Yes, I am a college student travel blogger. And no, I haven’t studied abroad.
It is one of the most frequent questions that I am asked. I respond “no” and wait for their reaction and follow-up statement that’s something along the polite version of “How the hell are you a travel blogger then?”
This is not one of the posts to bash everyone who has chosen to study abroad. In fact, I think it is one of the most rewarding things a person can do in their lifetime. If a good opportunity comes about, take it.
I went to college with the mindset that I was going to study abroad. I was excited, and researched everything from ‘A Semester at Sea’ to a year in Australia to six weeks galloping around Europe. I dreamt of saying I survived college in another country, that I met many friends from all around the world, that I was fully submerged in a new culture.
It’s a once in a lifetime adventure, and those who venture into the unknown journey only return happy and full of newfound knowledge. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The truth is, I chose not to study abroad because of the cost that comes along with it.
A Semester at Sea came with a price tag of $25,000. Australia would have been a solid $20,000, and six weeks in Europe $11,000. I will be the first to admit that I have a fear of debt, and that I would not enjoy the views, sites, or experiences knowing that I had thousands of dollars (with interest) looming over my head.
Studying abroad is easy, and that is what makes it so pricey. Universities do an A+ job of finding you a place to live, things to do, and excursions to adventure on. They’ll book a convenient flight with a well-known airline so your mind will be set at ease. It’s all so nice, but so unaffordable.
It just wasn’t in my budget.
When looking at the big picture, I was frustrated. Were the loans worth it? My inner wanderlust had been pounding for years. In high school I waited to leave, I got talked into college where I still wanted to leave, and then I was discovering I’d have to wait another three years before I can do anything about it. Finding out Santa wasn’t real was bad, but this felt so much worse.
Frustrated, I needed to make sense of why I should wait – so I did some math.
Already planning to go to Europe once I graduated, I laid out costs. 12 weeks came to a budget around $4,000. This included everything. Flights, accommodation, food, activities, and hidden expenses. This was monumental compared to the $11,000 for 6 weeks through study abroad. In simpler terms it meant this:
On my own, spending twice as long in Europe cost 60% less.
Whew! And I realized waiting those years were worth it. I could continue to work, save up more money, and travel at lesser costs.
I also realized that studying abroad isn’t necessarily the adventure travel I dreamt of.
I like to camp, which is never expensive. I can sleep under the stars. Hiking is mostly free. Jumping off cliffs is mostly free. I like to couchsurf, which is free. I’m happier sleeping outside, therefore paying extra for hotels and apartments doesn’t make much sense.
My trips this far have been short, but powerful. I’ve managed to spend weeks flying, adventuring, resorting, and discovering while still saving money for travel ahead. I’m a travel blogger and traveling is what I do, but the responsibility of school and jobs mean I travel less but appreciate more. I don’t regret it.
I first made the decision against studying abroad three years ago, and now I’m about to graduate college. I gave up a semester of fun, for many months (or years) of travel ahead. The future I dreamt of is now on the brink of reality. I’m going to Europe. I get to do it with Josh – someone I love, and not a bus of strangers. I’ve booked a flight from Toronto to Lisbon for $285. We are still budgeting no more than $4,000.
Maybe the saying is true; good things come to those who wait.