Why I Don’t Think You Should Quit School to Travel

I love the people who read this blog. It used to be like, 7, people. But now I have lots of college-age kids who check in for their daily dose of wanderlust.

So, you lovely college readers, why does it seem like you all want to drop out of school!? I get about 5 e-mails a week asking me if I think it’s a good idea. After all, since I followed my passion for travel you should too, right?

Not exactly.

college degree, travel, wasting college degree

Remember how I told you guys I have a back-up plan? I got a degree that I don’t see as a waste. I even worked for a year after I got the degree to build my resume, and once I decided to move to India permanently, I still went out to Seattle to work for three months as a travel nurse, not only to build my resume but also to make some cash. When I recently went Home to Ohio, I made sure to keep my certifications up to date for nursing.

Believe it or not, my mom and dad don’t send me money to be living out here. As a travel nurse with expenses paid, plus working overtime (most weeks 5 or 6 days a week doing 12 hour shifts). I saved almost all the money I made but I will tell you that it’s starting to dwindle.

If you quit school to travel:

  1. How will you afford to travel?
  2. What will your backup plan be?
  3. How will you enjoy this new passion of travel while you’re stressed about having no money and ending up in a ditch in five years?
  4. Your parents will kill you.
  5. You’re quitting. Why quit when you’re half way through?

meme drop out of school to travelI did do that… after college

I will never answer an e-mail telling someone to quit school…

and actually, if you ask me, I’ll probably just send you a link to this post!

Yes, I know you can learn more about life while on the road and it’s the real stuff, and you might never need that microbiology class you took. You might not even use your degree. I definitely don’t have a degree in writing as you can tell by my grammar every day.

As an American, a degree is something that is nice to have on the back burner. It’s a great accomplishment and it will be there when you might need it some day. I know how important a degree or two is for gaining employment in America. People from other countries sometimes have a luxury of not needing a degree for a job as badly as Americans do- and they definitely don’t have to go for Master’s and such like we do.

It’s not the same in other countries, but our culture has really made a diploma the number one most important factor in getting a job, while many other countries put personality, skills, and potential ahead of a degree.

In the U.S. without one (and sometimes with one) you could end up a hostess at Red Lobster making 10 bucks an hour. Although considering my lack of real income at the moment, that doesn’t sound half-bad. Sometimes I miss having a clock-in, clock-out job and a steady paycheck. I like knowing I have something like that to fall back on.

It’s a little different when I get e-mails along these lines:

“I am a senior in High School and I don’t know what to major in at University. Instead of taking out a loan for school, I’d rather travel for a year. I have 4k. Is that enough?”

This is a tricky one because it depends on the person.

How mature are you? At 18 can you really travel alone and not be scared or worried? Will you not feel left out when all your friends are in class or hanging out at frat parties? Do you really have no idea what you want to do for a career? If you do decide later to go to school, are you okay knowing that you’ll be older than everyone which will make you feel a little behind?

meme drop out of school to travel

I’m not about spending 100k on school and was lucky to have a scholarship plus parents that helped with the rest. It’s a tough spot and not one that I feel I can be much help with.

You can stay in school and still follow your passion of travel.

Lastly, I want to let you know that you can go to school, get a 9-5 job and still be passionate about travel. You can still find ways to travel more than two weeks a year to Florida. Lots of people blog about this like, Cest Christine.

Think about what major is going to help you get a job that will involve travel, whether it’s fashion or international business. Most fields you can find a way to get abroad- but it’s something you need to decide from the beginning of your college career. You might need a minor; maybe you need a double major in another language.

What matters is making travel a priority, but just because I left my job as a nurse, doesn’t mean I think everyone should drop out of school or has to do it the way I did. I would NEVER have dropped out of school you guys!

This “Travel” life isn’t all roses

(Ok, it’s mostly roses.)

I won’t pretend like leaving nursing was a decision made without a blink of the eye. It wasn’t hard to leave, but I definitely have these fleeting moment of panic when I’m watching money drain out of my account and no more is coming in. Being a masseuse is a nice way to earn money, but it’s not consistent. I’m actually working on a tiny side project now to make another form of income to supplement massage and blogging. By the end of the year, I probably won’t have made 25% of what I used to (If I don’t buy a pair of Aldo shoes every month) but it’s enough for India.

