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Taking A Semester Off

TheBamboozler

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  • Added on: October 4th, 2010
Hey everyone,

First time poster and, hopefully, in a few months, a first time independent traveler. Let me start off by saying i know there are a million "i hate school" topics. I've read quite a few. But I really wanted to start my own so I could feel like the answers were specifically for my situation. So if you've replied to a million of these, I apologize. This might be a lengthy post.

So my story. I'm from Wisconsin. Did well in high school, National Honors, the whole shebang. But I've never really enjoyed school. I love learning, believe me, but I hate the atmosphere of school. See I'm a daydreamer and I get anxious in class. So I really wanted to take a gap year but those of you who live in America may know the pressure EVERYONE puts on you to go. But I'm in my first semester and I dislike it strongly. I feel restless in classes and don't pay attention well. Plus I don't have a major, which everyone tells you is fine, but it seems silly to continually take out loans without a goal in mind. And to be honest, I can't see myself doing one thing for the rest of my life. It's just not in my character.

So enough of my lame sob story. What I think about every day in lecture is traveling. Can't stop. I feel trapped in school and I just want to escape for a month or so. I think the trip will help me get my head on straight, help me see what I find important and what I want, and at the very least just let me escape for awhile.

So I'm going to stick out this semester, save up enough money, and take a gap semester for work and travel.

So here's what I need to know:

1. I want to go to Australia. I've always wanted to see it and I feel like it wouldn't be an extreme culture shock. I would like to spend 4 to 6 weeks there but if my budget doesn't allow it, I'll settle for less. I realize this is more expensive than most Asian countries but it's where I want to go. What is the cheapest or average round trip flight I can book? And how much should I expect to spend each day? I plan on staying in hostels, eating three meals, buying souvenirs here and there, but living modestly.

Total Trip Cost= roughly?


2. My dream trip would be backpacking and staying in hostels for two or three weeks, possibly volunteering for a week (room and board paid if possible), getting a harvesting/ranching/boating job to offset my costs slightly and get some life experience, and find someone to take me sailing for a day or two. Is this adventure entirely out of reach or can I do everything I want. Remember I'm a first time traveler so my ideas of travel could be far from the actual.

3. What types of traveler jobs can I get? Can I do them by the week?

4. I plan on getting a winter job, and leaving around february or march. Is this a good/bad time for backpacking?

5. I'm 19. Can I expect people of my age to be in hostels (rather than mid to late twenties). I'm not what you'd call a partier, but I love socializing and I want to meet many new people in hostels, volunteering, and possibly wherever I receive work. Can I expect to meet many people my age?

6. Where is a good city or region to travel in Australia, where a first time traveler can have an amazing experience, but still experience the social scene?

7. Should I try to find a fellow backpacker to do the trip with me? Not a friend but someone from this site? Would that make the experience better or slow me down?

I have a million more questions rattling around in my head, but this post is far too long already. Fell free to answer as few or many questions as you'd like.

Also, my taking a break from college is my own choice. I realize that it's hard to go back but I feel I need this. So thank you in advance for respecting my decision.

And anybody who is in the same boat as me, I would love to hear how it went for you. I still have to figure out how to tell my parents haha. So any advice from a fellow student traveller would be amazing.

TheBamboozler

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  • Added on: October 4th, 2010
Oh and also, if it wasn't clear enough already, I have no idea what I'm doing. So if someone wants to take it upon themselves to message me and help me out along the way, I can't say I'd mind it.

EMH

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  • Added on: October 5th, 2010
I've never been to Australia so I can't answer any of those questions but I can lend you support for your decision. A few odds and ends:

1) My freshman year of college, there was a fellow student who had taken a year off from college to travel and live abroad. Believe me, she was far wiser and worldly (or at least appeared that way) than anyone else I met in school.

2) In 2008 while living in Mexico, I met two women (both American) who had decided to take a year off between high school and college to live in Mexico and study the language and culture. Oddly, they both felt they weren't mature enough for college even though in my opinion they were both far more mature than the typical college freshman.

So yes, there are Americans who do what you're thinking of doing, even if it isn't typical. Personally, I think it's a great idea and you'll learn lots about yourself through the experience. I went straight from high school to college to grad school to the "wonderful world of work". Had I taken some time off when I was younger and traveled or volunteered I might have made some different, better decisions about my career choices.
Follow my travels through Central and South America: www.talesofagringo.com

lauracatherine

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  • Added on: October 5th, 2010
1. Go to Australia! I think an Australian Working Holiday Visa is exactly what you need. Search the boards for WHV, or Working Holiday Visa.
http://www.immi.gov.au/visitors/working ... y/462/usa/
post420333.html?hilit=working%20holiday%20visa#p420333

I booked a round trip flight from Chicago to Sydney for $2400 in December 2008. I used STA http://www.statravel.com/?WT.srch=1&gcl ... 5wodx2Ynyw.

Try other search engines too, like what's offered on BnA, or I use http://www.kayak.com a lot as well.

I posted about my budget: check-out-my-budget-t44198.html.

