Travel During College aka Get Your Head Out of Your Ass

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If you’re in college, you’re probably in one of these situations, depending on which year/semester, geographical and/or socio-economic condition you are in:

Questioning your path in life.

You’re busy in the pursuit of ‘Me’, trying to plumb the depths of the mystery that is ‘You’. It’s basically the result of having too much time at hand and the consequent need to fill up all that time with a worthwhile goal. You’re not sure why you are here, you’re not sure where you’re headed, you’re not even sure where you want to go and all this not knowing is making you nervous, so you’re searching full throttle for some urgent answers.

Being super competitive and an all-round dick.

You’re the alpha who wages bloody turf wars; the turf could be anything from a love interest to being teachers’ pet to that administrative post in the Nobody’s-Gonna-Care-About-In-The-Next-Five-Years Committee to being Queen Bee in the college social hive. It’s fierce, all-out war, and you’ll stop at nothing short of murder. You plot, plan and scheme as you lie awake at night, order your minions and occasionally give yourself pep talks when you find yourself alone in the bathroom.

Drowning your sorrows.

You’ve got issues. And those aren’t the regular, “Crap, I’m going to flunk this test” kind of issues. They are big. Too big for you to take on, so you drink to escape. You could be tense about student loan or be a pointy vertex in a hopeless love angle, or you secretly want to be an elephant trainer but you’re stuck in Economics 101. There’s not much you can do about things, but hell, you’ve got a strong liver and you’ll be damned if you don’t make the most of it.

Being a social butterfly.

You’re impossible to avoid. You’re everywhere, all at once- college fest, cricket field, canteen, toilet- chatting it up and being sociable. At meal times it takes you a good 20 minutes to make your way across the room- pausing at each table, dropping a joke here, slapping a back there. What’s more, you’re not picky at all. In fact, you’re relentlessly democratic in your social interaction and you even hunt down the twitchy weirdo and accost him for a daily dose of social banter.

Generally feeling rage for no good reason.

Grr… you’re mad at your college mates, you’re mad at the family, you’re mad at the Government and at the Sun for being so goddamn stubbornly hot. Bottom line is that you’re just hopping mad. At everyone. And they make you madder every time they catch a glimpse of your glowering face and back off in alarm. Nobody understands you and everything drives you up the wall. Soon, you suspect you’ll actually start growling under your breath.

Undergoing a major life transition.

This includes break ups, nasty year-backs, it could be anything from a whole bunch of life-shaking situations, but as a rule of thumb if you feel alienated from this unfeeling world and don’t see the point of anything anymore, this is you. Common symptoms include feeling lost, wanting to curl up in your bed, turn out the lights and wake up when it’s all over and you’re back home.

Indulging in substance abuse.

Not to be confused with #2, this is a broader category and covers an overdose of sex, drugs and/or booze- you can take your pick. You’re not trying to escape so much as you’re bored out of your mind. There’s a high chance you have a superiority complex that makes you smirk at all the eager kids trying so hard and being so, well… kiddish; or you didn’t think about where you’re going and now you’ve landed up somewhere you didn’t particularly want to be so now you’re just trying to kill time.

In OCD mode.

This means you’re either in love, or hell bent on topping every exam, or some sport really grinds your gears. Whatever it is that you’re obsessed about fills up the large vacuum in your life. You’re hooked: straight A’s, endless phone calls, daily gym practice. Basically you’re on mental steroids or hormonal steroids. Your favourite pastime gives you a kick and you shudder to think of how sad and unfulfilling life would be without it.

 

While these are all noble and worthy goals for a short-term dalliance, the trouble is that you think there’s more to it than that. In fact, you are convinced that your situation is “THE MOST IMORTANT THING IN THE WORLD FOR ME”. Whichever situation it is, you’ve put it at the center of your universe and labeled it the most important thing in the world and tucked it in that little box you carry around with you all the time.

 

I am a Box

 

Whichever thrilling situation you have picked for yourself and chosen to cuddle at night, the upsetting bit is, it’s eventually going to leave you. It will either go kicking and screaming or it’ll slowly fade away till one day you wake up and discover you’re alone in bed. However it plays out, at the end of it you’ll realize it’s well and truly gone.