You have to realize that if you leave school, you have NO ‘fall back’. You might get out there to travel and realize just how much you love being home and having a normal life. You have to ask yourself: What about when I have kids? What about retirement? What about when I literally run out of money? What if all my job ideas abroad fail? I have looked into opening restaurants, guesthouses, taxi companies, cafe’s, now massage, blogging, and my newest venture that’s a secret… I considered nursing here, home health, day care.. the options were limitless but not easy to obtain.

It’s a risk I took, but I live with my boyfriend here and I’m not doing this all alone. It’s a huge decision to make, and I know I wouldn’t have ever left school- which is why I won’t advise you to do so.

If travel is your passion, it will happen. You don’t need to rush it.

meme drop out of school to travel

I can promise you that if you have no money, no resume to fall back on (degree or not), you won’t enjoy travel in the way that I do. You won’t be staying in 5 star resorts. You won’t be eating at the nicest restaurants in town or drinking 20 dollar glasses of wine at the nicest bar in Singapore.

You see me post on Instagram and on here about all these amazing places- and I didn’t get them by dropping out of school. I got them by saving my money!

Ok, am I starting to sound too much like a mom now? I’ll stop before you un-follow my blog :)


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47 responses to “Why I Don’t Think You Should Quit School to Travel”

  1. 100% agree here Rachel! And one of my favorite parts of college was study abroad! My recommendation to anyone who wants to travel while in school-STUDY ABROAD. I lived and studied in Argentina for a year and it was way cheaper than staying at my school. And I got to see so much of South America. There is no reason to quit school when you have options like that! Take advantage of student visas people!!
    Emily from Let’s Roam Wild recently posted…My Travel Plans | 2014-2015

    • Rachel Jones says:

      That’s a great recommendation! I really wanted to in school but b/c I had a full tuition scholarship, I would have had to pay out of pocket and lose that money, which is why I passed on it. It was cheaper for me to travel in my summers after working all year. but for the students without scholarships, it’s a GREAT option!!

  2. Great post! I remember when I was in college and had similar dreams.
    I just wanted to quit and travel the world but luckily I didn’t. How would I have afforded if ?!

    Actually I am quite happy I stayed in college. I had the opportunity to study abroad during my last years – study + travel. What else?! :)

    I got my degree, worked a year and now I am living my passion! I have a degree in IT so I can easily work remote.

    It is amazing and it is great but it is even better to have a back-up plan to enjoy even more the adventures :)

    Myriam @OffToWanderland recently posted…My Ultimate Bucket List

  3. I totally agree with you on this. I have two degrees now, and yes there were times when I wanted to drop it and get on a plane, but I didn’t. I stuck with it, gained my degrees and then travelled long term after them. (I still squeezed in a month long trip in the summer breaks though!) The degree and career you have is more than just a fall back though, it can allow you the means to travel, the means to earn money to travel, the means to support yourslef whilst travelling. (Personally I work 50/50 ish) work half the year as a nurse then travel half.

    So stay in school! Get your degrees! Then use them to facilitate your travel dreams when you graduate!
    Michael Huxley recently posted…Is Solo Travel Ever Truly Solo?

  4. Rachel,
    I have to say it one more time, another well written post :), lots to learn as a fellow blogger.
    You put lots of sense into what you were telling the kids, are you sure you haven’t done any counselling before.
    After reading, the kid would be thinking not about abandoning his or her plans but actually trying to figure out how to implement them.

    Great post.

  5. Soltatio says:

    It was so interesting to see two of the bloggers in my news feed address the exact same topic within a day. Brilliant advice on both sites.


    As to Nomadic Matt’s post, I also took a gap year to travel and then went to university. But similar to you, I then finished university and only after finishing my degree and qualifying as a lawyer, took off on another 4 year travel adventure before deciding to settle down in an comfortable stable job. But importantly, once I didn’t want to travel constantly anymore, I did have something to fall back on.
    Great post!

