Let’s break down the activities of a hypothetical USC student in a week: 18 hours of class, at least 10 hours of studying, 10 hours of part-time work, 15 hours of internship, 12 hours of commuting and six hours of extracurricular activities and volunteering.
That is a lot of time we spend at school. After a rigorous week, often in the weekends all we want to do is lie down in bed and laze around all day. Thoughts of traveling and exploring Los Angeles, this beautiful city we live in, are swept to the sidelines. Netflix is more economical, we say. It saves more time for us to rest.
While it’s good to take a step back and relax, we also need to embark on adventures once in a while. We may be discouraged because of lack of time and money, but the one of the beauty of Los Angeles (and I may even say the United States in general) is how accessible and inexpensive it is, if we know how to handle our resources.
My sister and I travel a lot. People often ask how we manage to slip in a few days of traveling in between our school and work. Our answer: planning. Rigorous, extensive planning. We look at the calendar for a particular school year the moment it becomes available on the Internet. We pick long weekends and school holidays (spring break or the wonderful three-month summer holiday) to travel. We talk with our work supervisors and internship coordinators to make sure that we would be able to go. Plans are always going to change, but just knowing that there is a window of five days here, a week there… That’s enough.
Planning also works wonders in determining how much you need for a particular trip. Airbnb and other online rental sites are lifesavers. Plane tickets, if booked a month in advance, is much cheaper (go earlier than that, however, and you may risk a higher price). Talk with people who have visited where you wanted to go. Then, set a daily budget for yourself — and start saving!
People often ask how I find the energy to plan, pack my suitcase and travel in the middle of all of these student responsibilities. In the end I think it all boils down to one thing: passion.
We all love watching travel shows and reading travel blogs. We love scrolling down Instagram, marveling at the beautiful pictures that people take in different parts of the world. We dream of the time we can drop everything in the bat of an eye and travel the world. But with all the responsibilities we now have and continue to add, it’s unlikely that we will find the right time.
If you find yourself postponing that trip you’ve always wanted to take, let me share a little secret that always helps me find the courage to do it. Make an itinerary for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know when you’ll be able to go, where you’ll stay or where you’ll find the money to fund the trip — make that itinerary.
Once you do, you’ll find that it’s not as impossible as you previously thought. True, it will still be challenging, but remember that white sandy beach, that camping ground in the desert, that snowy mountaintop or whatever it is that you desire. Keep that picture in your mind and persevere, and who knows? Maybe in a month or two you’ll find yourself exactly where you’ve always wanted to be.