As university students approach the end of exam season, filled with cups of their favorite caffeinated beverages and weeks of sleepless nights, graduates may be anticipating something other than relief from the end of exams. It used to be that once students completed their Bachelor’s Degrees they would pursue employment in their fields of interest, or continue their schooling with a Master’s Degree or another type of professional designation. However, today’s students are willing to take time to explore the world around them and gain perspective on what they want out of life. They yearn to discover more before conforming to a lifestyle where they are expected to be fully functioning adults (a reality which most of us are still in denial of). Those students who are not sure which path lies before them are eager to sacrifice the stability of a steady income and trade it in for the adventure of a lifetime!
My Firsthand Experience
For as long as I can remember I have always demonstrated the classic “Type A” personality trait of being a planner – I plan for the future, make a contingency plan in case the first falters, and even have a backup plan for that. As I approach the end of university I find myself contemplating what I want to take on next. I have considered various professional opportunities and have realized that not everything is a “point A-to-point B” plan, rather, there is room to venture on a path less travelled. It is important to recognize that we, as university students, have time to pursue many different avenues without feeling like the pressures of adult responsibilities are a chokehold on our dreams. We must acknowledge the benefits of taking time to travel during our early adult lives and clearly see how it presents itself with ample opportunity for personal development.
During my university years I have had opportunities to tour various cities, both personally and professionally. I have witnessed many friends take advantage of the freedoms of youth and explore the world through academic and workplace exchanges, or go backpacking with nothing more than a few bags and an orange European minivan (the number of times I have “liked” a photograph of the Berlin Wall, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre on Facebook is astounding.) Yet, these experiences can actually teach us more about ourselves and our membership to the larger global community than we could ever conceive in a classroom. It is in moments like being lost in a foreign country’s subway station that we can learn to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone.
Whether you choose to explore the classical cultures of Europe, hike the mountains of New Zealand or the outback of Australia, or wander through the diverse cultures of Southeast Asia, you will absorb more from a culture in person than you could possibly obtain from the pages of a textbook. Although a lot can also be said for touring historical landmarks, witnessing various environmental climates and speaking with people from different religious or political followings can provide firsthand teachings that extend beyond theories learnt in school.
There is something more sincere in understanding other cultures from people within their natural environments, which are alien to our own. I was surprisingly enlightened when conversing with someone while faced with a language barrier, as we overcame the struggles of miscommunication with the help of laughter. Experiences like these, as well as the issues faced by the global community, now stare back at me and shout the importance of immersing myself in “the different”. It is important for today’s youth to take the time to experience these differences and not be ignorant of the issues beyond our country’s borders. Instead, we should seek acceptance and appreciation for the uniqueness of others.
At the end of the day, we must all share a responsibility to the social dichotomies and discrepancies the children of tomorrow face across the different corners of the world. Realizing that we, as future global leaders, are responsible for removing this veil of ignorance and instead promoting the celebration of each culture’s individuality, is imperative. Some may come to this realization through textbooks, however, it will not likely be prevalent until witnessed firsthand. I believe this much needed global consciousness is only possible through immersing ourselves in unknown environments, being open to others’ viewpoints, and daring ourselves to explore the world.
Overall Tips for Your Travel Mindset:
Be open to experiencing life beyond what is “normal”. There is more to see outside of the Western world.
Challenge yourself to gain greater perspective on a more globalized society.
Acknowledge the world’s unique landscapes and lifestyles as neither good nor bad, just different.
Be curious. Enjoy learning from others and their diverse paths in life.
As I approach the end of my chapter in university, I realize there is more to learn beyond the classroom. I no longer feel like I must follow my exact plans in order to be successful (like working for my future employer the summer after graduation). Rather, there is time to explore. This change in mindset has had the ability to refocus my priorities and has brought me awareness of the fact that there is more to life than a paycheque. Although I will always be a planner (incessantly investigating flights, train tickets, hostels and lists of museums before travelling), I can acknowledge there must be a balance that allows for experiencing moments of “winging” the unknown. Sure, I still have my list of goals and aspirations, but I realize they all do not need to be checked off today.