The quick answer to this question – do you need a university degree to travel? – is of course a big fat ‘no’. It’s not as if you’ll be asked for your university diploma when entering a new country and you certainly won’t need to show proof of extended study in order to check into a hostel or hotel.
But what I really want to talk about is the role that a university degree can play when it comes to living a life that involves long-term, and in many cases, indefinite, travel.
It’s a common dilemma. Should I go to university or should I start traveling right away? Then some university students spend long hours wondering if they should just drop out and chase after their travel goals without graduating. When the road calls, the call is powerful and it’s only natural that it often lures people away from three or four (or five) more years of formal education.
First of all, by no means do I think having a university degree to travel is vital. I’m a firm believer that any determined individual can transform travel into a lifestyle, regardless of their educational background, work history or skills that one would use to make their resume/CV look more impressive.
However, I will also state that having a university degree does indeed make life much easier for those interested in embarking on an indefinite trip and trying to earn money around the world.
The truth is that in many cases it doesn’t matter at all what you study at university or even how well you perform. The important part is just having that extra level of education.
How is this important?
Many organizations and companies out there in the world that you might decide you want to work with often won’t consider hiring or working with people who do not have a university degree.
Let’s look at teaching English, or any other language for that matter, overseas. If you were to show up in Thailand or Turkey looking to earn money by teaching English, you would naturally begin applying to language schools and other educational institutions that hire such teachers.
And while many of these language schools won’t require you to be a certified teacher or even have a certification in TEFL or TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language), they will usually require you to have a university degree before they can hire you. They often don’t really care what the degree is in, but they just want to know that you have one.
Simply put, having that degree gives a potential employer, client or organization an additional level of confidence in you.
Both you and I know that a diploma doesn’t automatically prove you’re a mature, responsible and hard-working individual but that doesn’t change the fact that a degree does make a difference for those interested in finding such work as teaching languages, working at resorts, becoming a tour guide/escort for a tour operator, working on board cruise ships or even working with an NGO (non-governmental organization), among many others.
A FEW REAL LIFE EXAMPLES
In my own life, having my university degree certainly helped me rise up to the position of Tour Manager in just a couple of months when I worked on board cruise ships myself. If I didn’t have a degree I might not have been hired in the first place and even if I was hired, I certainly would not have been given a chance to become a department head.
And even when I had to return to the US during my earlier years of travel in order to find work and refill my bank account for a couple of months, I would not have been able to work as a substitute teacher at a high school in Boston (and save up a good amount of money) without my degree.
A good friend of mine went to Australia on a working holiday visa and because of his degree was able to land a well-paid job with a company in downtown Sydney, earning five times the amount that many others on a working holiday visa earn when working in a bar or picking fruit.
Of course, money is not always the goal (and I’m not saying it should be), so this might not matter to many travelers. But money may matter to some and one’s earning potential may be a factor in whether or not a person decides to attend university before setting off on their travels or try to combine the two by studying abroad (where living expenses may be cheaper, you may not have to pay additional tuition and you can take advantage of such things as inexpensive student flights.)
So, to sum it all up…
Having a university degree to travel is absolutely not vital, and I’ve met plenty of people out there without university degrees who have turned travel into the lifestyle they always dreamed of. Dedication, a willingness to be creative and keeping an open-mind are far more important than a degree or any particular knowledge or skill set. If you can manage that, you can achieve anything.
But again, that one piece of paper, that university degree, can help quite a lot and there is no denying that, when combined with those qualities above, it will allow you to take advantage of even more opportunities that you may discover while traveling this wonderful world of ours.
What do you think? What have been your experiences traveling long-term with or without a degree? Perhaps you’re currently debating the value of university…do you have any questions that weren’t answered above?
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