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Travel is my Grad School

It would seem I still have a lot of friends and followers that think this trip of mine is just a joy trip. A lot of money for a lot of fun. Well, you’re wrong. This year of travel I’ve got ahead of me is my grad school. You may be paying $20,000/year to get a degree; I’m spending a similar amount and getting just as much out of it. Maybe it’s not a piece of paper I can frame, but the skills & qualifications are still there.

It’s a matter of priorities

Maybe the best thing for your future is a prestigious University degree. But that’s not the case for everyone. Some of us don’t need nor want a graduate degree. For me and my career plan, it’s not necessary yet. However, the skills I’m learning on this trip are absolutely invaluable to my future career goals. This is just what made the most sense for me right now. As I’m sure grad school makes sense for you.

But aren’t you just having fun taking in the sights?

Yes. And I’m allowed to. When else will I be in Egypt or Jordan or Spain? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m taking every advantage I can get. You’ve got your leisure time as well. Weekend trips and nights out on the town, I’m sure. I just happen to already be abroad, so can spend my free time in ancient cities and famous museums. I happen to pick up quite a bit of cultural history I couldn’t get anywhere else, too.

go travel and explore - berlin

But don’t you just go out drinking all the time?

Sometimes, yes. And that’s part of the experience as well. I’m learning skills I’ve never had before and never had the opportunity (or courage) to learn. But when traveling, I have to. I get to learn about Finland & Colombia & Oregon & Australia. I get to meet people of all different backgrounds. I’m more extroverted than ever. More willing to trust strangers and understand their culture. These aren’t easy experiences to come across and I get to do it every single day.

Are you convinced?

Probably not. From the outside, I understand this looks like all fun and games. But that’s why I’m here and you’re there. We’ve different ideas for ourselves and our futures. It’s whatever makes sense for you. For me, my $20,000 is being spent in the best possible way—for myself, my mind, my body, my career. And I hope you feel the same way about your decision.

And stop calling me lucky. Was it luck that got you into grad school? No. It was hard work, dedication and a whole lot of cash.

Instagram Selfie - Travels of Adam

  1. Adam says:

    Haha, thanks for commenting Brittney. You're right that there are certain environmental differences between our two paths, but I think you'd find parts of traveling equally stressful. There are days of too many sights to care about, simultaneously blogging, demanding immigration officers, boring people and days (yes, sometimes even full days) stuck on a crowded bus. Luckily for me, there aren't many research papers to write!

    That's my type of 'grad school,' though, and I wouldn't give it up for the world! Oh wait— it is the world!

  2. Adam says:

    Well, I've chosen this for the time being. I don't doubt I'll be in a cubicle again—for better or worse.

  3. Adam says:

    Bear spray? That actually exists, for real?!

  4. Adam says:

    ah a good investment, obviously.

  5. Brittney says:

    No doubt! I also heard a professor recommend it for protecting oneself against rapists, so there you have two uses already!

  6. somuchsass says:


  7. Brittney says:

    This makes it seem like you're getting a lot of flack for your trip, maybe from grad students?. I get what you're saying and why you feel like you need to justify it, but until you're about to pull your hair out over the stress of too many classes, simultaneous job, demanding authority figures, uninteresting research, and no free time to enjoy the sights because you're in a building all day long staring at your next partially completed 20 page paper that's due the next morning, I don't don't you've really had the grad student experience! Nice try though! :P

  8. NickLaborde says:

    Stress is expensive, I can't imagine paying for that experience.

    Following the crowd on the path to cubicle nation, is a choice. We all have to live with our decisions, there is more then one option. Adam just happened to choose a different one.

  9. NickLaborde says:

    I've never looked at it like that before. People don't have a problem shelling out thousands and thousands dollars for school. If you spend that same money on real world education, your crazy or lucky.

    Luck is just an excuse for not taking action.

  10. Brittney says:

    You're funny! Ok if you really want to be a grad student, write a research paper on the cultural differences you have encountered so far and how this knowledge can promote better worldwide communication.