  6. I agree, if you don’t finish up your degree now while you have time and your brain still works, it’s never going to happen! A little bit of a different story, my cousin wanted to get married and start a family, so she took the fast track and got a technical degree instead of a bachelors degree. She really regrets it now, considering she had time to do it then, and now with 3 kids it’s a little more complicated! The same thing with traveling, wait until you have that degree, even if you don’t use it right away.
    Hannah Wasielewski recently posted…Things I Won’t Miss About Living in Brazil

  7. Shaun says:

    Good Advice Rachel. I’ve doled out similar words when people have asked me. Even working while traveling your earning power makes a difference if you have credentials to back it up. From an earning income perspective, try to think of yourself as a commodity. The more unique your skillset, the higher income potential.
    Shaun recently posted…Istanbul’s Not So Grand Bazaar

  8. Well, this just saved me a day of writing a post – thank you!!! People email me all the time asking if they should drop out of school, and I always say no. I didn’t start this life abroad until I was 26 – I had already gone to university for 5.5 years, held two bachelor’s degrees plus a paralegal diploma, and worked in that field for four years. Pretty solid backup plan if being a dive instructor in the Caribbean didn’t work out … but thankfully it did :) However, I know I’m not going to do this forever and I wouldn’t want to go back home and try to get a job with basically nothing on my resume!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted…5 Things I Love About Roatan

    • Rachel Jones says:

      Yeah, and of course now you have a whole new set of skills in your pocket- but I wouldn’t be able to relax as well as I do not knowing what would happen if Ben couldn’t work and I had to support us both.. massage cant do that! I would have to figure something else and knowing I could nurse again is a relief. although fuck i hope that doesn’t happeN! lol I hated it.

  9. Fiona says:

    Great advice. Luckily Ireland has free university education. I am lucky in that I can come home and work as an optometrist for a few months and make enough money to travel for some more. I’ve also managed to work abroad in my field which helps a lot.

    Once you have a degree, the world opens to you. Also most places for TEFL require you to have some sort of university degree, yet another reason to get one
    Fiona recently posted…Throw Back Thursday: Inca Trail

    • Rachel Jones says:

      woops, this might be a duplicate comment, my internet went out as I submitted- but what I said was WOW about the free education, what a treat! and you’re right about TEFL :)

      • Fiona says:

        I know. I am super lucky. The more I talk to Americans with huge debts from university I realise how lucky I am. Also university teaches you so much more than academic things that will stand to you when travelling. Going to university was the first time I lived away from home, I had to learn to budget, how to get around a big city (I’m from a small village) and how to look after myself in general, food, socially and mentally.
        Fiona recently posted…Throw Back Thursday: Inca Trail

  10. Justine says:

    Excellent advice Rachel. It’s true that you learn a lot on the road. But you also learn A TON in college — academic and life lessons. I have traveled all over the place and had some amazing experiences, but college was one of the best times of my life. And am so grateful to have an education. I managed to get a B.A. and an M.A. and still travel for a decent amount of time every summer (except one) since I was 18. It’s most definitely possible to juggle school and travel. The key for me was to work and save money. Aside from school, travel has always been my number one priority and I’ve always managed to make it work. I doesn’t have to be one or the other.
    Justine recently posted…The Best of Bogotá: Touring the City’s Street Art Scene

  11. Becci says:

    I think your advice is spot on, although I personally have never once regretted dropping out of high school to travel the world. I would never suggest to anybody that they do the same, but it’s worked out pretty freakin awesome for me. I wouldn’t be the version of me that I love if I hadn’t of chosen this path, although I would have a lot more opportunities, even within the life of travel. For example, it’s very difficult for me to get a paid job teaching English without a degree.

