This post is by Brian of Millennial Money Guide.
I remember when college graduation was just around the corner and I was faced with multiple options for post graduation. Was I due for a post graduation trip?
The most responsible option, and socially acceptable choice, would be to immediately enter my career. This option would help me tackle my student loans head on and the other choice would be to attend graduate school. While the third seemed more personally fulfilling: go see the world.
As graduation day approached, I had been interviewing with a few different companies and had two outstanding job offers. Traveling didn’t stand out to me as a feasible option. I was always a very career-driven individual and always wanted to get ahead and lacking the financial support to just get up and fly to another exotic country, there were a number of reasons why, while enticing, the idea of traveling post-graduation did not seem like a likely choice. I never really played with the idea too seriously though, so I took the best job offer right after graduation and within two weeks of graduating I started working at the Headquarters of the largest credit union in the United States; the more conventional route.
I have many friends who didn’t go this route.
Within a few semesters of finishing his degree, my friend Josh, decided to pack up and head across country to start a year-long exploration trip. Suddenly, his Facebook wall flooded with photos of him living it up in different parts on the country. Our two diverging lifestyles made me wonder: Is it better to put off your career to travel?
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“The millennial generation prioritizes experiences — and by extension, travel — above all else,” said Susana Hawkins, a design researcher at Lextant. “Given how easy it has always been for them to access things digitally, millennials see analog experiences as the preferred way to develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.”
Dan Nainan, a frequent traveler and New York-based comedian, said that the traditional retirement model doesn’t necessarily appeal to millennials.
“We do not subscribe to the old model that our parents’ generation did — that you go to school, and then work from age 22 to 65, 43 miserable years at some job you hate, and then get to travel,” Nainan said. “Who wants to live that way? The best thing is to have mini-retirements along the way. Work a few months, then travel a month. Work a few years, then travel for a year.”
Entering the grind might not even be a choice many millennials have. Gen Y faces higher-than-average unemployment rates, especially those fresh out of school; according to March 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10% of Americans between 20 and 24 are unemployed. That number drops to 5.6% for the 25-to-34 age bracket — 20 basis points above the national average and the highest unemployment rate of any age group above 25.
I may have gone the more conventional route, although it does not mean that I do not get to experience the world. I have three vacations lined up for this year and one of them is an overseas trip. These trips may not be as long as I would ideally like but they are enough to keep me excited. By trading travel for full time employment, I made sacrifices in order to reach money and career goals set for myself. In that year, I earned a 401(k) with my company, a promotion, saved up some money and started investing in the stock market. Fast forward to today, and I have a new job in the nation’s capital as an Assistant Controller job and plan to be a Controller (CFO) in the coming years.
From my perspective, that first year after graduation seems incredibly valuable, but would there be much difference if I took a year off to travel and then started to climb the career ladder? Likely, a future me would not have ever proclaimed, “Oh, I wish I didn’t backpack to Europe that one summer.” I made the choice to play the cards I was dealt and only looked forward. I am happy for my successes and I am very blessed, but for others it really boils down to what your goals are. I really do think travel broadens your mind, and it can be very fulfilling to travel and experience new cultures as a last hurrah before entering adulthood and accumulating all the associated responsibilities. Sure, I climbed the ranks of the career ladder and was presented with good opportunities that I took, but you can’t quantify lessons you didn’t learn or opportunities you passed up.
Sometimes I do wonder, since I didn’t take that backpacking trip to Europe before joining the millions of other Americans who work the 9-5 grind, when will I ever?
Brian is 26 years old and is the founder of Millennial Money Guide, a financial blog aimed at helping millennials battle student loans and plan for retirement. When he’s not blogging, he can be found working out or reading. If you want to learn more about how to become debt free you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image source: Pixabay
Other photos: Brian Meiggs