I travelled to Australia when I was 19. I had just finished my A Levels, and felt a sojourn from education was in order. My passion (at that point) was cricket. Australia seemed like a prime location to play cricket. So I booked the ticket.
Travel seemed like the perfect chance to delay the decision of what to do with the rest of my life. I couldnt decide. So I put off making a decision. That seemed like a reasonable option. Inspiration would undoubtedly strike on the other side of the world. Thats how it works, isnt it?
Well, errrr no. Actually, it doesnt.
Travel seems sparkly and magical when looked at through rose tinted glasses created by your current situation. A string of mid-alphabet grades travel seemed alluring. There are a lot of legs in the old mantra the grass is always greener.
And it very rarely is. Like any kid with a new toy, the shininess and sparkles wears off after a few weeks and life clicks back into routine. The difference between your life here and your life abroad starts and ends with the location. Your purpose, personality, problems etc are still the same. Once you settle into lifes routine on your travels, all of this remains the same. Boredom sets in. So does the feeling that you should be doing something productive. Life is as mundane on the other side of the world as it is here.
On the other hand, travel can be kick-ass awesome. But you have to make it kick ass awesome. Here are some ideas how.
1 Set yourself goals
Travelling to a non-english speaking country? Learn a new language. Going to a location famed for its surfing? Learn to ride the waves like a pro. Travelling to a location where you could make a difference volunteering? Errr, volunteer! If you are expecting magical things to happen just because you are in a different location, you will be disappointed. However, if you have activities to participate in with a concrete end goal, your travels take on purpose and meaning. Exactly what you need.
2 Be Novel
Why not do something completely different from the rest? Cycle the east coast of Australia. See how far you can get without air travel. Set yourself a starting budget of £10 and again, see how far you can get. You should be aiming to create a story with your travels. The best stories are interesting and original. Make your travels both interesting and original.
3 Document your travels
Communication with the wider world is a skill highly valued by employers. Why not hone your communication skills by blogging, creating videos, podcasts and an ebook whilst travelling? This ties in with the Be Novel point above. If you are creating an interesting story, people will want to read about it. Make sure you are putting out a variety of content to tell the story of your travels.
4 Full Immersion
Going somewhere completely different to the UK? Why not immerse yourself fully into the local culture? This means dress, food, lifestyle, mannerisms, religion, customs, work etc. Living like a local will give you a greater empathy for their culture. Imitating somebody elses lifestyle enables you to see the world through a different pair of eyes. How do you feel? What beliefs do you hold that are challenged by living like somebody else? What are the advantages of this lifestyle? Disadvantages? Again, communicate your ideas and discoveries, as stated above.
5 Be Creative
Chances are, you will be travelling after your studies. Academic pursuits have a knack of stifling creativity. In fact, you may have studied hard sciences and have had no creative outlet at all. Travelling is your chance to discover other aspects of your personality. Take up dancing (the local type, obviously), learn to paint, write a book, learn to play an instrument etc. Do something creative. Travelling allows you to let go of the limiting beliefs of what you can achieve back at home. Discover more of you and try something new.
Travel is not a magic bullet. You have to make it magical, This requires proactivity, an open mindset, and a willingness to try new things. If you are expecting things to happen because you are abroad, think again. Life will become as normal as back home if you do not embrace new opportunity.
Make your travels count.