Graduating from College was a little scary, as I remember it. I knew my life was going to change and I had no plans for what was next. I asked my self daily “What should you do after you graduate?” There seemed to be three standard answers: (1)get an internship, (2)get a job, (3)go back to school.
Many of my friends went on to Graduate school immediately, but since I didn’t have a clear career path set out for myself, I wasn’t about to get into MORE student debt for another degree I wouldn’t use. I thought getting a job or internship were my only other options.
I wish I had fully considered all of the possibilities. Getting an internship or a job seemed like the only viable paths at that point. I needed to support myself, become a functioning member of society, pay taxes, and dive into the rat race. No one told me that there are other ways to make a life for yourself, and that as a recent college graduate (with my loans in forbearance!) you are in a unique position to explore ALL of your options, and the world – an opportunity that you may never have again.
You will have the rest of your life to build a career, amass wealth, find love, buy a house, have kids, and do whatever else society has deemed “normal”. When you first graduate college you are as un-tied-down as you will ever be, and this is the time when you can explore the world most unhindered, and make the biggest impact on your future self.
So if you even THINK you want to travel the world, even a little bit, here are four rat-race-busting options for non-traditional paths after your graduate.
1. Take a Gap Year
One of the perks of growing up and becoming independent is, you get to choose how your life evolves. Every choice you make can lead to a new opportunity if you’re willing to take the chance. After high school or college, you have to choose if you to will go on to more education, start a career in the real world, or do something else. Without having a clear career path, or the financial resources to go on to higher education immediately after graduation, many young adults are choosing to take a gap year to figure out exactly what they want out of the world, and explore what it has to offer.
A Gap Year is a year after high school or college, where a young person immerses themselves in new and challenging experiences – usually through travel and internships – to explore their personal, professional and educational life. It’s a time where they’ll often travel around the world, absorbing different cultures, learning about the world and themselves, developing life skills, and discovering their options.
The common issue with a gap year is you need to fund it because this option doesn’t always involve working. Luckily it doesn’t need to be very expensive, and if you don’t have personal savings you can apply for a personal loan, though this comes with higher risk. You don’t need too much money to fund a gap year, especially if your plan is too work while on the road or find discount lodging and travel. There are also many Gap Year scholarships out there that can help you fund your travels! And Gap Year programs that can help guide you through the process and offer structure along the way.
2. Work-Travel Cycle
I had never heard of this option until recently, but of course this is one of the oldest ways to see the world on your own terms.
The principle is simple: Work at a job for a while, save every penny (so you need to live as cheaply as possible while working), then travel with your saved money until your funds get low — then get another job and repeat the process. Often these transient jobs are ones that can be done anywhere, like waitressing, brand ambassador, hotel concierge, cruise ship staff, or personal assistant, allowing you to also live all over the world while you work!
You can get help finding jobs abroad from local traveller organizations or foreign job boards. Though there are sometimes visas involved and often it’s easier to return to work in your home country.
The key with this method is to know how long you want to travel for, and how much money you need to sustain yourself for that long. Once you hit your magic number, you need to have the self-discipline to pick up and actually go! This step sounds like the most exciting, but it can also be the scariest.
3. Get Seasonal Work
Seasonal work is a great choice if you want to spend time in different parts of the country or the world. Or if you want to travel for part of the year, each year.
As a seasonal worker, your services are only needed for part of the year. You might be a ski instructor or ski lift operator, work at a seasonal tourist job such as a beach lifeguard or parking attendant, or work in the wedding industry, which is usually the summer months. Or you might do manual labor in a certain part of the world when they need it, such as farmers or agriculture work, or being a wildland firefighter.
Once your job-stint ends, you are completely free to use the money you made to start traveling. This model forces you to make new choices and find new opportunities ever season. Though many seasonal jobs prefer that you return once the season begins again the following year. It gives you an extended break each year, where you can travel and enjoy life, as long as you’ve been very good about living cheaply, saving and budgeting your money.
4. Remote Work
This wasn’t an option until recently, but in the last 5-7 years more and more legitimate remote jobs have been popping up. In fact, you can start your career in remote work straight out of college now, and build your whole career online. If you want to travel and see the world, having a remote job will let you do that, as long as you are disciplined enough to prioritize your work over fun, and always travel where you’ll have reliable Wifi.
There are plenty of co-working spaces popping up all over the world for exactly this reason. Some offer lodging as well. And programs like Remote Year offer students a work-abroad experience where you pay a flat fee (which is much cheaper than living in some US cities!) and they cover lodging, internet, workspace, meals and excursions, and you live with a crew of like-minded remote workers traveling to a new destination every month.
Are you graduating college soon or have you graduated? What’s you’re advice for others? What should you do after you graduate?
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