Graduation is on the horizon, and millions of college kids are wondering – “What now?” For the fortunate few, plans are already in place. Some have internships and jobs lined up, while others are enrolled in grad school. For the rest – the slackers and Communications majors amongst us – things are very much up in the air. The mounting pressure to grow up, start a career, and join the “real world” leaves many wishing for an extra year of school. Getting that double major is time-consuming and expensive, though. Why not jet to the other side of the world and see where life takes you instead?
Buy a One-Way Ticket
If you’re graduating, chances are you’re going to amass a nice stack of money from relatives, neighbors, and friends. Some will tell you that money is for your future – to invest, save, or put towards a new suit for that big interview. You know, adult things. Ignore them. Take your newfound, fleeting wealth and use it to buy a one-way plane ticket. Europe is great, but it can be incredibly expensive. Australia and New Zealand are beautiful, but they’re just like home only with funny accents and a different kind of football. Instead, head to one of Asia’s mega-cities – Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, or Bangkok. Not only will your money go much further here, but you’ll have the potential to stay and work. Chances are you’ll end up loving it so much you won’t want to leave. Hence the one-way ticket. You can always buy that return flight home, but you might never have the chance to move to Thailand again.
This may sound crazy, but hear me out. A few years ago, we were down and out in Middle Tennessee. With a degree and plenty of internships under our belts, those “real jobs” kept alluding us. After countless conferences, networking meetings, and hundreds of calls and e-mails, we were working part-time and on food stamps. Needing a drastic change, we flew to Beijing on a one-way ticket. With very meager savings and a friend’s couch to sleep on, we began picking up work as ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers. Which brings me to my next point.
Get a Job Teaching English
As an American with a college degree, you’re already beyond qualified. It’s well-paying, has room for growth, and can bring you around the world. English is the language of business, tourism, and technology. Everyone wants to study English. This is especially true in China, where a burgeoning middle class wants to travel more and send their Little Emperors and Empresses to study at Ivy League schools. That’s 1.4 billion potential students for you right there! If China seems too intense, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia are all viable options. Pick a country you think you might like to live in and head there on an open ticket to check it out. If it seems like a good fit, go ahead and enroll in a TEFL course and start applying for jobs. I guarantee you it will be a far easier – and much less stressful – job search.
While some may laugh off the idea of teaching ESL as a joke, it can actually be quite lucrative. It’s not uncommon for ESL teachers to get paid upwards of $30-40 an hour in places like China and Korea. Experienced teachers with advanced degrees can work in international schools or managerial roles. Traveling is amazing, but you’ve got to find a way to pay the bills. That’s right – you’re supposed to be looking for a job now. Which brings us to a common question.
But What About My Career?
A major concern people have with choosing to travel after graduation is putting their career on hold. Think about it this way, though – once you’ve landed that job, you’ll get about two weeks of vacation a year. Oh yeah, and it’s frowned upon to even use it all. This is America! Vacations are for the French! Think you’re going to do any extended world travels with that?
These days, employers value the kind of real-world experience that only travel can bring you. You lived in another country, learned the language, and dealt with culture shock. That looks a lot better in that eventual interview than the guy who interned in his dad’s office last summer. You’ll always be able to go home and jump back in the rat race. Or you might go in a direction you never thought possible. You might become a scuba instructor, open a bar, or start your own business. This is the new frontier, my friends. The Wild West is now the Wild Far East.
While teaching English is an excellent choice for extending your trip, it’s not the only option. Save money on accommodation by using CouchSurfing. Not only do you get a free place to stay, but it’s with locals who can show you the ropes. Try WWOOFing or doing HelpX where you work in exchange for room and board. Join a language program and get fluent in Chinese or get paid to study in Bali. Apply for a working holiday visa in Oz or New Zealand. I know I ragged on going there earlier, but you can make some serious coin in a year. Cross both countries off your list, and then board a flight to SE Asia with your student loans paid off and a nice wad of cash in the bank. Do freelance writing, graphic or web design. Start a blog, pour your heart and soul into it, and monetize it. This is the age of the digital nomad, and the possibilities are endless.
People are starting to wake up and realize that life is not meant to be spent in a cube for forty years until it’s time to play golf and hang out in Florida. If it is a life of travel, adventure, and immersing yourself in new cultures that you want, it’s there for the taking. As a wise man once said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”