It’s my favorite time of the year, summer! As a grad student, you tend to favor summers more than any other semester. 1) You won’t have to push through a ton of undergrads to get to your lab. 2) The gym is finally empty so you can workout in peace. And 3) it means your adviser is probably gone for a bit so you can take some time off. If you decide to take time off and go on vacation, I highly suggest doing it during the summer when things are a tad bit slower. Traveling in grad school during this time can be super great and a bit stressful. So today, I want to cover the topic of traveling in grad school and how you can do it without going insane lol.
Why You Need To Travel
Life is more than sitting at a computer and doing stupid work until 5 pm. Life is about going into the unknown, exploring what is there, and enjoying everything about this experience. You are more than a grad student, you are a human being. Life is quite a weird thing and you need to enjoy every bit of it. Traveling is one way of doing this. Now, in grad school, you are very limited on the type of traveling that you can do. Money constraints, work load constraints, and everything else in between. So, traveling to far away places might not be on your list of things to do. You can, however, explore the location in which you live. Traveling doesn’t always mean going somewhere far away. It can mean exploring the area where you live.
Traveling is important because you experience new things. You get to remove yourself from the day to day stresses that keep you up at night. Heck, you might just be traveling to see friends or family. This can be a huge stress reliever that adds years back to your life. If you decide to travel outside of the country you live in, you’re bound to be introduced to new lifestyles, cultural differences, and some pretty gosh darn good food. The best thing that you could possibly do is travel while in grad school. You learn so much about yourself and others this way.
Some of you are going to school pretty far away from where you grew up. For me, I only live about 2 hours away from home, so it is a quick and easy drive home for me. For others, you might be thousands of miles away. I know many students in my department that are from other countries. It’s not so easy being able to travel to see family, especially with plane tickets going up. If you are someone that has to travel a pretty far distance to go home, I have a bit of advice.
First, plan out your trip very far in advance. This serves many purposes. You will find better tickets for plan rides home for one. You can give plenty of heads up to your adviser. Remember, you still are doing research throughout summer. Planning out far in advance also allows you get enough work done so you are stressed about working when you get home. Spending time with family is important and you don’t want to be working the entire time.
Traveling Somewhere Else
You may be taking time off to go and travel somewhere else and go on vacation. In this case, really plan this out to make sure that you are not working at all. Vacations are extremely important to take while in grad school. If you want to read more about why, check out my post about it (here). Also, if you would like to know some locations where you should visit, check out my post about those (here). I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel to amazing places that I think everyone needs to visit at least once in their lifetime.
Make sure to really plan out everything if you are traveling somewhere new. Make sure all tickets are bought, passports up to date, and hotels booked. Doing this far ahead will make the whole trip smooth and stress free. The point of traveling is to reduce stress and explore. You don’t want to be more stressed.
Traveling in Grad School on a Budget
I think the absolute best part about traveling in grad school is traveling on a budget. Yes, you are poor. If you aren’t, please send me some money lol. Anyway, if you are like most people in grad school, you’re pretty poor. This does not mean you can’t have the best trip of your life. It simply means that you have to put a bit of effort into making the most of it, on limited amounts of money. This makes trips very fun. I would love to have unlimited money and go everywhere, but that’s not realistic and I find limiting the amount of money spent on a trip is actually better. You may need to stay in a hostel if you are traveling abroad. This is actually my go to because you get to stay at some cool places, and meet amazing people. Most of the people going to hostels are the same age as you and trying to make the most of life. It is a great place to meet life long friends.
You also get to experience what it’s really like at that location. For example, I went to China right after graduating undergrad. I was on a very tight budget which didn’t allow me to get taxi rides everywhere or hop on planes each week to go to far away places. No, I had to walk everywhere and use the subway. BTW the subways in china are amazing and cheap. This forced me to completely immerse myself in everything there was in the city. I had to interact with the locals, find my way around a foreign place, and learn to handle being out of my comfort zone.
How to Prepare
So here are a few things to consider when preparing to travel anywhere while in grad school. These are things that I personally do which have helped me a ton. Hopefully they work for you as well.
- Get plane tickets early
- Try and get a travel buddy if going out of the country. Traveling alone might be scary, especially if it’s your first time.
- Notify your adviser that you are taking time off and for how long. They will more than likely be Ok with you taking time off.
- Book hotels or hostels early. Try not to wait for the last minute, especially if you are traveling during the time of a major holiday. (trust me).
- Get most of your work done so you won’t have to worry about anything.
- Before leaving, pack for the weather. Wearing shorts in the middle of winter in Beijing is not advised…
- Make sure your pets are taken care of.
- Plan out a budget and give some wiggle room. If you stick to a budget that’s too tight, you won’t have as much fun.
- Do research on where you are going. If it’s home, you know what’s there. If it’s somewhere you’ve never been, find cool things about it and go do them.
- Make sure your passport is up to date.
- Plan out how to get to the airport. Uber can be expensive but friends can be bribed with food ;p
- Tell someone close about where you are going, for how long, and everything about what you are doing. Have them check in with you to make sure you are ok while away.
- When planning out things to do, don’t cram a million things into each day.
- Allow yourself to get excited.
Go On Vacation, You Deserve it.
Please, please, please, go travel somewhere this summer, or fall (if you are reading this in the fall). You deserve a break from academia every once in a while. It is healthy for you to leave the work and go enjoy life. Work will always be there. in fact, leave it there and never come back lol. Man, sometimes I wish I could.
Don’t feel like you need to spend all of your time working on your doctorate. In fact, doing so is actually hurting you. The benefits of taking time off and doing literally anything but work outweigh staying in the office and doing one more thing.
For those traveling this summer, let me know in the comments where you are going. I am heading to the Florida Keys in July to go fishing for a week. My family does this each year and it really is needed in my life lol. It will be the last vacation I take before I buckle down for the long write (thesis writing). My defense is coming up quickly so I want to make sure everything is ready. I will need this vacation to rejuvenate myself before I write each day for like 10-12 hours and prepare my dissertation.
I hope you guys get to travel somewhere cool and I also hope that you are having an awesome day! Thank you for reading my post and I hope to see you in the next one. Peace!