This title might be controversial, and with good reason. It's important that I preface this article by saying that going to college — and getting a degree -— is an amazing, worthwhile pursuit.
A degree is always valuable, and important. Not just because of the academic knowledge you acquire, but because of everything you learn from the student experience. I am a Software Engineer and I could not be happier with the degree and career I chose. However, choosing to travel before getting a degree can open a world of doors.
Today I use only 1% of all the academic knowledge I received during my six years of career studies. But I use almost 100% of the other things I learned being a student; how to problem solve; how to navigate stressful deadlines; how to stay calm under pressure. And heaps of etceteras more.
But, something I've asked myself a lot in the past few years is... would I have chosen the same degree had I traveled before going to college?
Maybe. But I can't be 100% sure.
In this article I share how travel has shaped my life path in a positive way, and why I now believe that travel is a form of education worth pursuing before deciding on a career path.
7 reasons to choose travel over college
Travel exposes you to different cultures and ways of living
You don't need to be rich (or even have a lot of money) to travel
Travel shows you how to live outside of your comfort zone
You'll understand that financial freedom is possible, even without a degree
Experiential learning doesn't happen in a classroom
You'll discover new jobs and career paths you'd never thought or heard of before
You'll realize that it's better to be happy without a college degree, than unhappy with a diploma hanging on your wall
1. Travel exposes you to different cultures and ways of living
This is probably the most important reason to choose travel over college. While traveling, you will discover so many new cultures and ways of thinking. You will realize that there are so many different ways to live, and you'll find ways to embrace cultural differences rather than reject or dismiss them.
I was born and raised in a Catholic country (Argentina). For me, Christianity was the only religion on earth. Being a Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu was something I had only read about in books in school.
When I started traveling, I realized that in Thailand they pray to a different God than they do in Iran. And in India, they pray to a yet a different God than they do in Iran or Thailand! Perhaps more importantly, I discovered that every religion has something to offer.
But religion is just one example of the cultural differences you'll encounter while traveling. Social norms can also differ vastly from one culture to another. In short, traveling made me realize that the Western way is not the only way. There are hundreds of truths and I must respect all of them.
2. You don't need to be rich (or even have a lot of money) to travel
You might be thinking that if you don't have a degree, you won't be able to earn money and even travel in the first place. The good news is that you don't need thousands of dollars to travel around the world. You just need your will.
Nowadays there are so many ways to travel on a budget that money is no longer a major obstacle for those who wish to explore the world. Budget travel also exposes you to a different, more interesting side of travel. An addition to being subjected to hundreds of situations that force you to be resourceful, you'll also enjoy a more local, immersive travel experience.
One of the best ways to have a profound cultural experience and save money while traveling is to do a work exchange with Worldpackers. Essentially, you choose your dream destination, find a host that suits your interests, and work a few hours each day in exchange for accommodation and other benefits!
Another way to save money on accommodation is to couch-surf. Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you a couch, a spare bed, or a sleeping bag and let you sleep in their homes. They do not want money. They just want to spend time with you and experience a cultural exchange. Believe me, this is one of the most beautiful things that you can experience while traveling.
To sum it all up, you don't need to be rich to travel! In fact, budget travel can lead to some really special, unique travel experiences. Don't miss them.
3. Travel shows you how to live outside of your comfort zone
Being out of your comfort zone will teach you how to overcome difficult situations without the help of anyone. When you travel alone, you learn just how strong, resilient, and capable you really are.
You will be exposed to so many scenarios and complicated moments that you never thought you were going to encounter. You probably won't even be ready for them. But you will overcome them, and what's more, you'll be a better you because of them.
4. You'll understand that financial freedom is possible, even without a degree
While traveling you will be exposed to many different approaches to living. You'll meet people traveling without a return ticket home. You'll meet backpackers on the road for two or three months. You'll meet work-exchangers who are passionate about immersive, experiential travel, and live for the Worldpackers travel experience. You'll meet entrepreneurs who can share their secrets about how to travel the world-full time as a digital nomad. And on and on it goes...
Financial freedom and success are no longer a direct reflection of where you went to college or the degrees under your belt. Your patience, confidence, and creative persistence are what matter most.
5. Experiential learning doesn't happen in a classroom
A college education can teach you so many things. But experiential learning doesn't happen in a classroom.
The memories, experiences and lessons that you will gain while traveling can only happen in one place: out in the real world.
When you return home after traveling, you won't remember the specific details about the construction of the Roman colosseum or what year the Pantheon was built. You will remember the feeling of Rome; the sheer grandeur of its ancient architecture, the magnitude of the empire that once was, the layers upon layers of history.
6. You'll discover new jobs and career paths you'd never thought or heard of before
Maybe as a kid you always dreamt about being an engineer. And as you grew up, you saw only one possible option for your future: engineering.
Travel will expose you to new jobs and career paths you'd never thought or heard of before. For example, I discovered the world of coffee while working in Australia. I did a Barista degree (yes, it's a real thing!) in Sydney and fell in love with the art of coffee. I just love being a barista.
Does that mean that I hate being an engineer? Not at all. But, maybe today, I would honestly prefer working as a Barista. I simply love it. Maybe in two or three years I will discover a new trade and pursue that for a while.
Whether you want to find your passion or simply get some fresh perspective about your career options, traveling will put you on the right path.
7. You'll realize that it's better to be happy without a college degree, than unhappy with a diploma hanging on your wall
The day has come. You finally got your diploma. And now what? What's next? What should you do now? And, most importantly, are you happy?
What you study should be something you enjoy. Something you love — in an ideal scenario, your passion.
Degrees are important, worthwhile pursuits. And, as they are so important, you should think carefully about what you are going to study. So, what’s the rush? Think it over. Go travel. Take all the time you need.
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My name is Luciano, I am from Argentina and I ve been travelling for more than 6 years. I actually live in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and my blog, Una Vuelta por el Universo, is the result of my journeys around the world.
Come and travel with me!