How Young Adults Can Embrace Wanderlust Before College

You’ve graduated high school, and there’s a whole new world of possibilities out there for you. This could very well be the most exciting time of your life, but maybe you’re feeling a bit restless.

Maybe you already have plans to attend college in the fall, and you even have a basic idea of what you want to do, but there’s an itch you want to scratch first – a bit of wanderlust that you can’t seem to ignore.

Here’s some advice – don’t ignore it!


Guest post by Katie Brenneman


You’ve just completed an incredible journey, and you’re about to embark on a new one that will help you take the first step on your path to adulthood. Now is a perfect time to embrace travel opportunities before you take that step. Travelling before college is a fantastic way to learn more about yourself, who you really are, and what you really want. Not only does it boost the potential for personal development and self-discovery, but you’ll enjoy unforgettable experiences that will inspire you and put you in the right state of mind for the chapter ahead.

There’s really no right or wrong way to travel before college. It’s about finding what speaks to you and understanding what you can afford and how to stay safe. Let’s cover a few ideas that might make your decisions easier.


Why Now Is the Time to Travel

Some people have a travel bug that never seems to go away. You might be drawn to the open road, seas, or skies for the rest of your life. But, now that you have a few months between high school and college, take advantage of the symbolism of your situation. There are many reasons to travel right after graduation, especially before you head somewhere new for school.

Travelling will build your confidence. While it can be a little scary to do it on your own, that’s kind of the point – you’ll learn how to expand your worldview and recognize that you can do hard and uncertain things. That’s an important attitude to take with you into college.

If there are certain places you want to go, but you feel like you don’t have enough time, consider taking a gap year before starting at a university. It can be a controversial decision, but a gap year gives you more time to find yourself while trying something new. Most people who go to college expect to start a career almost immediately after they graduate. While that’s not a bad thing, it means that you might not have the time or ability to travel like this again until you retire.

There is some risk of losing academic momentum if you take a gap year, but much of that is up to you and your drive. If you think you’ll continue to have the motivation and desire to continue down a specific path a year later, a gap year could provide you with wonderful opportunities to see the world.


The Benefits of Slow Travel

If you’ve ever watched the Super Bowl, you’ve probably heard a player on the winning team say, “I’m going to Disney World!” during an interview. As a recent high school grad, you might be feeling the same sense of excitement and even adrenaline due to your accomplishments. But try not to give into “quick” vacation destinations or tourist traps if you’re trying to tame your feelings of wanderlust. Those places are fun and exciting but can leave something to be desired if you’re on a journey of personal growth.

Instead, consider the practice of slow travel.

Travelling at a slower pace, away from tight deadlines and schedules, and going off the beaten path is one of the best ways to learn more about yourself. It’s much more relaxing than having to stick to a strict itinerary, and might allow you to see and experience things that most tourists don’t get to. Some of the biggest benefits of slow travel include: 


  • Better cultural immersion
  • Boosted self-sufficiency
  • Sustainability
  • Stress relief
  • Time to explore 


You’re also less likely to experience travel fatigue if you take things at a comfortable pace. You’ll enjoy your time, rather than worrying about getting to your next destination. Many travel enthusiasts will encourage you to embrace the unplanned. Some of the best experiences happen that way, and when you’re travelling slowly, you have the opportunity to do just that.

By immersing yourself in a certain area, you’ll learn so much more about the people, customs, and environment there. That can help you feel more connected to the world and foster stronger ideas about who you really want to be as you enter this next stage of life. Plus, as a new college student who is undoubtedly on a budget, slow travel is usually much more cost-effective. When you have more time to spare, you don’t necessarily have to worry about buying airline tickets. You can find alternative forms of transportation that might take the scenic route, but are a fraction of the cost.


Explore the World One Step at a Time

How you choose to travel is up to you. But, there’s something to be said for seeing the world on foot. If you’re physically able, consider taking the opportunity to step into the world of ultralight backpacking. It’s a fun and minimalistic way to experience new places, embrace nature, and save money, all while cultivating memories that will last a lifetime.

Ultralight backpacking is really nothing more than a condensed form of regular backpacking. Your pack should weigh about 10 pounds, containing your base weight items, including: 


  • A tent or shelter
  • Sleeping bag
  • Clothing
  • A cooking system


Food and water will obviously cause your pack to weigh more, but it typically doesn’t “count” as an added weight in the ultralight category. This kind of bare-bones backpacking makes it easier to get to your destinations without hauling around a bunch of heavy gear and can make you appreciate the things you have so much more.

Whether you want to hike and camp across the United States or take a backpacking trip across Europe, doing so with just a few essentials is a great way to immerse yourself in the environment, no matter where you are. When you don’t have a lot of items distracting you, you can place more focus on personal growth and reflection. Spending time in nature with as few distractions as possible can improve your mental health and reduce stress while fostering an appreciation for things like sustainability and green living. Your trip could end up completely changing your perspective on the future and how you want to live your life.

Of course, no matter where you’re going, safety should be your top priority. Even if you’re limiting the gear in your backpack, it’s always worth it to have things like a first aid kit, pocket knife, and a phone or radio on you. Going on personal adventures can be incredibly fulfilling, but it’s important to make sure you aren’t cutting yourself off completely from the world and the people who care about you. 


Your next great chapter is about to begin, but there’s no reason your introduction can start now with a great adventure. Whether you simply want a break between educational endeavours or you want to feel more grounded in who you are as you step into the future, travelling before college can help you feel more confident in your own skin while providing opportunities and experiences you’ll never forget.



Mark Munroe is the Creator and EIC of ADDICTED. He's ADDICTED to great travel, amazing food, better grooming & probably a whole lot more!

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