So after my days in Brussels, I know that my traveling days are far from over, but as an American I find that it is difficult to travel. I am not talking about the costs or the time constraints but cultural expectations. Going abroad is great way for Americans to see another country while also attending school. But what if you don’t want to go to school or stay in the same place? What if you just want to travel for months and meet all the new people you can?
I have talked to my friends abroad and we have all come to same conclusion, to travel for months at a time without any purpose is definitely a taboo in American society. After you graduate from college, you are expected to start your career, go to grad school, start your real life. Any long term travel without work or study would deter you from advancing your livelihood. You could miss significant opportunities with a nomadic lifestyle. I would only believe that job recruiters would look down on such activities as lollygagging or a lack of maturity, but it shouldn’t be this way.
When I went to Budapest, I stayed in a hostel that was filled with Australians. They were all relatively young in their mid to late twenties spending a couple weeks here out of their months of travel. For many of them it wasn’t their first tour. They had seen all of Western Europe before and now they wanted to see Central and Eastern Europe. I met a nice Australian named Jacob and asked him how and why they (Australians) traveled for such long time periods. He kindly explained to me, “the flights are so expensive that it does not make sense for them to travel for less than that time period.”
I replied, “Its the same for us in the US. Don’t you have a life to get back to? A job, career, a family? And how exactly do you pay for all of this?”
He was generally amused in his reply, “I am young, this is the perfect time for me to see the world. I can start my life when I am older and ready to settle down. Once I have a career, there won’t be enough time for me to travel, until then my life can wait for me in Australia. And as for financing goes, I picked up a couple temporary jobs, bartending and things of that nature, worked really hard to save up after about a year and a half, and here we are”.
My roommate and I were amazed that these people were able to live this lifestyle and they were spot on. Your youth is the time to explore the world when you have no responsibilities and all of the energy in the world to take cheap buses or early planes, or even stay with a bunch of strangers in the same room. Jacob then asked why he only saw American senior citizens when he traveled never any real young people. I told him it is a normal thing in America, both my Grandparents waited until after they retired to go on vacations to foreign lands. I think that it is an ideal that we work for in the US, but I wondered why more young people are not traveling and I realized why. Not only is extended traveling frowned upon but it is increasingly difficult for students who have to pay back their student loans. College is extremely cheap in Europe and other countries. We cannot pay to travel after we have paid so much for our education. Not only that, I have found that many Europeans and other nationalities live with their parents throughout University education and afterwards. Definitely an idea that is not widely approved of in the United States. It is the expectation that youth will become self-sufficient effective of their graduation from college, high school, or whatever their last form of study is. Living at home past this time is definitely looked down upon.
But it should not be this way. First of all college should not be so expensive. I whole-heartily believe that a great education is the foundation to a great society and if not every one can afford to access schooling, we are weakening our society. Also it is a large burden to our future generation. Along those lines, because college is so expensive their should not be the cultural expectation to live on your own after graduation. If you are able to do so and if that is your prerogative, power to you, I will probably join you! We are pretending to be independent and totally self-sufficient when in reality we are not there yet. It would be better to stay home a couple of years save up some money and then start your life with a little cushion rather than scraping by every week working at a job that may not even be in the field you are interested in. Maybe if all this happens Americans can also travel like the Australians.