How To Survive the School Year as a Traveler
Does your daily routine have you sporting permanently dark under eye circles and nervous twitches? Do you feel like your moods swing from unstable to dangerously unstable? Do you constantly think, “All I want to do is go home and press my face into my pillow for the rest of my natural life”?
. . .
If you suffer from any of these ailments, including a loss of motivation, night terrors, nervous sweats, paranoia, or overall and general misery… you may be suffering from SSS. Strapped Student Syndrome.
I may have exaggerated just a tiny bit. Don’t blame me, it’s called making the sale! It’s what the people want! But in all honesty, beyond the guise of some sepia-filtered TV infomercial, going back to school as a traveler can feel this way sometimes. Switching gears from the total freedom of a school-less summer to strict deadlines, fees, paperwork and early mornings can throw a wrench into your healthy head space. I’m already beginning to miss those summer nights spent in good company with no concrete plans and no worries. But getting up in the morning and getting shit done is a priority now; It’s what we have to do. We have to make room for our obligations without smothering our hobbies, passions, and pleasures. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s a necessary one. In hopes to alleviate the dark cloud that’s been circling around us SSS victims, I’ve written up a few things that are helping me get through the next 16 weeks alive.
Plan a Trip
Planning a trip or a viable travel budget is one of the most effective ways to stave off a travel depraved depression. Trust me, I know putting more paperwork on your plate doesn’t sound like a lot of fun right now, but having a concrete travel goal to look forward to is going to lift your spirits and keep you motivated. As a student, you may not be in the market to travel thanks to student loans and others fees, but that’s okay. As of right now you have a whole semester of saving to do! If you have any room in your weekly budget to cut down on spending (i.e. the daily Starbucks drinks, the $10 school lunches, or that pair of shoes you probably didn’t need), diligently cut it out and place the money you accrue in a separate account. If you are a visual person, maybe even make a DIY savings jar with a cute picture of your destination on the front. Any deposit, small or large, will add up by the end of the semester—even if you’re just tossing change in a piggy bank! Plus, even if you only save up $50 you can still treat yourself to a local AirBnB getaway, or to a fancy night on the town.
Take the Weekends Off
Here, you can borrow my magical formula to a well-balanced week.
- Work hard, get my homework done, complete all business related tasks.
- Take this day and run with it. Go for a hike, go to the beach, have a guiltless night out, go to a nearby city you rarely visit, or hit up a cool location you’ve seen online but never in person. Schedule your fun appointments with friends and family on this day too, and don’t be afraid to rope them into your travel-esque shenanigans.
- Take this day to decompress. No appointments, no work, no outings or obligations. Not even the fun ones. Take the day to gather yourself and prepare for the week to come, but in a non-stressful way.
This formula can be flipped and flopped however best fits your schedule, but this trifecta of work, fun, and isolation can help organize a cluttered mind. I’m able to get all of my work done in a neat and timely manner, then I am able to have a bit of fun while getting outside and seeing friends. Finally, I can just take a day off from the outside world and have a date with myself. Usually this involves YouTube and Netflix binges in my robe with a cup of highly sweetened tea as I struggle to do something—literally anything—productive. But hey, that’s apparently how my body likes to decompress. I will come to terms with my laziness one day.
To get through an especially stressful week I will try and make myself enjoy it… through bribery. To begin, I’d like to credit and thank Parks and Rec for instilling the “Treat Yourself” mantra within me. No, this doesn’t mean I go out and blow all of my savings on expensive spa treatments and horrifically bedazzled accessories, it means that I reward myself with small and manageable treats every once and awhile. If I make it through an especially challenging day, I’ll swing by 7 Leaves to pick up a Thai iced tea to make all of my struggles worth it. Or I’ll buy my favorite sticker pack and use it to brutalize all of my planners and organizers. Of course, this will look different for everyone. I know that Andrew would much rather reward himself with a fun techy desk organizer or a game on Steam, and that totally works for him! If you really want to get fun with it, treat yourself to fun travel based items that you will use during that trip you just planned. If you’re going to go to the Caribbean, treat yourself to a new swimsuit after a month of hard work. If you’re going camping, buy that 24 hour insulated coffee mug that you’ve been swooning over in REI. It feels really good to work towards a goal, even if that goal is small or contrived. It feels rewarding all the same.
Make Time For Yourself
I believe in making room for relaxation during the day. I know this piece of advice floats around most everywhere, but I believe that giving yourself 15 to 30 minutes of pure, judgement free relaxation a day is really beneficial for the overloaded brain. If this means waking up an hour early and reading for you, do that! If it means staying up a bit later than usual and browsing Reddit, absolutely do that too! Let yourself be worry free for a minute, without trying to force your limbs to fold into that "relaxed pretzel" yoga pose you read about online if it isn’t your thing. In all seriousness, give yourself some quality time to separate from the hard work you do and the things you're anxious about. It can make all the difference.
Remember why you're doing this
Ah yes, the big picture. The hardest thing to conceptualize when the version of you that lives in the small picture has to do all of the work. Even though it is hard to imagine, whatever you’re working towards today will help you achieve your dreams in the near future. For example, if you are planning to become an engineer and calculus just has absolutely nothing to do with your passion for skiing (or whatever this imaginary engineer likes to do), going through this long, arduous process will provide you with the assets you need to ski your heart out. If we get through this semester, and then the next, and then the next, we will eventually hit the real end goal which could be a career! Or a path in life! Or more broadly speaking… money! If you need money to actualize your full travel goals, as most of us do, this will help you get there. This stressful, exhausting period of our lives will end in joy and pure adventure. If you can, try and keep that in mind. You can do this.
Thanks to all of you who took the time to read this article! If you can't tell already, school has just started up for me and business is booming for Andrew, so we are on the train to pain right now trying to keep up our positive attitudes. Let us know if these tips helped you, and share your own tips in the comments! I'd love to hear them! Have a lovely week.