post-graduation trip
The months after receiving your diploma are the perfect time to see the world. (Illustration by James O’Toole, Grand Valley State University)

When you think about graduation, thoughts of the professional world are the next obvious stop, but that isn’t always the case anymore. Other less-traveled paths, such as gap years, are quickly becoming the norm after you’ve moved out of the dorms.

A post-graduation trip with some close friends can be the perfect way to say goodbye to your academic years. Here are five reasons why you should plan a post-graduation trip.

1. It’s Something to Look Forward To

You might have scheduled the easy classes for your final two semesters, but senior year will still include a bunch of to-do’s on top of all your academic responsibilities, like sending out graduation invitations to relatives and friends, ordering your cap and gown and applying for entry-level jobs.

Instead of stressing out about the great unknown once you exit the graduation stage, a post-graduation trip can be something exciting to look forward to. Planning a road trip to another state or even flying abroad will serve as the perfect graduation gift to yourself after years of studying and tests.

2. It Teaches You Invaluable Skills

While the trip itself will be a blast, a post-graduation adventure takes planning like any other holiday. But unlike those obligatory family vacations where your parents were the ones who planned the less-entertaining aspects like finances, a post-graduation trip will involve you and your friends having to assume that role and agree on a suitable budget that covers everything from airplane tickets to lodging, expenses for food and transportation.

Although it may not sound like fun, planning an excursion unsupervised by parents — and one that is likely to come out of your own pocket — will teach you valuable skills, like managing your own money and problem solving.

There are countless traveling sites like TripAdvisor and Airbnb that will help you find affordable hotels, restaurants and sites to visit, which can help minimize the cost. In addition, companies know that plenty of students fresh from graduation plan trips, which is why many of them offer discounts for people under 30. Traveling while young does have its advantages!

3. It’s an Interlude Before a New Life Stage

Graduation means you’re forever freed from the burdens of costly academic textbooks and classroom lectures (unless you’re planning on going to grad school), so there’s no better opportunity to travel than right after you snatch your diploma. At what other time in your life are you going to be as physically able and enthusiastic to see the world around you?

You can always plan a trip later on in life after you’ve found someone to hire you, but other responsibilities like paying a house mortgage and taking care of kids might sway you from ever taking that adventurous leap into the world.

A trip right after graduation will also help you transition into the work world, and it will look impressive on any resume. Potential employers will be pleased to discover a candidate that has gained life experience outside the college bubble. It shows your drive to take control of your life during a time when those around you expect you to find a job as soon as you graduate.

If you’re planning on traveling abroad, that’s even better, because it will provide you with an even greater chance to experience vibrant cultures that will enrich your journey and leave you a well-rounded individual.

Jobs will be available no matter where you are in life, but you never know when you and your friends will all be together again, which is one of the reasons why a post-graduation trip only comes around once!

4. It Helps You Discover Yourself

Junior year is the time when family, friends and acquaintances start asking you about your plans after college, and if it isn’t, then senior year is bound to make up for it with lots of awkward conversations about a topic that most students dread verbalizing into reality. College students are often expected to figure out exactly what they want to do in life when the truth is that it’s unrealistic to know everything at such a young age.

A post-graduation trip to an unfamiliar destination away from your campus and home life can literally provide a breath of fresh air, whether it’s at an exotic location or simply somewhere you’ve never traveled to before. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, and for that reason, you’ll end up meeting new people with different life experiences, explore the distinct culture of a new city and try out new things you might never have thought of otherwise. All the little details that add up to a fulfilling trip might end up inspiring you toward a new direction in your life.

5. It Will Become a Treasured Memory

Post-graduation trips entail more maturity than previous vacations because of the life stage they take place in, a sensitive era when many 20-somethings are on their own for the first time and can no longer rely on parental finances.

However, that frightening independence also separates a post-graduation trip from your past family vacations, or that crazy trip you took one time on spring break with friends. A trip deliberately planned after graduation means taking that first adult step after college and claiming full responsibility for the choices you make in life.

Grab a friend or two and travel together after you’ve thrown your college cap in the air, because you might regret not doing so later on in life. More than anything, you’ll look back on a precious memory that you chose to make happen when you could have just as easily left the idea unrealized. So far, I haven’t heard anyone say they’ve regretted traveling!

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