    So, even though it doesn’t sound so flash, suck it up and get a degree. You are extremely blessed if you have this opportunity and at the end of the day, education is the best investment, both of your time and money.
    Becci recently posted…Penetrating the Impenetrable- Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

  12. Laura says:

    Good advice Rachel! I’m so glad I waited until I graduated to start traveling; having my degree helped me tremendously in getting short term work abroad, so it kept me traveling!
    Laura recently posted…Funny Things Kids Say

  13. I mostly agree with this, but I will say, everyone’s circumstances are slightly different and ultimately what works for some may not work for others. This post seems to be aimed more at students from the US, and not being from the US I can’t really challenge your advice. :) But for people from other countries, sometimes it’s ok to drop out of school. For people who come from places where gap years are normal, it’s not such a big deal. I dropped out of college in my second year of a Bachelor in teaching, worked, then moved overseas. When I came back, my travels actually helped me to find work, because I had life experience and so forth. Other people who work while travelling find this builds their resume, etc.

    I think the most important thing is to have a backup plan. For American students, if finishing your degree is the wisest backup plan, then yeah, do that. But if people can swing a backup plan (a decent one! Not a pie in the sky one!) then it’s not such a big deal.
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling recently posted…9 Of Melbourne’s Coolest Laneways

    • Rachel Jones says:

      Yes it’s definitely aimed toward the US. I mentioned how it’s sad in the states how important a degree is instead of taking into account skills and experience like in Europe and other places. I wish it wasn’t so important!

  14. Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster says:

    Great piece! I read Nomadic Matt’s article today as well and I think you make a better argument. :-) I’ve always had this little travel bug in me but I was so caught up in the “traditional” American mindset of going to college, getting a job, and then settling down. It didn’t help that my original plan was medical school. I now work in public health and love it! The beauty of a career in public health is that I can use that degree abroad. I plan on going back to grad school for my PhD, but I plan on taking 1-2 years to travel and teach English aboard before “settling down” for the next 4-5 years to work on PhD in global public health systems. I know everyone is different and at the end of the day will do what’s best for them, but I agree that school is important and should be finished. And I love the new blog design! (I’m also way behind on your posts so I’m not sure when that happened). :-)

    • Rachel Jones says:

      haha, well I will take that compliment about my article!! lol thank you! and the blog design was a bit ago, I actually might be doing a new header soon because really my tagline doesn’t fit so much these days… my backpacker budget seems to have increased (or at least it seems that way because India is so much cheaper!)

  15. Such an important note Rachel! Back-up plans are so important if you do not have a family that can AND is willing to bail you out when sh*t hits the fan. Degrees are invaluable abroad, especially when seeking employment. Even for babysitting, people are more willing to hire you and pay more, not to mention if you need to fall on teaching English somewhere.
    Alex, Speaking Denglish recently posted…GERMANY SQUASHES BRAZIL TO ADVANCE: MY FAVORITE TWEETS

  16. You are right… if it is your passion, it will be a priority and you will find a way to make it happen. The way I did that during school was doing two overseas exchanges as part of my degree – to Mexico and Denmark. Lots of travel happened in that time, and I would not trade those months for anything! Plus, I could pay my tuition at home and that was my tuition overseas (the beauty of school partnerships!). I also have very supportive parents, and that is invaluable, but at the end of the day, if you want it, you will find a way. I still took extra jobs while I studied in order to save enough money to travel as I wanted and to not have to be indebted to my parents or anyone. Another option for people who are in school is to take a year off either before they start or part way through the degree. I did a year in Europe after high school before I started uni (and the age difference was nothing when I went back) and I am doing a year off NOW from optometry, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The universe speaks to us… it is a matter of whether we listen or not. But ultimately I 100% agree with you. DO NOT QUIT SCHOOL. Take time off, sure, but make sure you go back and finish. If not for yourself, then for the world.
    Colleen Brynn recently posted…The Only Sunrise

  17. Anna says:

    I couldn’t agree more! My blog is actually about not quitting school or some important parts of your life to travel. Even tho traveling is amazing and I’d never quit this it’s nice to have a back-up as you said :)
    Anna recently posted…Amazing dates on the road

  18. Great advice Rachel. Travel is really wonderful, but, unfortunately, a degree is important too. But you can easily get a degree and travel during the summers, and then set off when you graduate, there’s plenty of time to do both! :)
    Christine @thetraveloguer recently posted…Lying with Tigers, my unethical tale of how I was mauled by a tiger in Chiang Mai

  19. NZ Muse says:

    OH man I absolutely would not advise that. For me, even with a few years in the workforce, and knowing I could do a little industry freelancing on the road, taking time out to travel was scary enough. Doing that with no qualification/skills/work experience? No way.

