|Graduation with my travel companions|
In the most immediate future, there's probably a long afternoon of picture taking and celebration with family. But the long term, that's a little less clear, and possibly less festive. For those lucky few, a full-time job awaits them once the caps are off. But in this economy, the likelyhood of that is not what it once was. This leaves many graduates grappling for answers. They have dedicated the last four years–or more–to school, and now the end has come, and there does not seem to be a set direction. If a job is not on the horizon, spending hours searching for one may seem like the best solution. However, there is another option that is–in my opinion–a much more valuable use of time: Travel.
|St. Peters in Rome|
I took a long trip through Europe after my graduation, and I don't regret it. In fact, I wish I had extended it a few more weeks so I could spend more time in certain countries or visit ones that I missed altogether. I also might have changed up how organized I was about everything. I planned it all ahead of time, from hostel reservations to departure dates. I could have probably afforded to be a bit more lenient and carefree with my agenda, but then again, I've always been a planner. The whole experience was educational, from the physical places we visited to the personal growth it provided and what it taught me about myself–and my friends. I would recommend a post-graduation trip to anyone. If my life plan had permitted, I might have even taken what the Brits call a gap year: A year of travel and adventure after secondary school before heading to university. Of course, mine would have been a year off before graduate school.
If graduates decide to take a trip, the next task is figuring out where to go. Europe is a popular destination, but that's probably what makes it less appealing nowadays. Everyone's going, or has gone there. Why not do something a little different, something more exotic. South America, the South Pacific and Australasia are growing in popularity, but are still remote enough that they still feel exclusive.
Patagonia, a region in the southern end of South America, is a must see for adventurers and nature lovers. This nature preserve is shared by both Argentina and Chile, and includes the southern section of the Andes mountains. For years, it has been known as a remote backpacking destination, but more tourists have discovered the beauties of this area in recent years. Many will come to see the immense sheets of glaciers, or the breathtaking mountain views and lake districts.
Thailand provides a true culture shock, in some regards. Major cities are certainly different from those in the U.S., but they are becoming more Americanized and commercial. The remote towns of the country are much more appealing, as they remain more pristine, and certainly offer a more relaxing vacation.
In the mountains of Peru sit the sacred ruins of Machu Picchu, atop the Inca Trail. This destination not only provides visitors with stunning views and ancient remnants of a once-royal society, but also another challenge to face...one hell of a climb. But it will all be worth it once the summit is attained, a sense of accomplishment and peace of mind.
For something truly exotic, why not head to Bhutan, in the Himalaya Mountains. The landlocked Kingdom of Bhutan is a small state bordered by China to the north and by the Republic of India to the south, east and west. Bhutan offers guests a rich history and colorful culture, which has largely remained intact due to its isolation from other countries. Tradition is deeply rooted in its Buddhist heritage, and guests can experience this through tours of museums and architectural sites, as well as lessons on medicinal practices and agriculture. The problem with Bhutan is that is is not the most accessible place, due to its location and the cost of visiting.
Greece is in the midst of an economic crisis, but that doesn't mean it isn't welcoming tourists from all over the world. In fact, the country needs your business, so why not go and check out a few of the Greek Isles, like Mykonos or Santorini. The islands can easily be reached by cruise ship, and prices are relatively cheap in the early season of May or late season in September.
I would also recommend Dublin, Ireland, as a good starting point for any Irish adventure; or Paris, France, for a cultural experience unlike any other.
Obviously, there are thousands of other options for a post-graduate trip, and I certainly couldn't cover all of it here. If anything, I've provided some inspiration. I suggest doing a bit more research and looking around for the best prices before jetting off to parts unknown. But take a note from my experience, give yourself a little freedom with your itinerary. If you have every day planned down to the last detail, then there is no room for a random boat ride over to Croatia or a last minute trip to Vietnam. Flexibility is key in making sure you get the chance to see everything you want, even if you didn't know you wanted to see it when you first booked the trip. That's the beauty of travel, it can take you to places you never expected. And perhaps that's just the direction new grads are looking for.