Three weeks into attending grad school, I was reading a paper on the history of cotton and I started to wonder what I was doing with my life. I was a public health student at a prestigious Ivy League university. I never got to the part where I learned outbreak control, but I did learn one thing: I had to go back to doing something I actually cared about. I had to travel.
Since the universe works in magical ways, an opportunity to live in India for three months came my way, and I couldn't refuse. I withdrew my attendance from school, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Read on to learn why.
Travel Teaches You How to Function in the Real World
Travel makes you jump head-first into experiences, classrooms just delay that. When I started traveling more, I learned to take care of my finances, set a budget, and network with people. I even started an online business because the flexibility of being able to travel inspired me to do so.
We don't learn any of those things until we start our careers — and that's the best-case scenario. Sometimes we don't learn them at all. How many times have you heard freshly minted college graduates complaining, "Wow, real life is so different from school." Don't you think it's a little crazy that after all those years of schooling, we're still not ready for the "real world?" I do.
Travel Smartens You Up in Unexpected Ways
Navigating foreign street signs, interacting with locals, and figuring out how to stay safe are just some of the ways travel makes you street smart. And when travelers aren't moving, they've got a book propped open or a Kindle aglow on their laps. There you go. Book smart, too.
Traveling will turn you into one of the most resourceful, creative people. Just look at all those fearless travel bloggers trekking the planet and teaching others to do the same. So believe me when I say that a week spent traveling is equivalent to a semester spent schooling.
Travel Gives You a Fresh Perspective on You
The confidence you gain from traveling is like breathing new life into your being. School rarely can do that for you. How many times have you felt refreshed after an exam? You were probably just relieved it was over. School puts you into unnaturally competitive environments where everyone's hunting for some number, whether it's a test score, a rank, or a grade. That kind of environment keeps you from realizing you have more potential than you know!
One of the most important lessons I learned from traveling is to trust yourself. You are awesome. And you're capable of more than you think, no matter the metrics schools use to compare you.
Should You Go Back to School?
Am I regretting my decision not to go back to school? Not at all. I'm happy with the flexible lifestyle I have right now. It lets me grow my online business and add value to people's lives, all while keeping my wanderlust alive. I'm not saying you should quit school altogether like I did. Everyone's values are different, and I found out I valued being location-independent more than anything else. All I want is for you to consider that sometimes the best lessons don't — and can't — take place in the classroom.