  20. Danni says:

    I waited until I finished my degree and had worked for a year before I decided to travel. My boyfriend even decided to do a masters before we left. My reasoning for waiting and staying in school is quite similar for my reasoning for travelling for a year- the wonders of this world aren’t going anywhere. That 100 year old monastery is not likely to jump up and walk away. As long as you have the passion for travel and a moderate amount of money (and time) saved you can travel. The reasoning for taking the time off to travel is similar. With a functional degree, the door to the working world will be open and let’s face it- we’re going to be paying bills for the rest of our lives. Might as well save a little and travel a lot. The safety net of my degree really allows me to enjoy this time I’ve worked so hard for.

    Great post!

  21. Cyra says:

    Great post Rachel and interesting perspective. In some ways I agree with you, even though I did exactly that. I didn’t know what I wanted to study, so I went travelling for a year instead (I worked a year out of high school first so I could save money and develop some skills). In the end I never went home, and now I am studying by correspondence (it’s been 10 years since I went on that “gap year”). I never would have chosen what I am studying now if I had gone to university straight out of high school) and I am glad that I took the time to “find myself”, as cliche as that sounds!

    On the other hand, I have been based in Europe for most of the last 10 years and I have an EU passport – so I am in the fortunate situation where I can be away from my home country but able to work freely (as well as having access to other benefits of being a citizen). And not everybody is in that situation, in which case, I think quitting school to travel definitely requires a little bit more thought as like you said, you need to have something to fall back on. And even though I am lucky that I have been “in the right place at the right time” I have felt the pressure increase in the last few years to have a degree when job hunting.

    PS: Great blog. I love India!
    Cyra recently posted…The Food That Never Stops: Casa de Santo Antonio, Porto

  22. […] advice is to finish school. I won’t ever e-mail my readers back and tell them to drop […]

  23. […] Why I Don’t Think You Should Quit School to Travel, Hippie in Heels […]

  24. Jill Pitt says:

    This is a great article Rachel. I have been thinking of starting a blog based around budget and travel and keeping a balance. I can see how people would want to quit school and travel, I almost did myself. Instead I figured out a way to study abroad in Thailand. If only I had done it sooner!! I luckily was able to do it for my last semester of school where I finished my degree in Asia which left me graduated with no job; a perfect time to travel! Although I am back in Canada now fully employed, I am still finding ways to fulfill my wanderlust while working full time :) I’ll definitely be back and hopefully able to share my blog link soon!

  25. Sam Korber says:

    This post makes me so happy. I am a first year in college and want to travel so badly but I know that it will still be possible after I graduate. Today I found out about a grant program that I could apply for after I graduate and be a teaching assistant in India, so I have been looking up India all day which is how I found your blog! I have been reading it nonstop since! This post is so important to me!

  26. Inukie says:

    I’ve been able to save money for travel just fine without a degree, and servicing the 10k debt from 1 year of misery, yes I had scholarships, 9k/yr, the price of school in America is just not worth it to many.
    It’s really not like its the absolute end of the world. I like customer service type jobs and working seasonal rush things is a great way to get lots of money. It might be harder to get in the door, but if you have a good attitude and are willing to work, you can do a lot of things. Here’s a secret, those jobs where college grads work that don’t need a degree? They don’t need a degree! Some coffee shops and hardware stores have great benefits, while retail and hospitality have clear high seasons. Also worth noting, I left school due to illness. With low key work I’m just happier and a lot healthier.

    Because I don’t have a degree, my TESOL certification has very little use, and I should’ve been more careful about that before I got it. But if that’s the only reason I have to get an associates, then its not happening. Ah, my grudge is showing isn’t it? Just wanted to put up a good counterargument.

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