and Hamburg.
You may need an extra week or two and some extra cash to enjoy all that the land down under has to offer, but you won't regret it. With plenty of rail and buses to get you from one location to the next, Australia offers its bustling metropolitan cities, Sydney and Melbourne, as well its rugged Outback, the spectacular Great Ocean Road and the famed Great Barrier Reef. An affordable alternative to singular travel would be to go in a small group and split the cost of a camper-van or car to navigate this vast continent.
5. The American West Coast
Keep it local! From Seattle to San Diego, there's no limit of the places to see and things to do. From the Space Needle to Sea World, visit wine country and the Bay area, the Hollywood Hills and Disneyland. Even here in the United States, it's possible to travel on a budget.
Upon your return from your fantastic journey, if you've been bitten by the adventure bug and you're still not ready to enter the quagmire workforce, consider continuing your education through a Master's in TESOL program and become an English teacher in another country. Not only see the world, but live it, experience it, and leave a piece of yourself behind.
Or take your world view, your unique experience and use it to benefit those here at home. Become a teacher and share your wealth of knowledge and your taste of adventure. Visit the Teacher Certification Map to see just how you can. And the best part -- teachers have summers off so you are free to travel every year!
This post is written by Jenn Pedde who is the community manager for the Master in Social Work program at the University of Southern California, which has one of the nation's leading military social work concentrations. She's an avid traveler and loves photography.