Summer is coming.
That means many of America's 20 million college students will be tossing their caps in the air, collecting diplomas, and beginning long-term relationships with Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac.
"What are you going to do now?"
For months they will be hounded with this question by everyone from their college mentor to their Great Aunt Mildred.
After 4 (or 5, or 7, or who's counting really) years of education, it makes sense to finally put that degree to use and get a job. Right?
After I finished my Masters, I drove 16,400 miles on a 260-day "Dream Road Trip" across 46 North American states/provinces.
And did it all for under $8,000. (That's less than the cost of one semester at most schools).
Why did I do it? Because somewhere inside me I believed my transition into adulthood would not come from my first contract. That the real answer could only be found out there.
After taking that Dream Road Trip, here are five reasons you should take one too:
1. It Broadens Your Perspective
Drag queen nuns. Presidential candidates. My celebrity crush. Had I met any of them before my road trip? No. Did they change my worldview after? Absolutely.
By traveling to 122 different stops, I met a slew of people I'd never experienced. And I didn't have to Eat Pray or Love in Italy, India or Bali to do so. They were all just a drive away.
College, jobs, civic clubs... They all slowly funnel us toward like-minded peers. Putting yourself around new people will prove your comfort zone is bigger than you think.
2. It Teaches You In Ways You Never Considered
Hiking in thick forests without bear spray? A bad idea I--unfortunately--had to learn the hard way. However, a mistake that taught me to trust those with more experience, and not be afraid to seek advice in new situations.
This assortment of strangers--and their array of daily activities--provided a real world education beyond anything I could've gained in the classroom; expanding my understanding of our increasingly globalized society in a firsthand way.
3. It Reveals The Value Of People
Before my Dream Road Trip, I put all my effort toward moving to a city with the best job, highest income, and broadest benefits.
After my Dream Road Trip--following 260 days of visiting all the people I'd come to love over my 25 years--I learned what was really the most valuable asset.
Money. Power. Recognition. They all took a backseat to a place I could surround myself with those I loved. Even walking around Disney World ("The Happiest Place on Earth") I couldn't help but realize how the excitement of being around certain people completely outweighed any location I'd get to visit.
Meaning people were actually the happiest place on earth (Sorry, Mr. Disney).
4. It Shows You That You Don't Really Know Everything
Like most millennials, I had a slightly inflated sense of self-worth when I started my Dream Road Trip. I was raised to believe I was unique and independent and keenly aware of what was best for me.
But when even my best laid plans turned out to not be as awesome as spontaneous adventures, I learned to let go of that control.
Sometimes the most unexpected events create the most life changing moments.
5. It Allows You To Invest In Yourself
I spent my final year of school scraping together any savings I could. I'd considered it might be best used as seed money to move somewhere; or perhaps as a rent cushion while I searched for jobs.
By the time I finished my Dream Road Trip, however, the employment I found as a direct result of the journey earned back my initial investment in just a few months. Within a year, I had quadrupled the value of my trip's budget, all because of the opportunities that came from using my savings for personal growth.
Investing in my road trip--myself--turned out to be the most responsible financial decision I ever made.
And that's something even my Great Aunt Mildred can't argue with.
Mikah is currently on a 1,116-day road trip to all 400+ U.S. national parks. Follow his path on his Journey Map.
Get your own atlas (like the one in the above picture) and Mikah's other Road Trip Essentials from the Amazon links below. Read his Top 10 Road Trip and Travel Product Recommendations to be set for your next trip!
Know a college student who feels like the below picture? Share this blog with them as they decide what to do post-graduation.