Wanderlust. It’s that itch to just get up and go somewhere, anywhere; the restless feeling that there’s something somewhere else you should be seeing or doing, even if you don’t know exactly what that something is.
If you’re considering a program abroad, chances are that you’ve experienced some wanderlust. And if you’ve just started dreaming about it, chances are you’re not sure how to go about satisfying that desire. If you’re in the US, a road trip across the continental United States could give you a temporary travel buzz, but you may find yourself wanting to cross oceans after you’ve seen everything there is to see in the US. If you’re in Europe, a train trip of a few hours can help you cross multiple borders, but maybe you’re hoping to see Asia, as well.
Everyone who works at World Endeavors understands this desire to get up, out, and away, and that’s why we’re here to help others do the same, with opportunities to work, study, and volunteer abroad. We’ve compiled a list of four steps you can do right now to prepare for your time abroad. (And planning well in advance is what the smart world traveler does – except, of course, in the case of last-minute adventures that lead to really great stories!) Read on for our Four Steps to Jumpstart Your Adventure Abroad:
1) Apply for your passport. This may seem basic, but if you have even the slightest desire to become an international traveler, having a passport is essential! And applying for a passport is fairly easy these days – if you’re in the US, you can even apply at the local US postal service. US citizens, check out the State Department guidelines online: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/new.html If you’re outside the US, a quick internet search will give you your country’s passport application guidelines.
2) Make a list. You may not know exactly where you want to go, but you can figure it out. Write down all the places that intrigue you, that pique your interest or call to you. Write down the silly locations and the difficult ones and the impossible ones.
Once you have a list, you can break your list into three separate columns: “Right Now”, “Soon”, and “Later”. For the “Right Now” column, choose the locations that, if you had a passport in your possession and the ability to buy a plane ticket, you could leave within a week. For your “Soon” column, choose the locations that may require more advance planning – medical shots, saving extra money, extensive local research – but are otherwise easy to attain. For your “Later” column, choose locations that may require a lot more planning, networking, or saving.
You may not have locations for every column. That’s ok. You may not be able to go anywhere “Right Now”. That’s ok, too. Making a list will help you figure out how to move locations from your “Soon” or “Later” column to the “Right Now” column.
3) Figure out your “why”. Once you have your passport and you have a general idea of where you want to go, make a list of why you want to go there. Is it because it seems like the most “foreign” place you can think of? Is it because someone else told you you should? Is it because you’re interested in the wildlife? Is there a particular cultural festival or tradition you’d like to learn more about? Maybe it’s all about the food, or the sustainable agriculture, or the teaching methods, or even the landscape. If you can frame what’s calling to you, you can choose how to proceed.
4) Figure out your “what”. Once you have your list of “whys”, it’s time to ask yourself what kind of experience you want to have while you’re abroad. Do you want to go with a tour group, sleeping in hotels and letting someone else make all the planning decisions so you can sit back and enjoy the scenery? Or do you want to immerse yourself in the culture of a location, getting to know the people who live there on an intimate level, sharing in their lives in a way that may not be comfortable (initially), but in a way that leads to the realization that “foreign” is relative? Once you identify what kind of international experience you’re most interested in right now (because it might change later), you can start to plan the nuts and bolts of your trip. And after you’ve planned, you get to the really fun part: actually going!
One of the most rewarding parts of all of this planning and dreaming is the moment when you step off the plane and realize that you’re on new soil, that you’re breathing new air, and that you’re about to have one of the greatest adventures of your life. Your wanderlust will be satiated, at least for a while.
Are you ready for your adventure?