11 Trips to Take After Graduating From College
The immediate aftermath of college graduation is fraught with competing emotions. Your mood is a mosh pit of relief, excitement, uncertainty, exhaustion, anxiety, sadness, happiness, and pride, fluctuating as each sentiment takes a turn overshadowing the others.
With no more 25-page papers or semester-culminating presentations looming before you, there’s a buoyant lightness to your life. But slyly grounding you is a newfound, unchartered stress: the rest of your life. Piercing the graduation celebrations, apprehension can creep in — soon your closest friends will be sprinkled around the country, far away from you and the lifestyle you co-created over the past four years.
When you can’t pin a single diagnosis on your mental state, the best remedy is to travel with your college friends as you ride out the interim to, dare I say it, adulthood.
The cities and countries on your list will have to strike a pretty specific dynamic to complement the tone of this time period. Here are 11 places you should visit after graduating from college because they’re affordable yet substantive, accessible without over-catering to tourists, and bustling with fun activities without being inauthentic or cheesy.
If you have time before your job starts or haven’t lined one up yet, hop on the nearly 24-hour flight and spend a month backpacking around both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, scoping out scenic wonders like the Milford Sound, Franz Josef Glacier, glow worm caves, and natural hot springs and geysers.
The country is really accessible as a backpacker on a budget: The cities seem to cater to this form of tourism with many hostel and transportation options, the staff of which are typically happy to help figure out activities, sites, and tours.
One fun and easy option to see as much of the country as possible is hopping on one of the tour bus services, which shepherd diverse backpackers from town to town, allowing you to hop on and off the bus at different stops for as many nights as you’d like. These companies also help organize activities you can sign up for, subsidizing a lot of your planning. Queenstown, known locally as the Adventure Capital of the World, should be a must on your list.
Mexico City, Mexico
Hopefully you’ve gotten that itch for a Cancun-style spring break out of your system by now, but other aspects of the college mindset still linger. Mexico City is, plainly, really cool and really interesting.
Daytime excursions, like touring Frida Kahlo’s house and climbing the pyramids in Teotihuacan, will keep your mind stimulated and eager to soak up more about the country. At night, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how trendy the restaurants, bars, and clubs are in the various areas of town, like La Roma, Condesa, and Polanco. Going out in Mexico City will introduce you to how residents your age party, a real step up from those college frat parties.
A trip to Bali makes you feel like you’re in the lap of luxury … for not-so-luxurious prices. Amid breathtaking greenery, you’ll find affordable resorts, yoga classes, spas, and versatile dining options, like Australian-influenced cafés and a beach club scene being compared to Ibiza’s.
Gorgeous rooms at places like Potato Head Beach Club’s sister property, Katamama hotel, start around $345. While not exactly cheap, the lavish set-up and accommodations anywhere else would cost you a lot more.
Overall, you get to travel as if you’re way further along in your (potentially nonexistent) career to an exotic location made up of rice fields, jungles, and monkey forests while catering to the same social lifestyle you have at home.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is the quintessential fairy-tale city and a lot can be enjoyed just from traversing the Czech capital by foot, like over the Charles Bridge and through Old Town Square. It’s an immersive place that takes you out of reality for a little, helping you forget about all the impending major changes and decisions about to befall your life. As you stand in front of the Church of our Lady, fabled to have inspired Walt Disney’s design of Sleeping Beauty’s double-spired castle, it will be easy to keep up the delusion that you never have to grow up.
Be sure to pick up some fried cheese from a street cart after a late night out — you’re a recent graduate, and some habits don’t have to die yet.
If you visited Amsterdam during your junior year abroad, you’re already familiar with the less … conventional aspects for an American tourist. On a second visit, you can appreciate the city for more than its weed cafes, taboo-shattering Red Light District, and various unsavory nighttime performances.
The city is sophisticated and beautiful, with over 60 miles worth of canals that make idyllic photo backdrops. Make sure to check out the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House, or rent a bicycle and get on one of the many bike paths with the locals.
Summer is a lively time to visit as the city hosts a lot of outdoor festivals and events each year, making this a great city if you’re looking to stay out all day and night.
From mountains to beaches, and from trendy cafés to ancient Roman ruins, Croatia is a country where you can really cater your trip to your tastes. The country is teeming with historical relics, like the first-century Roman amphitheater in the city of Pula, and sites that you might recognize from “Game of Thrones,” like Diocletian’s Palace in the town of Split, built for a Roman emperor in the 4th century A.D.
On the other end of Croatia’s landscape spectrum is the Adriatic coastline, known for its white-sand beaches and rich blue water, giving the country its reputation as a Mediterranean paradise.
Another draw? While located in Southeast Europe and a member of the E.U., the country isn’t on the Euro. Its currency, the kuna, is currently exchanged for about 15 U.S. cents.
Iceland is one of those rare places that introduces you to something new at almost every turn. If you’ve never seen a lava field, you’ve come to the right place. If you’ve never gone to sleep at 11 p.m. before the sun’s even set, ding ding! You’ve come to the right place again.
And for somewhere that feels completely alien (in the coolest way), it’s surprisingly low hassle. It’s a great country to visit when you want an international jaunt but don’t quite have your life together. You can figure out a lot as you go, and it would be hard not to have a good time and see incredible sights — think waterfalls, geysers, hot springs, volcanoes, and the aforementioned lava fields.
Daylight hours might throw a wrench in your internal clock (in the summer the sun only sets for a little bit each night around midnight), but where else can offer you such a surreal experience at such a surreal point in your life?
As the second largest French-speaking city after Paris, Montreal feels like a foreign land, yet, being part of nearby Canada, it can be familiar when you need it to be.
Summer is the perfect season to go, with an ideal climate and an array of festivals throughout the city offering performances in everything from jazz to comedy. The city is full of trendy cafés, bars, clubs, restaurants, and boutiques, so it’d be very difficult for you and your friends to run out of fun things to do, and you’ll probably run into some recent McGill University graduates who will have more recommendations of their favorite spots.
A trip to Peru ticks off all criteria for an exhilarating adventure for a group of friends. You’ve got the Incan ruins to take you back in time and make you feel like you’re in a Nicolas Cage movie, including Machu Picchu doubling as your out-of-this-world hike. And you’ve got cities like Lima, the capital, where you can enjoy delicious foods spanning ice cream off a street cart to sophisticated summer menus centered on the freshest seasonal ingredients.
In additional to the well-known and popular attractions, a new airport opened last year in the coastal Pisco Province, making the coastal region much easier to access and explore sights like the two-millennia-old geoglyphs, the Nazca Lines.
Now’s definitely a good time to brush up on that high school Spanish. Ever since the reduced visa requirements for Americans traveling to Cuba, Instagram has lit up with bright posts from colonial-style streets in Havana, dotted with old cars in pastel hues.
For now, Cuba is still relatively preserved from the tourism industry, almost frozen in time, which makes visiting the country special. And while you might assume such circumstances would hinder tourism endeavors, traveling around the country is actually fairly laid-back with many locals providing taxi, tour, and B&B services (Airbnb operates here as well).
You’ll be able to see relics dating back to the Spanish colonization, unpolished marks of the 1959 Revolution, as well as beautiful, white-sand beaches and the legendary cigar factories and tobacco fields. If you’re looking for a resort-style experience during a Cuba jaunt, you can stop over in Varadero, a popular beach for Canadian and European travelers.
Before you take off to start the rest of your life, spend some time under your parents’ roof. Whether you want to save up some money by avoiding rent or want to re-see everything familiar to you with new appreciation and a little nostalgia, a hometown visit can help you re-center yourself and gear up for whatever your next major step will be.