WWYD with a ton of time?
April 19, 2015 10:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm 22, about to graduate, and have a free summer. This is amazing! Might be the last chunk of time I have like this for, I don't know, ever? And omg, what do I do with it?

I'm a soon-to-be-college-graduate who for Reasons took a very late start date on her upcoming job. I'm not starting until October, and I want to maximize the time I have before that.

Basically, I'm more or less free to do what I want from mid-May to late September, though some of it needs to involve dedicating time to schoolwork that I need to complete. I think I could do it in a few weeks of concerted work, and it will need to be done by the end of August. Outside of that, I'm really ready to just enjoy being 22 for a little while.

I've konmari'd my belongings and am pretty sure I can stash what's left with friends in NYC. I don't have a car but might be able to borrow one in either the NE or the NW if I had a really good reason.

I'm going on a Birthright trip in June and would like to extend it but don't know anyone on the trip/have anyone to travel with, in particular. I don't mind the idea of traveling alone and consider myself savvy enough to do so in reasonably easy-to-navigate places, but I don't think I'm going to want to venture without friends for a long time. I have family I'm excited to meet/stay with in Tel Aviv, and I haven't spent any time in Europe or Asia (except Scandanavia) since I was a toddler. I don't speak any languages except English and some broken Spanish (working on that could be cool).

After this summer, I'll be relocating to a new city while almost all of my friends (including my boyfriend...of course, that's probably the contents of a whole 'nother ask) stay in NYC. I have amazing friends that have become like family and I'm going to miss them a whole freaking lot so part of me wants to just stay here and not do anything else - but I also feel pressure to travel abroad and/or spend time with (actual) family, particularly my grandma elsewhere in the NE and parents/grandparents/brothers in the NW. Or maybe I should just go WWOF in Argentina or something. I don't know. I also understand that that's a personal decision and a question of values but I don't even know where to start - it's been years since I had unstructured time off like this and I'm a very different person than I was then. I don't have a lot of specific hobbies to enjoy but the idea of being something physically active is appealing.

I don't have a lot of money saved to support this, but I do have some airline vouchers and enough miles for two-ish domestic round-trip tickets; places to stay for basically as long as I want in NYC, Seattle, Reykjavik, and Boston (all places I know well or very well); and parents that are willing to support me (on a limited basis) to maximize this once-in-a-lifetime free time. I'm also willing to tolerate the idea of taking on some credit card debt that can be immediately paid off upon receipt of my starting bonus (not to exceed, say, one-third to half the bonus). Overall, though, staying on budget is a big priority. That said, I don't really envision myself working (except perhaps babysitting in familiar cities) - I kind of like the idea of being unmoored and flexible, and since I know a great job is coming, I'm just (finally) not that worried about the future for once.

So, I realize this question is broad, but here are some specific things I'm wondering. General advice is also awesome.
- What do you wish you had done before you started full-time work, or just at my age in general?
- Would you emphasize time with friends, with family, or traveling elsewhere in this time period?
- Are there opportunities you'd recommend that I probably haven't thought of? Skill-building of some sort? Work I might benefit from pursuing? Meaningful service work?
- How do I balance having flexible plans and trying not to let the time slip through my fingers?
posted by R a c h e l to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, just want to add in case it didn't come across: I know I am so so so so lucky to have all the things I've detailed in my question above and all those resources available to me. I'm very thankful for that.

If there's a way to capitalize on the time and use it to make an actual difference where it would be appreciated, I would be thrilled to do so. I'm skeptical of most programs that involve volunteer work and structured travel abroad, but I'm open to both local and travel-based things as long as it's somewhere where I would genuinely be making great use of my and others' time.
posted by R a c h e l at 10:45 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Travel, hands down. I'd do a little backpacking and then spend a chunk of time in one spot on a volunteer/WWOOF type situation, ideally where you could study Spanish.

