Many college students join the workforce after they graduate, but others take a more unconventional path: traveling the world.
Fueled by wanderlust and a sense of adventure, these grads head to far-flung destinations, often without a plan for what to do next.
While stepping away from the job hunt might sound like it could derail your career development, sometimes the opposite is true. I spoke with four college graduates about how traveling the world helped them discover careers they love. Here are their stories.
1. Finding a career that hadn’t been on her radar
When Ashley Nitransky graduated from Niagara College with a degree in tourism management and public relations, she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. But she knew she loved to travel, so she saved money to turn her dream into a reality.
“I accepted a seasonal hospitality job so I could work during the summer and travel throughout the winter,” said Nitransky. “I ended up staying at that job for five years and traveled everywhere from the U.K. to Thailand, India, and South Africa in the off-season.”
Sticking to a strict budget helped Nitransky meet her savings goals, and she traveled on the cheap by backpacking and negotiating prices when she could.
“When I was backpacking, I constantly found myself in situations that pushed me out of my comfort zone,” said Nitransky. “Even the most seemingly insignificant things — from successfully navigating a foreign city by myself to haggling with a local at a market — boosted my confidence exponentially.”
Ultimately, it was this confidence boost that led Nitransky to start blogging at Ashley Wanders and to look for freelance writing jobs, even though her background was in hospitality.
“Eventually, I landed a job as a copywriter while I was living abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland,” said Nitransky. “Travel has transformed my life in so many ways, but I never expected to find my career path on this journey.”
Although Nitransky finally found a job she loves, her path to get there wasn’t always smooth sailing.
“My family wasn’t particularly supportive of my travel lifestyle, but I decided to pursue an ‘unconventional’ path anyways, and I don’t regret it for a second,” she said.
Her advice? “If you want to travel, don’t let other people’s opinions or societal pressures stop you. You’ll never have what you truly want in life unless you learn to ignore both,” said Nitransky. “Take that leap of faith and live the life you want — not the one others expect of you.”
2. Learning how to apply her humanities degree
After majoring in the humanities at Trent University, Nora Livingstone wasn’t sure how to use her degree.
“Like most millennials, I was told to get an education and then a job would just happen,” Livingstone said. “Well, I went to school for environmental studies and cultural anthropology and waited the four years to see what job would come from that.”
When no job materialized, Livingstone decided to travel to Nepal and volunteer with local organizations.
“I ended up volunteering in a few different places in Nepal and then Thailand and found out that I had an eye and an ear for logistics and coordination of volunteers,” she said.
This experience ultimately led her to co-found a benefit corporation called Animal Experience International (AEI).
“We send people from all over the world to volunteer experiences all over the world,” Livingstone said. “This is never the job I thought I wanted because I never knew it could be a job!”
Her work with AEI has brought her to countries across the globe, including Oman, Mongolia, Guatemala, and Malawi. As Livingstone says, this work never would have come to be if she hadn’t traveled to Nepal after college and fallen in love with international volunteer management.
“Traveling after college helped me find the real me, the social entrepreneur who helps other people to find themselves,” said Livingstone.
3. Getting a foot in the door of the travel industry
For most of her life, Philtrina Farquharson hadn’t left the U.S. “I didn’t have any interest to go anywhere outside of the United States because I was scared of the unknown,” she said.
But when her sister invited her to Costa Rica two years ago, Farquharson discovered a passion for travel, which eventually led her to work in the travel industry.
“Traveling after college changed my life,” said Farquharson. “I became open-minded to new ideas and possibilities. I was able to grow as a person, which caused a [change] in my career.”
Having graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in public relations and image management, Farquharson took her skills to one of the biggest PR firms in the travel and lifestyle industry.
She now works with hotels, destinations, and airlines to build their brands, and she has returned to school to earn her MBA.
“I hope to continue to work in the travel industry as long as I possibly can,” she said. Since her trip to Costa Rica, Farquharson has visited five other countries.
Even though she’s also balancing student loan repayment, she said travel is possible because she makes it a priority in her budget.
“My best advice for loan repayment and traveling is to budget,” she said. “Always prioritize your bills first and save a percentage of your check towards travel. It will definitely add up!”
4. Turning into a location-independent digital nomad
Apart from a few small trips as a child, Alex Peters didn’t travel much until after college. Inspired by wanderlust, she saved money for over a year before taking a three-month solo backpacking trip around Europe at the age of 24.
Her experience as a solo traveler was life-changing. “Not only did I become more independent and resourceful in all outlets of my life backpacking solo, [but] it also opened up the world to me in ways I had never experienced at home before,” she said.
In particular, she learned about the growing community of digital nomads, who work from anywhere with an internet connection. Along with blogging at The Wayward Walrus, Peters makes money online with her other skills.
“[I found] my passion for writing, marketing, and web development, which I was able to do on the road,” said Peters. “[I] still continue to do so while I save for my next adventure and continue paying off my student loans each month.”
While student loans can be a big financial burden, they don’t have to stand between you and your travel goals. With a job that lets you work and travel at the same time, you could build your career, visit far corners of the globe, and chip away at your debt.
Finding ways to pay for long-term travel
Traveling might seem financially impossible, especially if you’re dealing with student loans or other expenses. But by finding ways to save and earn extra money, you eventually can turn your dream into a reality.
And while many new graduates are worried about getting a jump-start on their career, the truth is it often takes several years to find the right path after college.
Rather than being a distraction, traveling the world could lead you to your professional calling. At the very least, your experience will make for a great story at your next job interview.
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
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Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
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Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
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4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
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