How traveling after graduation helped my career

Instead of starting work or a master’s, I went to Europe


I was terrified to take the year off after I graduated from my bachelor’s degree at Acadia University last year. I was rapidly approaching the age where I was expected to be a functioning adult. Beginning a job or a second degree at that point is pretty customary yet I was doing neither. I was tormented in fourth-year hearing my friends talk about medicine, law or graduate school but I had made the decision that I didn’t want to jump into another degree right away; I needed a little time off. I worked all summer and saved, took on a small loan from a generous family member and spent three months in Europe with a friend and a backpack stuffed with practical clothing.

My post-graduation trip taught me more about myself and about how the world works than my four-year undergraduate degree ever did. In university, your world tends to revolve around few buildings and a football field, all constructed to help you succeed. Traveling pushed me well out of my comfort zone and not studying or working for a few months allowed me to step back and reevaluate my plan to apply to journalism programs and then work for a lifestyle magazine. After traveling, I couldn’t help but feel like that plan didn’t match the person I had become.

This realization hit me in Chodov, a tiny town in the Czech Republic. Stuck for two hours at the train “station” (read: single platform) with various men walking out of the woods and across the tracks towards me at frighteningly consistent intervals, I was sure I was going to die, likely under one of their hands. And if that was so, was I really confident about the way I had planned spend my one precious life? I sat there trying to ignore the hazardous situation and realized that I had changed.

What changed me and gave me the confidence I needed were several people I met around my age who had plans to improve the world. I met a guy from India who was studying engineering in France with the hope of returning to his village to help build efficient buildings. I met a girl from Germany studying politics and planning to use her knowledge to change the stigma she said her country still carries from WWII. I met a Spanish woman who had moved to Zurich to become a science teacher and planned to return to her homeland to teach despite a desperate economy.

They were tackling the big problems of the world.

I realized that it would be so easy to be a journalist who writes articles about how to improve one’s lifestyle or the results of the Grammys. It would be much harder to write about the things that might be uncomfortable, like the current debate over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. With every country I had explored, my mind had been drawn to the same topic: how European countries were incorporating environmental sustainability into their societies. The United Kingdom had begun to gear their economy more towards local businesses and farms by having prominent displays and incentives for local products. Germany had made obvious efforts to transition to renewable energy, as exemplified by the thousands of wind turbines along the countryside. Austria had large and attractive fountains all over to fill up reusable water bottles. The environment was my big issue.

Now, I look at my friends who are furthering their educations or beginning careers not as though they are leaving me behind. Although the pressure to continue education after an undergraduate degree is always there, I think we—and I would never have said this last year—put too much emphasis on extended education and career advancement while forgetting that we barely know ourselves at age 22. A few months or a year of traveling after years of cramming and writing essays could allow us to get to know ourselves and each other before embarking on our careers. Although I’m not yet sure whether writing will be my way to change the world, I know that instead of journalism school I will apply to this fall to environmental master’s degree programs.

I’m glad I took the time off after graduation to realize what matters to me.


How traveling after graduation helped my career

  1. I really needed to hear this today. I’m currently in my fourth year and after this April, I have a semester to go and then I’m graduating. I’ve already decided to take a minimum of 6 months off (up to a year off)to travel and relax. I’m nervous about this decision but this article has helped to feel more confident about this decision.

    • Translation: I couldn’t get a real job or get into med/law/grad school but I have rich parents and I’m entitled and spoilt so I got to go to Europe to “find myself” while everyone else had to get a job or do something productive. Forgive me, but this is what’s wrong with society and your sense of entitlement is disgusting.

      • mike ur just jealous, cuz u didn’t get to travel. suck it up and accept it. nobody stopped u, u did it to urself, through fears and inhibitions. u have nobody to blame but urself.

      • Is there something wrong in what she decided to do? She learned that she didn’t want to pursue the idea of working for a magazine company (journalism) instead, while taking that time to really dig deep and experience something truly new, she grew realizing that instead of writing for things that didn’t really matter as much, she wanted to pursue matters that actually made an impact to the world in a positive and sustainable way, hence deciding to go for environmental degree.

        Sometimes, all people need is the time to slow down, and realize what themselves are trying to figure out. People are so worried about getting a job right away, settling down and being “stable”. Truth is, there’s no such thing. Life is unstable all around at any given time. Learning to slow down and embrace the world internally and externally is probably best thing you can do at times where everything is changing.

    • amanda just study overseas it will be working holiday. and besides its all in your mind, just get a job that facilitates international travel. Ie. work on a cruise ship, become a surf instructor in thailand (United Kingdom Sailing Academy), do a SWAP (student work abroad program), or join the airlines in the Middle East and become an International Flight Crew (stewardess) for a couple of years u will clock like 100,000 miles a year with ease.

  2. Dear Mike: I just got back from travelling Europe for 4.5 months. I am also a recent graduate who did not feel the need to directly go get my postgraduate degree.
    I would like you to know, that the people who backpack are not the rich ones, that is why we stay in hostels and find the cheapest transportation.
    My parents are far from rich, but instead of taking a loan out for another year of school, I decided to take a loan out for travelling, where I learned not to be so narrowed minded like you.
    You do not understand the lives of the people who travel, you are like most people in North America who just assume we are just rich kids with money when infact most of us, worked with two jobs 60-70hours a week, no days off for several months to save money plus took out loan.
    So I think you, judging, is what is disgusting and you are just like a lot of other people in the North American society who jump to conclusions about peoples life stories before actually getting to know them. So no, the ones who travel aren’t “lucky’
    You had the same opportunity to work, to take out a loan and to travel.

    And Amanda you will absolutely love it, you will meet so many lovely people!

    • Laura, i totally agree. I was actually working a seismic boat (Stavanger, Norway) to be exact; and was told that I should go study in Europe. Funnily enough, no University in Canada would give me admission, and used the time I spent in Europe for a Masters’ degree as an opportunity to travel through Europe and wow even though I saw only the Urban areas, it was eye-opening. Yes hostels ( are ur friends. Yeah the ones who travel are the “enlightened ones” who are allergic to bullshit and garbage. and yeah I went back-packing through Asia as well cuz I didn’t have a job, and funnily enough, I got a job 7 days after I came home. so like yeah International travel is awesome.

  3. Really liked this article. I’m finishing my last semester of my undergrad right now, and I plan to go backpacking for a month once I’m done. I think that spending the money to travel after graduating will be very valuable, both for self-reflection and for my career. Thanks for posting!

  4. I was actually thinking about this after graduation, I feel like I’m still so young and I still feel like such a child. Deeply I have always felt like my calling for travel has been ever since I was young. The craving for adventures, but I was always trapped in my own room or mind, stuck imagining.

    This article really did come to me in a point of my life where all I want to do is pursue the things I’ve been dreaming of, despite all the obstacles against me. So thank you!