    Yeah you're right about stress in traveling – Colin and I are going backpacking in Colorado next week and I'm already stressing out! I plan to buy bear spray at REI sometime this week.

  11. Melissa Stanford says:

    Good call on this one Adam. Not everyone wants or needs to go to grad school. But,you are, in a way enrolled in one of the world’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning: The School of Life. At The School of Life, you will learn how to think independently in a variety of situations, be confronted with strange new [insert whatever you want here], and you will take away from these experiences a degree in Get Real. Continue having awesome fun, it’s the only prerequisite you need to earn your Honors credits!

  12. Adam says:

    Thanks Kristen! “Just like anything” — so true.

  13. Adam says:

    I really like how you say this: “Luck is just an excuse for not taking action.”

    Thank you Nick.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think there’s a better degree out there than traveling. This post reminds me of how people respond when I tell them what I do for a living (travel writing for newspapers and magazines); sure it’s fun, but there’s also a great deal of work (and learning) that does go into it! Just like anything. Keep it up–I’m loving your trip!

  15. Brittney says:

    You're right, I'd never choose a cubicle life either! Hence the stressful path toward a better degree, because my bachelors in psychology would almost guarantee me a generic cubicle job.

  16. Adam says:

    Cheers Melissa. As cheesy as it sounds, it actually makes a lot of sense. A lot of people just don’t see it.

  17. Wanderlust Wednesday: August 11, 2010 | A Girl’s Guide to Travel, Studying, Working, and Volunteering Abroad says:

    […] might not be a diploma, but it’s still an education: I couldn’t agree more with Adam in This is my grad school. Spending your savings on a year of traveling around the world or a year of formal education? […]

  18. G @ Operation Backpack Asia says:

    Dearest Adam, it was absolutely painful to read this because we know what you’re saying, the perception, and the process all too well. You know you’ve got sympathetic ears with us! Keep on rockin your life, buddy. If you don’t, no one else will. :)

  19. Steph says:

    I love this because it pretty much encapsulated my way of thinking. A lot of my friends are pouring massive amounts of money into grad school while I plan this trip and blog. I think that a lot of real life education happens outside the classroom, and just because you don’t have a fancy degree at the end doesn’t mean you won’t have a LOT to show for yourself.

  20. Jaime D says:

    Im gonna have to share this with a few of my friends. They are going off to med school, law school or already knee deep in the careers they have chosen & well im going to see the world. That will be my grad school. WOW I LOVE THIS!!! Thanks for a great post.

  21. Adam says:

    Thank you so much, G! I love getting comments from you.

  22. Adam says:

    Hi Steph, There is definitely A LOT of real-life education out in the world. Not everyone understands that, but I think people should recognize the value of it.

  23. Adam says:

    Share away, Jaime! I kinda figure that within the travel circle, just about everyone would agree. Of course we all want to think what we’re doing is worthwhile. But I definitely feel that others cannot discount what you’re doing without knowing what it entails. Travel sure looks (and is!) a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work, too.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I completely agree that travel is life’s greatest teacher. Sometimes I feel like my life didn’t really start until I left my safe corner of the US and jumped out of my comfort zone. Cheers to you and safe travels!

  25. theroamantics says:

    hey adam! wealthy europeans of yesteryear recognized the value in sending their kids off in pursuit of an education via traveling, and why not? what better way to learn than to experience rather than just read about what someone else witnesses? and to get our assumptions challenged repeatedly and come away with a broader, less ethnocentric worldview? i say good on you my fellow bostonian ;)

    and in regards to being called lucky- i agree. it takes away the credit you deserve for taking this leap and makes it seem like you’ve had the good fortune to be wired genetically different from those who don’t…but that might make them feel better about not making the leap themselves :)
    happy trails!

  26. Anonymous says:

    Totally agree with you! There is no better way to learn about life than by traveling. Traveling teaches you all those things that schools never can do, life skills that are invaluable for a career. A round the world trip is no vacation in any way, I think everyone would do better in their careers and lives if they went traveling.