And right about then a disturbing thought bubbles up in your head, “Dude, what the hell was I doing?

Here’s the short version: You had your head stuck up your ass and you were clucking around like a chicken.

 

I am Chicken

 

After years and years of waiting and being told not to do this and not to do that by your parents you finally had the freedom to do what you wanted and that’s what you decided to do. Smooth.

It’s heartbreaking, really. You just blew your tiny sliver of opportunity- wedged tightly between parental authority and a soul-crushing job- to travel without restriction, without agenda and for the most part without money.

It’s heartbreaking because this is the best time in your life to travel. No matter how poor, how clueless, how wet behind the ears you are, there isn’t going to be a better time when you’ll have fewer reasons holding you back.

There is really no good reason why you can’t or shouldn’t

 

Travel During College aka Get Your Head Out Of Your Ass

And here is why all the reasons you’ve been tallying up in your head are actually just excuses for bone-deep laziness.

Time.

It’s incredibly annoying when people say things like, “If you really want it, you’ll make time for it.” That’s a foolish, smug statement; sometimes you really just don’t have the time. But for what it’s worth you still have more time in college than you’ll have once you start work. The galling bit is that in tons of countries you don’t even have to ‘make’ time. Kids take off for an entire glorious year to do whatever the hell they fancy and nobody has a nervous breakdown. Unfortunately the Indian Education System throws a fit at the mention of ‘Gap Year’, so you’ll just have to get creative and try to squeeze in travel in the middle of semester. Unless of course, you have attendance issues because you’ve missed every morning class in Applied Economics 101 and you’re facing a dreaded year back, which means another whole year of missing morning class. Well then go during college fests when the idiot admin won’t give you attendance anyway.

If you can’t manage that, take off in the holidays. Normally, you’d make a mad scramble for home in order to collapse in your bed and vegetate. During Semester Break you follow an uncomplicated agenda: sleep in ac, eat decent food that doesn’t have things crawling in it and watch tv. You announce to anyone who’re interested (which is usually just your mom) that you don’t want to meet any relatives, you don’t want to get dressed and go to annoying social gatherings and for the love of god can you please be left alone! But if you travel you’ll be a lot happier and your family will be happy to have you out of their hair for a bit.

 

Money.

A lot of travel services have a highly elastic pricing policy, which means that they look you up and down and then decide how much they want to charge you. So when you turn up looking like a penury-stricken, acne-ridden, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed person like yourself, they don’t pin too many hopes on you. Which is great because you’re more likely to get a discount than say, someone who looks employed and well fed.

Group travel is also great because you get to go dutch! That way you split the big chunk of your daily expenses like cab fares, room tariff, bike/car rental. You can even share costs on more-than-one-person-rentals like canoes, tonga rides etc. and in extreme cases food and water.

 

Let's share this Pizza

Costs also spiral downward if you go at the right time- which must be the wrong time for everybody else. During off-season popular tourist destinations are absolutely dirt-cheap and you can score great deals. It means you’ll probably end up shivering in a draughty hostel room while it snows a blizzard outside but if that’s the only way you ever get to be in Paris, so be it.

 

Company.

Old fogeys have been saying it till they’re blue in the face and it bears repetition only because it’s true every single time. You really are living the Good ‘ol Days right now. It might not look like it but in a lot of ways things don’t get better than this. And what’s more, you’re living this time with the people you want to be living it with. This brief glorious time is when you and your friend(s) are literally and figuratively jobless, bounding with indecent energy and dead serious about getting up to no good. Fast forward a few years and you’ll be lucky to have an actual conversation with the human being you were stuck at the hip with for a few odd years.

 

Old Friends

 

Boss Calling

 

Once you step into the real world you’ll be surprised at how many humans there are you can’t stand. You never really appreciated how incredibly lucky you were to meet your gang so it comes as a bit of a shock that you can barely find people you can tolerate. Who “get” you. Who will put up with your sometimes-revolting habits, spells of pouting, passive-aggressive tendencies and occasional racist/sexist comments.

 

New Friends

 

Amazing Opportunities.

