Tuesday, 16 October 2012

And This Is Why I Travel

As a kid and to this day even, one of my favourite games to play is the one where you spin a globe, plant your finger on any place at random and then imagine all the fun adventures that await you.  I would be shocked if you could honestly tell me that you have never once tried this in your entire life.  I know the first time I spun the globe and planted my finger on a random destination I was pretty young.   The globe I used was of the out-of-date vintage variety sitting in my grandparent’s living room that still listed Russia as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  I was severely disappointed to be told that I was about 57 years too late to visit Siam (which was renamed Thailand in 1939). 

Have you ever taken the time to look at a map of the world?  And I mean really look at it.  Have you noticed just how big the world is?  It has so many different countries of a variety of different sizes, geographic locations, climates, cultures, topography, and other distinct features that makes each place unlike anywhere else on the map including their close neighbours. 

And yet, at the same time, the world is also incredibly small.  Despite the vastness of the oceans, with modern technology, people can visit literally anywhere in the world in under 24 hours.  But somehow, only a few people will ever see more than a small fraction of it.  How many people live their life in their own little corner of the world and think they have experienced a different culture because they eat Chinese food every Thursday night?

I don’t travel anywhere near as often as I would like to.  My hit-list so to speak of places to see grows exponentially faster than I can check places off the list.  Some of my less “flighty” friends, pardon the pun, often wonder why it is that I love travelling and even the idea of travel so much.  There is no one single answer of course but I will try to explain it as best as I can.

Travelling is always a new experience that can never be duplicated.  I don’t care what country, city or continent you visit, but your second trip is never going to be like your first and your third is going to be even more eye opening.  Some people argue that this is true of any experience.  However, in defence of my argument, going to the theatre for the first time to see Mamma Mia was an experience.  The second time my mother dragged me, not so much. And by the third time, I felt an overwhelming urge to toss the soundtrack CD that she picked up as a souvenir out onto the freeway as we were speeding home.  Touring the world however never gets old.  I could visit Cuba every year for the rest of my life and always find something new and exciting to witness be it the art, the music, a new little hole-in-the-wall restaurant or the even the local people.

Travelling is beautiful.  Whether it is the bustling city with the street vendors or the vast hillsides out in the middle of nowhere, I am constantly amazed with the variety of landscapes and wonders that our world has to hold.  That might sound a little too sentimental for some people, but I really do find our world to be incredibly beautiful with all the intricate details be them man made or found in nature.  Everything is so unique, alive and colourful that as someone who has a background in art and an eye for design, I can’t help envy the world’s unique and complimentary sense of style.

Travelling is a learning experience.  Whether you classify yourself as a nerd, jock, prom queen or otherwise, I think everyone in the world has at least to some degree, a sense of curiosity and a hunger for knowledge.  People want to learn, discover, ask questions, get their hands dirty and find out what makes the world go round.  I have learned so much over the course of my travels.  The people I meet always have something new to share.  The different cultures I come across are always eye opening and expand my viewpoints, challenging my opinions on certain topics.  I’ve learned much about how other people perceive me and my own culture.  I’ve learn how to prioritize and how to relax when things don’t go according to plan.  I’ve learned how to communicate better.  I’ve learned that folded paper maps are better than the electronic ones because the batteries in a paper map will never die and that only when I forget my rain jacket at home will it rain the entire week.

People travel for a variety of different reasons.  Each person is motivated by different things.  Maybe you are motivated to travel because for once, you want Thursday night Chinese food to actually be served in China and not your living room couch.  Maybe you travel because as a child, you spun an old globe in your grandparent’s living room and decided that you needed to see as much of the world as you could.  Comment below and share why you love to travel.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Don’t Delay; Put Off College Today

Have you considered taking a gap year? 

Students, if you have parents who are downright giddy about the idea of you going off to college or university, you might want to save this article until they are out of the room because chances are they won’t be overly thrilled with me for putting the idea of delaying the start of your post-secondary schooling in your head. 

And I understand that completely.  They want what is best for you, they want to help you succeed and get ahead in life and to them that equates launching yourself into more schooling so that you don’t lose momentum or fall behind your peers.

Choosing a college or university program is one of the most important decisions you will make in your young life.  It is a decision that will not only cost you a significant amount of money to pursue, but it has the ability to dictate what you will be doing for the next 45 years of your life.  Forgive me if I am wrong, but a poor choice here is the reason why many adults are so dissatisfied with their work lives.

There use to be a stigma involved with people that did not go directly into post-secondary education after graduating from high school.  They were drifters, lazy; under achievers who would rather spend a year undergoing what was sarcastically referred to as “self-discovery” than buckle down and become a contributing member of society.

This stigma doesn’t do anybody any service.

Gap years are not for the lazy.  They are a tool, that when used right, can contribute greatly down the line to total career satisfaction.  I’ve known many people, friends and family alike, that have taken that year of “self discovery” to work, volunteer, build their resumes and academics, and confirm what path they want their future to take.

Why do so many people think that is a bad idea?

Firstly, if you are not 110% sure of what you want to do with your future, why on earth would you want to plow ahead and spend upwards of $60,000.00 or more in tuition, books, and other fees pursuing a vocational goal that you might not like in four or five years?  Financially, it makes sense to take a year or even just a semester off to confirm that decision in your mind before you spend that money.  It is going to cost you a lot less in the long run to take that year off now rather than having to take another four years off down the road to go back to school after you discover that you really can’t stand your current career.  Take the time now to learn more about a few different career options.  This can be done through making some industry contacts, talking with them and maybe even completing an internship or some volunteer hours to get some hands on experience.

Even if you are entirely confident of your future career, taking that year off can still be incredibly beneficial and by taking the year off I don’t mean spending the next 12 months lying on your parents’ couch watching old sitcom re-runs.  If you are going to take a gap year, be smart about it.  If you are positive about your career choice, use your year to build up your resume, get some job experience and network with other industry professionals.  This experience will push you to the top of your class when you do go to school the following year (which your parents will love) and set the stage in your future when it comes to finding a summer internship or entry level job when you do graduate. 

Going the post-secondary route is never something I would discourage anyone from doing.  Be it college, university, an apprenticeship program or whatever, the time and money you spend on your education is never a waste.  But neither is the time or money you spend testing the waters of your future career.  Use your gap year to gain some experience, build your confidence, and set yourself up for a successful and happy career.  So don’t delay, do some research and talk to your guidance counsellor today about your gap year options.