When I started to plan my first trip abroad, I knew true anxiety.
In high school and college, I often dreamed of the opportunity, but my family has always been lower middle class—our annual vacation times were mostly spent enjoying the time off of work, not with the excess amount of green to be able to enjoy extravagances. Despite numerous opportunities, student debt was real, and I was working jobs between classes to guarantee I could go in with my parents and afford the education I was enjoying.
I couldn’t justify digging a deeper hole for that debt, and that mindset in turn entrenched itself.
It was only later that I began the agonizing path to changing my perspective. I began to save. My funds were limited, but I had a plan: I would go backpacking for a full month, living hostel to hostel, an unrooted soul, with a determination to work any little jobs a potential night’s warden might require if I didn’t have the money to make ends meet.
Even so, it felt like an impulse buy and I had to do it despite my anxiety about the situation.
Skipping hotels might seem unnerving to most first world youths, but the fact is, this is the era of the wanderer.By using apps designed to connect travelers, by finding alternative destinations, hundreds of dollars can be freed up toward a lengthier stay.
Resourcefulness is key!
Having worked at a Michigan Secretary of State office after college, I can say this: one of the biggest mistakes people make is in the rush. Want to go to Canada? Great. Want to get an enhanced license taken care of this week and light out to Canada over the weekend? Not so much.
There are also a few necessities with which to come equipped as part of your resourcefulness. Clothes should be an obvious point, but adapters, a comfortable backpack, a raincoat, an international phone plan, and travel insurance are all solid choices as well. The phone plan keeps worries at bay among twitchy relatives (and spares the horrors of roaming charges), while travel insurance will bring peace of mind.
One thing I was ill-prepared for, though, was others’ opinions. Fellow travelers or teachers are more likely to be positive and supportive. Yet many others had criticisms about where I was spending my money, time and efforts—in spite of the fact that, at the end of the day, we are each of us our own person and each and every one of those things belongs to us. Sometimes, spending money on the journey instead of a new computer or trinket makes all the difference, if it has the impact on your life you expect it will.
Listen to concerns, but take all with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, you are the captain of your own course. You are forever in control of what’s happening to you.
⇒ Want to learn more about why a GLA trip can be a bridge for high schoolers who want to study abroad or travel in college? Click here.
Contributed by Chris Galford