AKA 10 Reasons Why I Plan On Travelling After University Instead Of Staying Or Settling In England, Especially In Oxford Or London (At Least Not Straight Away)
This is long and winding. Feel warned.
My plan after university is vague. First, it’s far off (I have two years to go) but yes, it is not clear-cut. The plan, if it can be called that, is to TRAVEL. To do as much volunteering and studying as I can afford, in as many and varied places as I can, and to work when I need more money by teaching English or taking on barwork or being an au pair. That’s the dream. To travel the globe, Madagascar to Colombia to Mongolia to Iceland to Peru and not to stop until something bigger compels me. Something like love or tiredness or satiation.
BUT WHY? I’ve never been able to give a satisfactory answer to the question of why not just one year, why not with more focus, why not go to London and use it as a base, why not stay in Oxford? Don’t get me wrong, I know nobody’s judging, I know my dreams are tame compared to those of many others, I know that I might be worn out after 6 months, but I think a lot of people are just interested in my motivations of having a life which will be hard and unpredictable and scary and lonely.
So here you go. For me and for you. Mainly me though, it’s a word-storm.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: These are very personal reasons. These are not rules I impose on others; I am not, nor have I ever been, judgmental. My desire to travel is a personal one which probably has to do with insecurity about belonging and not having a fixed national identity; a long-held shyness, lack of independence, and self-doubt I want to overcome; and a battering ram of childhood and adolescent messiness. Just to repeat, I DO NOT THINK that it is cowardly and lazy not to foolishly, blindly fling yourself across international borders. I think it shows more strength to find fulfilment and joy within than to rush about the planet and clumsily hope for enlightenment. And I really do mean that, these words are not platitudes or excuses.
All photos by me.
1. It would be cowardly and lazy to stay where I am when there’s a world to see. It’s frightening and hard and failure-ridden to abandon yourself to the planet without a concrete backup (no parental couch to crash on, since they will live in a tiny flat in Munich, no MA lined up, no job lined up, no PLAN…) but I want to be brave. Being cowardly and lazy by staying will lead me to stagnation and ennui. I will have no respect for myself, and will feel like I turned away from something great to have something bland and miserable. a bleak, inferior existence void of purpose or fulfilment.
2. To stay in England, especially London, would have something of the Stepford Wives about it. Further to the cowardliness and laziness point, which is an internal factor based on myself and my character traits, I think there is this external factor of eeriness and the pre-ordained about leaving Oxford and going to London. We all have to find a way to full inhabit our world, and my world is EVERYWHERE and it is OUT THERE. I don’t mean this to sound as pretentious as it does, this compulsion is hard to verbalise. To stay here, before tasting the world would feel like I was not only born brainwashed, but accepting that brainwashing, by consciously assenting to submit to England.
3. I want to be more than a tourist. Being a tourist suggests I have a base to return to. I want to live in these places for longer than a few weeks and have them be my base for a while. I want my base to change every six to 12 months for five years. I have to fully divorce myself from any one place – be that Oxford, Munich, London, or wherever my parents end up – in order to be in a position to really be free. Only then can I freely settle, not as a result of some umbilical connection, but as an fully grown and independent woman. And then I may well come back to the UK. This idea no longer makes my stomach churn, as it once did, back when I was a silly and petulant teenager (like I’m so mature now…)
4. I want to learn lots of languages. This is partly career-based and partly an uncontrollable impulsive urge, the driving force of my life’s decisions.
5. I want to brutally push through INTO myself and that will not happen if I wrap myself in the cotton wool of England or Europe or even the USA. I need to teach in South American slums or work in an health centre in Africa or hike across Greenland to fully know and “find” myself. I have to do things which evoke feelings, even if those feelings are fear or loneliness. This is very “Gap Yah” but “finding yourself” is a worthy cause.
6. I want to have fun and see nice things and do interesting stuff like paraglide with Eagles or go ice-fishing or learn to dance.
7. I want to utilise every moment that I am not depressed, because who knows how long it will last before I am ill, tired, sad again… and then who knows if I will get better again like I thankfully did six months ago.
8. Travel is how I measure self-worth. Basically, I see myself as lesser to those who have travelled lots. others mark their achievements by children or money or academic success or fame; I mark it by experience of the planet and by travel. It’s a matter of pride, even arrogance, and is unrealistic as many people have either got more money (through parents or through employment, the source is irrelevant) or had different opportunities growing up (a parent whose work required them to travel often, parents who had the means and the desire to show third children the world, or schools which encouraged and subsidised international trips). This is childish. I want to let this go but it’s quite ingrained so that will take time.
9. I have to tick the strange places off my bucket list, things people marvel at, things people don’t usually do, or places people don’t usually travel to. Vanity and curiosity combined push me to see Georgia, Greenland, Mongolia, Colombia, Socotra, Algeria, Svalbard, the Falklands, and Reunion. Not (at least not only) Turkey, India, Costa Rica, USA, Australia, Morocco, China, Madagascar. It has to be strange. That is frightening; I am BRICKING it. But I want to be special, and being in special places makes me feel like a unique snowflake. A trembling, hyper-alive snowflake.
10. I want to have the power to decide I belong in the place that I settle. As I mentioned above, I would not mind settling in London; but I NEED, I NEEEEEED to see the world first, all of it, and then CHOOSE London, rather than accepting that it has been chosen for me by custom or precedent. It would be so much easier to go to London in two years, to slip into a city job or teacher training, but I want to fight for the place I choose rather than always feel like I have not been accepted. WOAH HELLO CHILDHOOD ISSUES.
And finally, I’ve just not really considered doing anything else. It feels right. I will do it for a while at least, until I change my mind of course! I will come home when I’m done, and “home” might then be London.
And it might not.