2. See WHV

3. A lot of travelers get hospitality jobs: working in hostels, hotels, in bars/pubs and restaurants. There's also ranching jobs available, and fruit picking. Those are the common ones.\

4. That will be Summer/peak season in Oz. It depends on what you consider good or bad. The weather will be great most of the country, save the northern bit where The Wet is on its way. There will be heaps of other travelers about, so you'll meet a lot of people, make new friends, you get the idea. The bad part, but not bad enough to let it deter you is that prices are at the highest they will be all year. There will be lots of other people competing for the jobs you are.

5. 19 was probably the average age I ran into when I was there. I met a lot of European students taking a gap year before university working their way through Oz. I didn't run into too many Americans, come to think of it.

6. It depends on what you're into. A common route for backpackers is the East Coast, from Cairns to Sydney or Melboure or vice versa. I preferred West Australia and Perth to the East Coast. But I was 25 and at a sober point in my life, so the party scene on the East Coast was not my cup of tea. But there are lots of amazing things to experience besides drinking.

7. Only you can decide this. Some people prefer to travel alone. Others never could travel alone. You could try the Travel Buddies section. If the idea of traveling alone doesn't daunt you, I'd say do it. You can always find people on the road that are going the same way as you.

I'd pick up a travel book just to get ideas of what's out there and what you want to do.

I was just talking with my friends about how something like taking a gap year (or gap semester) is so taboo in the States, while it's so normal everywhere else in the Western world! Especially if your major is undecided, travel may even help you decide that. You won't regret traveling. It will teach you things that college won't. It will teach you things about yourself you never would have learned if you stayed in Wisconsin.

I'm not a student traveler (although I was finishing up my Associate's Degree at a community college-what am I going to do with that?! ;), and I had a full time job/career, but I was still living with my dad at the time, and that made it a bit awkward when it was time to tell him, so I kind of know.

You can message me if you want, too.
Welcome to the world of travel!
"i'm on my way, don't know where i'm goin..."~Paul Simon, Me and Julio

TheBamboozler

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  • Added on: October 5th, 2010
Wow. I posted this last night, woke up this morning and you two already responded with kind words and incredible advice. Thank you so much for the help. EMH thank you for the encouragement. I do feel it will give me some experience I can't get in college. Oh and those women you met: it's funny I feel the same way. I feel like I'm not mature enough to make the commitment just yet. I have a child's mind but I love it and wouldn't trade it for the world. So thank you for the help and the gentle "shove".


Laura: incredible tips and information. I'll look into all of this and most likely message you for some advice.

Where do you live by the way if you took Chicago?

And is that really the cheapest flight you could find? Hopefully costs have gone down. I thought you could get a round trip for much lower? I think my budget will be about 75 dollars a day. Sounds reasonable. Then throw in a couple hundred for special circumstances.

I also want to look into some short term volunteer work. I think it would give even MORE meaning to my trip than it already will. Any ideas where I can find that?

lauracatherine

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  • Added on: October 5th, 2010
I live in Chicago. I'm not too far if you would like additional help. :)

I totally forgot about the volunteering option you asked about!
I also met a lot of people going this route: http://www.wwoof.com.au/
You do work in exchange for room and board. Some people were traveling from host to host; a lot of the time going to bigger places to meet other travelers and really get the feel for Australian life.

I know this exists, but I haven't met anyone who had done this:
http://www.helpexchange.net/

75 USD/day should be a very generous budget. And if you're volunteering, it will even go farther. I would recommend planning to stay longer for a month, if your life allows (cause it looks like your finances allow it). You're going to get to Australia and not want to leave. I left Australia a year and a half ago, and a day doesn't go by that I think about the amazingness of the country and its people. I plan on going back soon. The link to my budget page was off on the last post I made: check-out-my-budget-t44198.html

I'm looking up flights right now. I just found a round trip on United's website leaving a random middle of the week day (always cheaper, if you book on Tuesday or Wednesday, and fly on those days. It's usually cheaper too if you book with the airline website, ie united instead of travelocity) and coming home and I pulled up $1870. Before taxes. It looks like Quantas (the Australian airline) has some deals going on:
http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/home/us/en

I just checked out kayak.com and they pulled a flight up (before taxes) at 1559. It's a US Airways flight, so I'd head over to their website and see if they have it cheaper!

I had you departing from Chicago; I'm sure you'd have to go through there via wherever in WI you're coming from.

It'll require some looking around, but you can definitely find something cheaper than what I found two years ago. The sooner you buy your ticket, the cheaper it will be.
"i'm on my way, don't know where i'm goin..."~Paul Simon, Me and Julio

allegrapescatore

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  • Added on: October 5th, 2010
Hey-

Definitely go!

Travel is amazing and totally worth it at any time in your life.

I got drawn to this thread because I'm actually in a very similar situation to you and figured I'd share what I know of the whole 'travel during college' ordeal.