International volunteer programs let you travel the world and you literally don’t have to spend a penny. Lots of organizations encourage and pay for undergraduates who want to volunteer for their social outreach/housing/healthcare programs. This is true travel- you get to live and work with a mix of nationalities, understand local cultures, talk without words and create something valuable. When you’re affiliated with an organization, it’s easier to snag visas to countries that will coldly turn you down once you are single and working.

Also, it’s a lot easier to convince your parents when you’re going with a credible organization rather than with a bunch of shifty-looking friends. The folks won’t frown on you quite as much and hopefully you’ll be spared this embarrassing situation:

 

Sunny's Mom

 

Sunny's Mom again

 

Investment.

Travel nourishes your soul, expands your worldview and broadens your horizons. Plus, it looks great on your CV! Movies like Walter Mitty only help your cause so you can confidently chalk up travel expenses as an investment in your future. Nowhere else will you get serious survival skills, life experience and personal insight by the bushel. Travel tests your strengths and weaknesses, so that when you are asked to answer those darn HR questions during college placement, you’ll actually have something real to write about that wasn’t thrown up last night in a frantic Google search. (Side Note: As inspiring as your travel tales might be, it’s recommended you stick with the Google answer. You can jot down your newfound personal insight in your daily journal.)

 

New friends.

Unless you’re crippled by social anxiety or have a particularly disturbing vibe about you, it’s a statistical guarantee that you’ll make a bunch of friends on your travels. Multi-ethnic, multi- racial, multi-lingual- your Facebook friend list will look like an exotic rainbow with names you’ll struggle to pronounce. Travel is the quickest, fun-est way to meet loads of interesting people and make new friends. How great would it be to have a couch to crash on in every part of the world? And till the time you build your little black book of couches to crash on, you can use this world digest; it’s free.

 

X-Factor.

Your personal stock will zoom up several points higher if you travel. But play it cool.

 

You look Different

 

And don’t go dumping the entire contents of your camera memory card on Facebook. It just clogs everyone’s newsfeed artery and puts everybody off.

 

Convenience.

It has literally never been easier for young people to travel, actually, for any people to travel. There has never been a time in history when earth has been so obsessively probed and mapped and archived. The vast expanse of thrilling adventure and unknown territory that it once used to be is now neatly divided into grids and squares and blocks, packaged into Quick Facts and Things To Do and sold in the guidebook section of your local supermarket. The only upshot of this incredibly depressing reality is that you’re not likely to get lost and stranded on an island. Technology has made travel and tracking and tracing much easier and your anxious parents can locate your sorry ass anytime you try to fall off the grid; this might sound annoying but it actually bumps the scales in your favour when you’re negotiating a solo vacation with the folks.

 

Misc. Special Privileges.

Young people are given special benefits everywhere, just for the obnoxious achievement of being young. Which can turn your 26th birthday into a mighty depressing event. Student status gets you whopping discounts on all kinds of public transport, lower ticket prices for museums, galleries and tourist attractions. Heck, you get dirt-cheap accommodation in the most expensive cities in the world! You entitled little shit.

 

Low hygiene.

No category of human species is more tolerant of poor hygiene than the college student, which makes this class ideally suited to travel. Often you have to squat in fields or over holes in the ground, answer nature’s call in highway gas station toilets- which could make anybody else pass out from acute olfactory trauma- and bunk on beds you normally wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. But none of this matters to you because you’re right at home in low-hygiene conditions. Be warned though, this super power comes with an expiration date. The end of your college life will also mark the mysterious end of your ironclad ability to stomach icky. You can deny it all you want and swear life-long allegiance to the cause of dirtiness, but as surely as earth revolves around the sun, at some point in the future you will turn into that person who shudders at the thought of funny smelling bed sheets, greasy menu cards and leaky faucets. It’s basic evolution.

 

So don’t fritter away your glorious youth, your stomach for squalor and general sickly appearance. Make sure your I’m-Home-For-The-SemesterBreak-Agenda reads something like this:

  • Stick head up my Ass.
  • Cluck like a Chicken.
  • TRAVEL.

 

___________

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If you liked this, check out:

How Not To Be A Human Yo-Yo Part 1

How Not To Be A Human Yo-Yo Part 2

Odd Things in Bhaktapur

The Street Mavericks of Galle

 

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