“I’ve booked the flights; we arrive in Ho Chi Minh City in three weeks”.
This was the beginning of my first ever flight outside of Australia. It was 2015. I had just graduated high school and was accepted into Macquarie University through the GLEP. A combination of being sick of studying, stuck in a below-average retail job, and always day dreaming about visiting countries far beyond ours, I found the holy grail of internet websites. Skyscanner.com.
I came across some outrageously cheap return flights to Vietnam (I’m talking $380 return cheap) and without even thinking I bought them. Lucky for me, I had an equally spontaneous friend willing to come. Unlucky for me, I didn’t have a passport.
It was a serious race against the clock to obtain both my passport and visa to Vietnam in such a short timeframe; let alone pack my bag, organise accommodation, research what to do and tell my friends and family that I was leaving (!!!). I bundled myself and my belongings onto the plane, and in the weeks that followed, my first experience abroad changed the way I saw myself, my life, and society, for the better.
Fast-forward three years later to 2019, and I have travelled to over 27 countries across 6 continents. I have road tripped through Iceland, seen the Great Pyramids of Egypt, snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef, salsa-ed my way across Cuba, hiked Volcano Acatenango in Guatemala, picnicked in Paris, walked on Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, and even climbed the Great Wall of China.
You’re right, this is a difficult thing to achieve, especially for a student. I do have the privilege of still being able to live with my parents rent-free, BUT, every other aspect of funding has been all on my merit. How? By working my butt off during semesters re: both studying AND employment (I usually have two jobs and I am a very savvy saver) whilst utilising the copious amounts of uni breaks that we are so deservingly awarded.
I began running my very own travel blog around six months ago which you can find at cassandralouise.net. I have posted a few blogs on my tricks to save money, and travel tips for destinations I have visited, that you can read up on if you feel you need some guidance or inspiration. My motivation behind saving as much money as possible is that I would rather be frugal at home so I can reward myself with much richer life experiences overseas.
This year I have settled down a little and do not have any immediate leisurely travel plans. I secured a fantastic job in my field and I am focusing on getting more involved with extracurriculars and student life. I want to make a large dent in my GLP contributions through volunteering and mentoring. I have applied for PACE International, and I also hope to secure a spot in a short-term exchange program at the end of this year (because I can’t give up travelling altogether).
Whilst on my travels around the globe, the cross-cultural communication skills that I have gained are things that cannot be taught in a classroom. Participating in GLP cultural days, Colloquia and the like has challenged me to take on a new perspective. I reflect on all the situations I have been in, and what I could have done differently in the circumstances. Subsequently, I have found that the most important value in life is gratitude; for the life we are given, the opportunities we have, and the people we surround ourselves with. Don’t ever underestimate the value of education and what it can achieve in the world around us; we really are so lucky.