why i am traveling post-grad

 

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A 20-year-old me in a garden in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Being back in my hometown for the last week or so, I have infinitely been asked about my post-grad plans. Though this is the question all newly graduated people dread, I don’t hold it against the asker. They are curious and that question makes sense. What has been more striking are the reactions I get when I tell people that I am taking the next three months to travel around Costa Rica. People are surprised, supportive, excited, condescending, confused, slightly amused, jealous and joyful. I’ve gotten them all.

One reaction, however, is a constant: “Now is the time to do it, because someday you won’t be able to.”

I want to use this post to not only refute that statement, but to do so by explaining my reason for traveling post-grad. (I have also included some photos from my travels during my semester studying in Spain.)

To start, I am not here to blab about my wanderlust. Or to tell you all about how I just don’t belong in the United States. Or how I would rather live life out of a backpack and abandon all of my earthly possessions for a life of travel. Yes, I LOVE to travel. It is one of my favorite things to do. I am, however, aware of the privilege that allows me to do so. I am not going to pretend that I possess some sort of unearthly calling to wander the world. Or that money does not matter. I have the circumstances that allow me to reprioritize my finances accordingly. For that I am grateful.

I am funding this particular adventure with the money I saved working two jobs and building a photography business. It was certainly a priority.

With that said, I feel that I can share my reasons for traveling post-grad.

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The view from the Spanish Steps in Rome.

I am venturing to Costa Rica this fall because I want to set the tone for the rest of my life. By viewing this trip as the first page of my next chapter, not the last page of my previous chapter, I am proving to myself that I do not need to follow the expected trajectory. In my case, that expectation is that I frantically send out job applications during my last semester, graduate, move wherever a stable employer tells me to, and work.

Obviously, that path works for some people. And that is awesome. For me, however, it did not feel natural.

This ties in to the comment that I receive from everyone and their dog: I better do this now because I will never have the opportunity again. The underlying message: Soon you’re going to get a job, wake up for that job every morning, come home tired, get married, pop out a few kids, buy a mini van, get a mom bob, spend all your money on diapers and manicures. You’re going to do this for the rest of your life because that’s what you are supposed to do, you set of ovaries you.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get what I am saying here. Again, that path works for some people. It’s just not for me. I want a life full of what I know gives me joy. Not what society tells me will give me joy. This does not mean that pain, sadness and frustration will not be part of the equation too. But I want to fill my life with people, actions and places that feed my soul. This could, someday, include a partner and children. Yet, I trust that those people will enter my life when their souls’ paths mesh naturally with mine.

I understand that I will always have bills and responsibilities. Of course I will. I am a human adult. That does not mean, however, that I have to mold a conventional life around these responsibilities. That also does not mean that these responsibilities will rip my life of all joy and pleasure. Who decided that? Other humans make travel a constant part of their lives. Why can’t I?

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Beautiful beaches in Lagos, Portugal.

So, what comes next? What do I do when I get back?

Well, I am going to take a deep breath, reflect, make a list of places I want to live and start applying for jobs. I have a deadline for when I will move to said mystery place. I’m going to take these next steps calmly.

Is it going to be scary?

Yes.

Is it going to be unpredictable?

Yes.

Is it going to be possibly not ideal?

Yes.

But I’m going to be fine. I’m going to be fine because I’ve opened this next chapter with adventure. I am choosing joy. I am choosing energy.

 

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The sun sets over Granada, Spain.

Thank you, dear friends, for taking the time to read this little essay. I would love to read your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

All my love,

Emma

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A cloudy day in Paris.
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july

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My sweet July,

I knew you would be wonderful. Your approach was a much-welcome rainstorm. I felt you before you were here, and when you arrived, I found relief and invigoration.

Thank you for spontaneous community, questionable decisions, naked swims, chats on the deck, cold beer and bare feet. Thank you for prying my energy open. Thank you for spreading your warmth to those around me.

Your name has become a mantra.

July.

July.

July…

Xx

excess in the pursuit of balance

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I have always been fascinated by water. This fascination exists within a duality of forces: a peaceful attraction and a terrifying hesitance. I have lived by water my whole life, feeling an instant ease by the lakeside. At the same time, however, I have experienced pure fear at the thought of what exists below the surface.

Water is one of the most powerful forces on earth, conquering life and leaving devastating destruction. Yet, every living creature needs it to survive.

At its best, water exists in pure balance. As do humans.

This morning, I strolled out of my last final exam of my college career. I had finished. I pushed through the heavy glass doors of the academic building that housed the exam, entered the sunshine, and felt a lightness. But there was something else – an internal sentiment tugging the ends of my joy.

I was tired. I am, I then realized, tired.

The past four years, like those for most college students, were formative. I found amazing souls, whom I now call my friends, studied hard, went to some parties, studied abroad, created work that I was proud, and not so proud, of, and embarked on a type of soul searching that only a young twenty-something experiences.

Within the threads of this woven experience, however, I cultivated perhaps my most cherished value: balance.

Avoiding specifics, I am a hard-working, life-living person. I do believe myself to be exceptionally balanced. This, however, was achieved by wrestling with a culture that encourages me to not be.

University, especially in the United States, is a culture of excess. Students study to excess, work to excess, eat to excess, drink to excess. Excess of stress causes excess of consumption. Excessive tuition prices and student loans cause excess work hours outside of school. And this excess creates a deficit in other essentials: sleep, self-care, time with friends, adventures, exercise, outdoor time, and self-expression. We are sedentary, creatively-oppressed, sleep-deprived, depressed, anxious creatures running ourselves into the ground – all for a piece of paper stating that we are suddenly good enough.

I am guilty of excess. I have, at certain points, been a full participant in the work too hard, play too hard, crash too hard culture. My mind and body resented me. And now, with empathy, it breaks my heart to see my peers living in the library, under draining florescent lights, necks craned to accommodate the tilt of their laptop screens. Is there a way to achieve and avoid sunken eyes, caffeine sweats, emotional detachment and sore necks?

Perhaps the solution is a reconstruction of our definition of achievement. Perhaps it will take a pure reprioritization. We, as a culture, need to find balance in order to uncoil the environment of excess we have created. And, as with anything, this starts with the individual.

How will you give yourself balance?