When it comes to travel, you young people have it easy. Without marriages, mortgages, kids or careers; the world is your oyster. Plus, having been spared the ravages of time, your asses can endure long bus rides, while your egos can still tolerate a bit of filth in the name of saving money. So what’s standing in the way of your next adventure?
Study and travel make beautiful bedmates. But only for those who learn to prioritize and adapt. So for all you scholars out there hoping to balance book-smarts with street-smarts, here’s how:
Lose the Holiday Mentality
As anyone who has ever stayed in a backpackers’ hostel surely knows, there is a massive community of young travelers whose sole interest seems to be partying. They have a holiday mindset that leads them from bars to beach parties to unregulated pharmaceuticals and eventually back home to ‘real life.’ And that’s fine. But it’s no way to be a serious student while traveling. So if you have work to get done, make it a priority, and remove yourself from the all-too-tempting international party scene (at least until the work is finished). If you are a student, you’re not on holiday.
Travel involves tons of waiting. Waiting for buses, waiting for planes, waiting in line at embassies, and waiting for those long bus/plane/boat/train rides to finally end. So instead of being bored, becoming a Sudoku master, or cultivating your knack for napping; study. If you want to study on the road, you will literally have to study on the road. So stop waiting for that quiet work space with a desk and an electrical outlet, and make the most of every opportunity to hit the books.
Having spent years traveling the world on a budget while working as a freelancer, I practically live in cafes. The combination of coffee, electrical outlets, and food is a perfect recipe for long study stints. Not to mention that having strangers around helps me stay on task, while working in a public space keeps me from getting too comfortable and falling asleep. So my advice is this: work in cafes daily. Hostels, hotel rooms, and hammocks are tempting. But coffee shops are where the real work gets done.
Be Alone a Little
It’s simple: the more time you spend alone, the more you have to concentrate on studying. So don’t be afraid to be alone. Even if you are traveling with a partner or a group, make personal time a priority. You’ll get more done and ultimately have more time to enjoy traveling.
When you remove yourself from the structure, community, and resources of school; you put yourself at an academic disadvantage. So to compensate, you will need to make an effort to hunt down all the resources you can find. From online tutorials to message boards to educational software, there are countless tools out there to help. Fortunately for you, the Internet can help you learn almost anything, almost anywhere. So check out the resources offered by companies like Ivory Research, head to a mall in Bangkok to pick up some 60 baht Rosetta Stone CDs, or spend some time browsing through course videos like the ones offered by MIT OpenCourseWare. Traveling students must become proactive learners.
Travel is about breaking free from the confines of ‘ordinary’ life. Yet all too often I run into backpackers out here on the road who fall into the same tired, predictable rut: glued to their Lonely Planets, stuck in places filled with tourists, and keeping themselves removed from the cultures they came to experience by gravitating toward any- and everything familiar. So if you want to make the most of your travels, make your own agenda. If that includes studying, you’ll find you have more than enough time to pursue your academic goals. And if you keep your eyes (and mind) open along the way, you’ll learn countless lessons you could never find in a classroom.