I'd also move to the new town early so you have time to settle in, explore, go to some meet ups etc.
posted by jrobin276 at 11:13 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes, definitely travel. There are so few times in life that you have either time or resources to travel.
posted by kadia_a at 11:20 PM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

There is nothing like traveling when you're young. Stay in hostels, where you'll meet up with many other travelers like yourself. Personally, I'd recommend international over domestic travel, because you'll have fewer opportunities in life to travel internationally and the time to enjoy such adventures is when you are young.
posted by zagyzebra at 11:30 PM on April 19, 2015

1) travelled more
2) travelling (friends and family are not going anywhere and will be able to be attended to over the course of the rest of your life. Travel gets harder and harder as you get older and more tied down).
3) pass
4) make a list of places you want to go/things you want to see but don't book anything beyond your ticket over there and a night's accomodation. Then let the people you meet and the things you see direct you the rest of the way. In all likelihood, you will have another chance to 'see' things, but you are unlikely to have another opportunity to travel with such a high degree of flexibility.
posted by jojobobo at 1:31 AM on April 20, 2015

I have family I'm excited to meet/stay with in Tel Aviv, and I haven't spent any time in Europe or Asia (except Scandanavia) since I was a toddler.

Oh, go! Go go go! I used to think there was no rush, and for many of my 40 years there was not, but the pace of change and the creep of multi-nationals has accelerated and that isn't so much the case any more. Like, seriously, there are 168 Starbucks in Thailand. If you want to see the world before we start putting McDonalds in the middle of rain forests, get out there.

This is just as valid a viewpoint in major European cities as it is in smaller Asian ones. I mean, Covent Garden is still unique to London, but only about 15% of the shops in Covent Garden are unique to London; the rest are multinationals. So anyway, you should go exactly where you want to go but... you should go. Go go go!

PS: I also travelled through Europe at 22, by myself and friendless. I can tell you that while at times I was lonely, I met loads of people along the way. What I remember at 42 is not the loneliness, which is transitory anyway, but the things I saw and the places I went. Don't be put off by loneliness.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:37 AM on April 20, 2015

Reading this question is delightful! Allow me to live vicariously and recommend that whatever you do, you take pictures, keep notes, and document it in a way that will last. The journal and pictures from my post-college trip to Western Europe (from the US) still remind me of really specific experiences, good and not. Spiking a fever at the Louvre, and visiting the neighborhood in Rome I'd lived in briefly when I was 8, and a joke about Kinder eggs...all these specific moments. Enjoy whatever you get to do with this time.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:56 AM on April 20, 2015

In case one more answer saying the same thing is helpful: travel. Traveling, especially the longer, more free-form variety, usually only gets harder as you go through life -- jobs, mortgages, car loans, families, and health issues can all make a trip like "how about I start in Israel, head towards Europe, and fly back from wherever I am in September?" a lot more difficult, if not impossible.

The details are another matter entirely and are up to you, but it takes a lot more planning and care to be able to travel later the way you could this summer.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:41 AM on April 20, 2015

I would find a place to take an immersion Spanish class, probably in Spain (given that you'll be in Israel) OR in Central or South America before the birthright trip (since Central or South American Spanish will be more useful to you in the long run). THEN after the birthright trip, I would do the Camino Real for whatever version of it appeals to you, and speak Spanish as much as you can.

Alternatively, do the immersion Spanish class, then bum around Latin America and speak Spanish as much as you can so that you really, really learn it. I think Central and South America are very exciting right now, as many countries are prospering. Those countries are going to be incredibly important to the US in the future (they always have been, but I anticipate that this will increase over the next 50 years). A city like Rio or Mexico City might be intimidating for a woman traveling alone (although search Journeywoman for detailed and more nuanced information about that), but other countries are less intimidating alternatives, like Uruguay and Costa Rico, and would be just as rewarding.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:36 AM on April 20, 2015

To answer your questions:

1. Traveled loads more.
2. Travel, but make sure to spend some time with your grandparents.
3. More traveling - take this time to get out there and see the world!
4. Have plane tickets booked for when you'll be where, and go freely from there.

This is such a great opportunity for you! Could you do the schoolwork while visiting grandparents? I only had one grandparent alive when I finished college, and he passed away a few years later. I'm thinking if you visit grandparents in the NW and work on school work part of the day, spend time with them part of the day, then fly back to the NE, visit those grandparents and finish your work. That way it's off your shoulders before the birthright trip and you're free! If you make friends on that trip who can also travel, go with them!
posted by notjustthefish at 8:07 AM on April 20, 2015

I think you should travel for half the time and for the other half of the time do absolutely nothing in your current home. Like just wake up and do whatever you want to do that moment, whether it's watch maury, go to your favorite eatery, or go to some cultural attraction you never got around to going to. I don't think I know anybody who has had the ability to do that kind of extended spontaeity after they graduated high school so definitely do that. Just be a free animal and do what you want when a feeling move you.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:32 AM on April 20, 2015

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