High school, what college to go to, which major to choose, getting a grown up job…welcome to the world of making hard life decisions. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather think about taking a vacation in Indonesia instead. I mean, after high school you go to college and after college you do…what? Get a job? Awesome….But what about traveling the world? I didn’t so much want to follow that traditional pattern my friends were following because I was too hung up searching for cheap flights so I could backpack Europe on a budget.
Out of All The Things To Do In Your Twenties, traveling has made the most enormous impact on my life
School could wait for a bit. Graduation will happen, just a little later..and I wasn’t too anxious to jump straight into an office job just to pay car payments and insurance and stuff. This world is INCREDIBLE and I wanted to see it for myself and I don’t regret it for a second.
And I don’t see traveling as putting my life on hold.
These Trips Aren't Just Trips
Sure, I could have taken summers to take more classes and get a job right after graduation but I’ve been able to finish school and get a job (that allows me to travel, ironically enough) and still make friends with the lady at my favorite noodle house or how to haggle the price down like a local.
Traveling has given my life so much more...life.
I know it sounds like the plot to some Hallmark movie but I needed that time to travel and figure life out. I needed to figure out who I was; I love who I am when I travel. I love pushing myself by living in a different culture and being away from home and trying new foods week after week before I "settle down". I needed that chance to realize that I can do hard things. I needed to realize how to be happy no matter where I was or who I was with.
What It's Like Calling A Country Home
It’s fun visiting a country for a week or two but it’s a completely different experience actually living there. Being able to figure how you deal with stressful and hard situations all while living somewhere where you don’t speak the language and don’t really understand the culture is exhilarating but it’s hard! And I love that challenge.
I’m addicted to that experience of living, actually living abroad, and not just visiting. I figured out some major life choices while sitting in front of world wonders, and learned more about myself than I ever could have by just staying at home in my comfort zone.
Even with these adventures, I've been able to accomplish my other life goals (graduating high school, graduating college in 4 years and finding a job ... one that allows me I was able to live in Singapore, which I love).
I've done all that while living in China and visiting Europe and taking vacations in Thailand. I don’t think I sacrificed anything by flying back and forth, exploring new countries, new languages and new foods.
The Difference It's Made
I can’t tell you how big of a difference living and volunteering abroad made in my life (cue cheesy Hallmark music) but I think everyone should live abroad at least once.
You never know what doors it will open for you, how it looks on a resume, the lives you touch and how much you could fall in love with the cute kids you teach. You don’t know how much it will change you - you will love who you are abroad. That person is brave, adventurous, willing to talk to strangers and start dancing with the old Thai ladies in the park.
Make it work for your schedule- get college credit by volunteering, or fit in a semester in Romania during your summer break , or take a break from school to travel because you never know how big of an impact it is until you actually go for yourself.
If you have even spent 2 minutes thinking about living in a foreign country, DO IT! There are a million ways to make that happen. I’ve planned my own trips, gone with friends, and even traveled by myself but I looooooooved my ILP semester abroad and think about it every single day. It was an amazing way to see so much of China and I’ve got my eye on visiting their other countries. The experience for the price is just too good to pass up for someone who still has empty passport pages.
So, what are you waiting for?
Find out for yourself what traveling and volunteering can do for you. Don't let life get in the way of actually living.