We all have heard of the gap year right after high school, or the summer of backpacking after college graduation. But what about seeing the world during your 4 years of undergrad? The concept of traveling as a college student is often dismissed due to limiting beliefs., but 100% possible!
But I Have NO Money?
To be completely blunt, yes most college students are broke. Everyone’s situation is going to be different, but the majority of college students are balancing classes, part time jobs, internships, debt, and other costs of living that makes being a fulltime student financially hard.
Here’s the good news. Most likely you haven’t had to start paying off your student loans. The majority of college students do not have a mortgage, heavy bills, and in some cases, no current rent because of dorm living.
And I have NO Time…
Yes college gives a structure that can be hard to work with like anything else in life like high school or a job. However, college is a period of life that grants us some of the most free time.
Summer and winter breaks are drastically longer than high school, and total hours in a classroom are less than half of the high school schedule. There have been multiple semesters where I would have 4 day, even 3 day school weeks.
I’ll just travel when I have more money when I’m older…
Many people say they want to travel when they are young, but the normal assumption is to travel after college and before a 9-5 job. However, here’s the problem. Life picks up: school loans catch up to you, you meet the one, or get a irresistable job offer. College is one of the most freeing times in your life due your lack of responsibilities in the real world.
So HOW can you make travel a reality?
Step 1: Budgeting
Here is where it’s important to make your priorities known. Tracking money is the most important step.
During my semester abroad in Seoul, South Korea I thought I was being good with money, but it turns out I had been averaging $150 over my weekly budget.
My suggestion is to make a daily essential budget and an extras budget. Daily essentials include food, transportation, everyday expenses, and the extra can be anything from a night out partying, a new skirt, or a day trip.
By splitting up my budgeting into separate categories, it gives me more flexibility and awareness of where my money is going. Making an extra purchase here or there can be counted as “extras” so you won’t have to worry about breaking the daily budget.
My advice is try to spend as little as possible daily, even make it into a challenge or game. Saving more on the everyday costs, lets you face unexpected costs with preparation.
Step 2: Choosing your type of travel
The best way to travel if you are looking for an immersive experience on a low budget is work exchanges. Work exchanges are ways for people to volunteer in destinations all over the world in exchange for accommodation and sometimes meals. Hosts are anything from farms, hostels, schools, small businesses, or even families.
Work Away is a work exchange organization that focuses on sustainable and culturally immersive travel. In order to contact hosts you have to set up a profile and pay an annual fee of around $49. After that the search is on!
There are alternative options for hosts like language exchanges, working with animals, nannying for families, teaching yoga, surfing!… the list goes on. Some hosts will pay a stipend for your work and the maximum amount of hours of work for every host is no more than 25 hours a week.
There is also a feature to link up with other travelers through workaway to meet like-minded people and create meaningful connections.
You can also check out World Packers which is another vastly popular work exchange site. This site is very similar as it focuses on local immersive experiences and sustainability. The annual membership is also $49 however there are a few key differences.
Work Away has more hosts to choose from, especially in European countries (World Packers has more hosts in South America). World Packers may have less hosts, but they do have some important additions that Workaway does not.
World packers offers insurance for any mishaps that can occur with the host, and the reviews policy is more transparent.
WWOOF is another work exchange, but it is specifically about organic farming. This site has a high emphasis on agriculture, rural living, and sustainability. The process of becoming a member can vary due to different countries, so make sure to look into the destination you wish to volunteer. WWOOF is a great choice for someone who wants an educational experience close to nature.
IMPORTANT: These sites vary in background screening processes, so make sure to fully research and read reviews before matching with a host!
Internships Abroad (And Domestic)
I know I said you have summer breaks off to travel, but what about the stress of internships? You can do both by finding internships abroad through sites like Go OverSeas and Go Abroad. You are able to search by location and industry to find the right program for both your academic and travel dreams. However, make sure to read all the details because some internships vary in what costs are covered.
The US also runs intensive language courses abroad through the Critical Language Scholarship. For a summer you can go to your country of choice and work towards fluency in your desired language, all on a government scholarship.
I was personally looking into the Korean program, but I was not able to apply due to overlapping dates with my study abroad program. I would have loved to have this experience because learning another language abroad is a truly immersive and unforgettable experience.
If you are looking for more structure on your travels, you can choose to travel through group tours. Sites like G Adventures are great ways to travel when you are solo traveling but don’t want to be alone. Trips are run by local guides and take care of transportation, accommodation, and activities.
However make sure to bring extra money if specific meals are not covered, or if they offer extra activities. Group tours are an amazing way to meet friends on the road and take the stress out of planning an itinerary.
I personally traveled with GIVE Volunteers on my first solo international trip to Tanzania. GIVE Volunteers is a combination between work exchanges and group tours – you give back to the community through volunteering, while enjoying the structure of local guides, set itineraries, and built in new friends.
Even though I went to Tanzania over a year ago, I still keep in touch with friends I made, both volunteers and local guides!
Read about the life of my local Tanzanian guide HERE: The Heart of Tanzania – Meet Boi
If you are looking for pure freedom, flexibility, and adventure, I always recommend solo travel! There is a HUGE demographic of young people in their college years solo traveling and backpacking all around the world.
Staying in hostels is the best way to meet other solo travelers and find a community on the road. There are several hostels that are actually categorized as “party hostels” which will have drinking events and organize other social activities. There are several facebook group chats and social media platforms where young solo travelers can connect and make traveling solo feel less solo.
Learn to overcome the fear of solo travel HERE: How to Get the Courage to Travel Solo
Step 3: The Final Details
Now you have the plan, but what next?
I like to use websites like Sky Scanner to find cheap flights, however I book the flight through the main provider. I find this way is the best when it comes to reliability and no sneaky extra costs on third party sites.
If you can, choose to fly during weekdays like Monday through Thursday where you can find prices drop significantly. Also make sure to check the on and off season for your desired destination. Booking during the off season will save you quite a bit of money.
I do not recommend skipping out on this one. Especially as a young traveler, you never know what could go wrong.
Some organizations like World Packers will provide you some type of insurance, while others like GIVE Volunteers will just require it, but not cover it. However, they are helpful and give you a recommendation. It is much better to be safe than sorry.
Also make sure to read up on Visas, entry requirements, local laws and culture of your destination for final preparations. The last thing you want is to be stuck at the airport, or accidentally offend someone’s culture!
Step 4: Enjoy the Ride
You’ve come this far, it’s time for it to sink in! Remember to research your destination and program if applicable. Pick up a few essential words in the local language and make sure to read up on any scams to watch out for.
Now is the time to expand your worldview and adventure as a young adult. Traveling is one of the best things you can do for your growth as a student and human. No matter what field you end up working in, experiences abroad show for amazing resume material.
One of the biggest hurdles is a limiting mindset. Stepping outside your comfort zone can be terrifying (I would know), but it’s so worth it. Traveling as a college student has its own hurdles, but also its own unique advantages. Don’t wait – take the opportunity and go!