I realised this when my housemate told me about a two month exchange to Paris (she’s still at uni). The exchange involved a paid return flight and all you have to do is bum around France for two months. She couldn’t do it because of her plans to go to France in a years time anyway, but she told me that they were looking for someone to do it.
Quickly the wheels started turning in my head, ‘maybe I could go on this exchange’ I thought. Why not? I had enough friends in France to hang out with, and parts of the country I hadn’t seen yet plus family connections in the UK if I ran out of money and needed to stay somewhere. Yes, this was a perfect idea! Until I started to realise…
I have signed a rental contract.
If I leave for two months, do I pay two months worth of rent to keep my room? (Which is not much more than a return flight to Paris)
If I decided to move out, where would I go when I came back?
Where would I put my stuff?
I have a job – and I haven’t accrued a lot of annual leave yet, so there’s a good chance even if I could get the time off work I wouldn’t be paid
Then I would still need money to travel around France and other parts of Europe, since I wouldn’t be earning money or getting paid from my regular job.
Damn – when did everything get so complicated?
When I was at uni and living at home, it was all so easy. Travel as part of my degree (or between semesters), no rental contracts to worry about and I could easily take a semester off if I wanted to. Even my last stint abroad (which I did the year after I finished my degree) was easier because I moved back in with my mum and only worked casually before I left, making it easy to up and leave without any responsibility.
It makes me grateful that I did take the opportunity to travel young and my parents words of ‘it’s easier when you’re younger’ are now really sinking in.
I know that just because I’ve finished university and my gap year, doesn’t mean I’ll never travel again. I know I can build up 4 weeks of annual leave over a year, or take leave without pay and save a lot more money in a short time by working than studying. But I never had to balance things like rent, contracts, bills and even figuring out things like where I’d keep my car before setting off around the world before.
And it’s not gonna get any easier, in the next 5-10 years I could have a mortgage to pay, a more time consuming career, kids, a dog – who knows?
So I think if anyone ever asks me while they’re young, if they should take an opportunity to go overseas, I’ll respond with an emphatic ‘HELL YES!’. It is never going to be easier to travel than from the age of 18-25… or for however long you’re living with your parents.