I'm in my second year at Hampshire College and, much like you, can't bear any more classrooms. I was great in High School, but really need a break. My school suggested study-abroad (which is a great option by the way, totally worth doing at least once, but I had already done it in High School). Instead I've managed to convince the school to let me do a year long RTW trip as a field study. I'll be able to continue my education while traveling.

My suggestion to you is to ask your school if they have any options of the sort available. Sometimes you can get credit for work experience or volunteer work, which can substantially help justify all the money you'll be spending anyways and get you that much closer to graduation and leaving to travel the world once and for all...or whatever you end up doing.

Good luck.

If you're taking next semester off (starting sometime in january) I'll be OZ myself for about a week. Drop me a line.

TheBamboozler

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  • Added on: October 6th, 2010
I acTually have an advisor meeting tomorrow to discuss any possible consequences to my choice, should I decide to come back in the fall. I'm looking at late February or march actually! I need to get a winter job to fund the trip so I should have enough by then. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who feels a little burnt out from school. I don't think I could leave more than 2 months though. I'm very family oriented and it's going to be rough on my mom for me to even be gone that long. I don't get homesick bit I do feel obligated to my parents and want to show them I'm not just throwing my life away. Any tips? Ha.

Mama-to-many

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  • Added on: October 6th, 2010
If I were you, I would not limit myself to one semester off.
My 2c worth.
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TheBamboozler

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  • Added on: October 7th, 2010
Mama-to-many wrote:If I were you, I would not limit myself to one semester off.
My 2c worth.


What would you suggest? Making a career out of it or just traveling longer? As much as I hate to say it I would like a plan for when I come back. I really don't think college is for me but it also isn't realistic for me to travel for a year.

lauracatherine

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  • Added on: October 7th, 2010
Mama-to-many wrote:If I were you, I would not limit myself to one semester off.
My 2c worth.


I know I've already told you this, but I'm glad someone else said it too!

You say that now, but once you get out there, you're gonna get bit-hard-by the travel bug. (Believe me, we've all gone through it ourselves, and have seen it happen to boatloads more. :) )And you're gonna say to yourself, "Wow, those Booties were right!" :banana:
"i'm on my way, don't know where i'm goin..."~Paul Simon, Me and Julio

TheBamboozler

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  • Added on: October 7th, 2010
lauracatherine wrote:
Mama-to-many wrote:If I were you, I would not limit myself to one semester off.
My 2c worth.


I know I've already told you this, but I'm glad someone else said it too!

You say that now, but once you get out there, you're gonna get bit-hard-by the travel bug. (Believe me, we've all gone through it ourselves, and have seen it happen to boatloads more. :) )And you're gonna say to yourself, "Wow, those Booties were right!" :banana:


Ha alright alright guys! I'll consider more time! Quick question though. How do you guys go about doing taxes while you're gone? I plan on leaving around February so if I stay too long Boom tax season. Should I leave this duty for my parents?

TheBamboozler

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  • Added on: October 7th, 2010
Dad did not take the suggestion very well at all... My parents arent ones to think outside of the box and think everything should be done the way everyone else is doing it. Looks like convincing them will be somewhat difficult. I need them to schedule flights and such so I need them on my side for this.

Mama-to-many

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  • Added on: October 7th, 2010
I'm not sure about US tax laws....but whatever they are, where there's a will, there's a way. You just may have to do some research - which will have the added benefit of showing your parents you are being responsible!

You ask what I suggest you do....of course, I have no idea of your interests/personality etc. But I do know that when my husband-of-three-days and I took off (we were only 20 and 21), we did not know when we would be back, or even where we would be going....but it was a great adventure. At the time our parents were disappointed at us "throwing our education away" (we both a had a year to go to finish our degrees), they were shocked that we got married, they never understood why we ended up settling in eastern bloc europe for two years (this was back in the early 90s). But when we returned home after nearly 3 years, we were both admitted into post-graduate diplomas with the rest of the class being more than double our age! Yes, even without our undergrad studies completed - although we did go on to finish them - our experience counted for a lot. My hubby had been doing an engineering degree...and has ended up with a masters in applied linguistics. Thanks to our travels.
All that to say, you just don't know what is going to happen when you set out. I think you will appreciate having the options to prolong your trip (perhaps, like us on that first trip, you will pick up work somewhere - on our more recent fifteen month trip with our eight kids we did not earn a cent and just travelled). If you do your homework before you leave you will not be compelled to return.

Of course, if you know what you want to do after your trip and do not actually WANT to travel for more than a semester, then by all means, book your return ticket now. (But if I were you, I'd head for somewhere in Asia coz your money will go a long way and your imagination and worldview will be broadened considerably....then see where the road leads)
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TheBamboozler

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  • Added on: October 8th, 2010
Alright new question.

My parents think I'm throwing my life away by taking ONE semester off. What benefits does traveling have other than the joy I'll get from it. Are scholarships available for such a thing? Do employers pick people with travel experience over those who don't? I need to give my parents a good argument to make them believe it's worth it. I hate feeling like they're the only thing holding me back but I also wouldn't want to ruin our relationship over one choice I want to make.


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