  27. Thursday’s Travel Links « Eurotrip Tips says:

    […] Matt explains us why travelling is his own grad school. […]

  28. Megan says:

    Although I’m doing my trip after getting a post-graduate degree, I totally know what you mean. Though in my case, people ask me if I’m worried about what not working for a year will do for my career. I think I am kind of working though! The sorts of skills you pick up and the challenges you face while on the road aren’t that much different to what you’d be learning in a work environment – you’re just learning them and facing them in a different (and more exciting?) way.

    And when I come home and I’m looking for a job, you can bet I’ll be using examples from my travels in job interviews to illustrate my skills – not just from my previous jobs.

  29. Great way to “frame” it, Adam. This trip will change you in ways you can’t even imagine right now. It’ll shift all your choices from this point forward in your life. Here’s wishing you Godspeed. *smile*

  30. I’m with you on that!

    I have a piece of very expensive paper sitting in my closet that I NEVER use. Shaun was debating going back to school but has no clue what he even wants to do.

    I think traveling can TOTALLY give you some guidance and experience. Its worth so much in that regard.

    I asked Shaun tonight on the phone while he was at work (he works over nights and plans to leave when we go on our trip), “So what are you going to do when we get back?”

    We’re leaving our experiences to decide!

    We’re rooting for you!

  31. Adam says:

    Thanks Erica! Different things work for different people. And I’m definitely putting caution to the wind and will see what happens when I get back.

  32. Adam says:

    haha Thanks Denise. Just like any major life event, this one is definitely going to affect my future. Positively!

  33. Adam says:

    You have absolutely nothing to worry about as far as traveling negatively affecting your future career. That’s my point. The skills I’m learning now on my RTW are just as useful for my career as graduate school. Especially when you consider all the work blogging requires.

  34. Adam says:

    Hey Christine, travel is definitely a good teacher. Not sure if it’s the greatest, but it’s way up there. Breaking out of my comfort zone, however, is probably the greatest thing I could have done. It’s changed my life.

  35. Adam says:


    You’re right that, historically, Europeans often took a “Grand Tour” to see & learn from the world. Thanks for reminding me of that!

    And regarding luck, you’re spot on! Calling me or any other traveler lucky definitely discredits all the time, effort & work invested into making the trip happen.

  36. Adam says:

    Thanks Sofia,
    While I agree that a RTW trip is not a vacation in any way, I don’t think travel is for everyone. Just like not everyone aspires to get a graduate degree, some people just don’t want to travel. And that’s okay! So long as they see and understand that travel doesn’t have to be just a lot of fun—it’s work, too.

  37. sarah benjamin says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more on your reasons to travel. Good luck with all! Make sure to visit New Zealand!

  38. says:

    […] from Travels of Adam has a new and interesting spin on the travelling experience in his post ‘this is my grad school’. Adam argues that the life experiences gained through travel are comparable with those gained in a […]

  39. Earl says:

    Perfectly stated! Not only is this adventure going to provide you with valuable skills for your career goals, but it’s also going to open up endless opportunities that you would never have stumbled upon had you not traveled. And that alone is worth more than the $20,000 or the piece of the paper…

  40. This Week in Travel: August 8 – August 14 says:

    […] How a round-the-wold trip is like going to grad school. (via Travels of Adam) […]

  41. Ayngelina says:

    I always laugh at my friends who say I’m on vacation for a year as this hardly feels like a typical vacation.

  42. Adam says:


  43. It’s a great experience I’m sure but I’m going to try and do both. The only difference is I don’t have to pay for grad school so instead I’m putting that money into savings to travel…and maybe pay off my undergrad. Travel on friend!

  44. Emily Groffman says:

    I just Googled “why go to grad school” on my phone and this page was the 11th result. :)

  45. […] for whatever reasons I wanted. It was the best money I ever spent on myself.   Adam also wrote This is My Grad School – it’s all about […]

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