For the past week, I’ve been feeling the effects of a well-known phenomenon called the “sophomore slump.” It’s the feeling that my environment has lost its novelty and life here in college is boring and unproductive. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the “sophomore slump” only affects students. This is something that can manifest itself at any point in life. In school and work, it’s so easy to get caught up with homework, friends, social expectations, and careers.
Well, folks, there’s a remedy for all of this that I use to melt all of my sophomore worries away! Yup, you guessed it, I travel. Here’s why:
Social constructs and stigmas from home don’t matter – Remember that time you were afraid to wear your favorite shirt because people told you it looked like something their grandfather would wear? What about the time someone made fun of you for something you did? Those times are long over, my friend, once you start traveling. You’ll see that being true to yourself is so much easier when you’re not surrounded by people whose opinions “matter.” The people you meet on the road will probably like you and remember you even more for the weird, quirky things you do.
You make your own rules – You don’t have to go anywhere you don’t want to or do anything you don’t want to. There are no rules about not being able to go out past 10, or having to eat at a certain time. You are responsible for what you do and you receive the consequences. With freedom comes responsibility, but knowing that you are in charge of yourself can help you become even more independent and self-sufficient.
Your feet are not stuck in one place – You can travel at your own pace and go where you’d like. If you’re tired of one place, you’re free to move on to another place. Unlike school, where you’re required to sit in a classroom for hours each day, traveling allows you the freedom to move around and be in transit virtually whenever you want. This one is the most important for me because I truly enjoy being in motion and having the freedom to travel around, without being tied to just one place or one group of people.
You don’t need to have a plan – Sure, you need to know what you want to accomplish and how to do that, but you dont need to have every step of your day planned out. You can take detours and change your plans. Your life is completely flexible. You can wake up at 8 am or sleep til 4. While traveling, you have no constraints like class at 10:00 or a meeting at noon. Instead, you can make your own agenda, and decide whether you want to stick to it or not.
Your mind can expand beyond the office or classroom – Would you ever be able to learn about the stunning beauty of the sunrise in Hawaii from a classroom in Michigan? What about how to talk to strangers without endangering yourself? Would you learn how to taste Malaysian street food or speak a local indigenous language or dance a traditional dance from your office building? Chances are, you won’t. But out in the world, it’s easy to find these experiences and learn about your classroom lessons in a comprehensive, real-world context.
The only homework is the work you make for yourself – There’s no assigned homework. If you want to learn about a place, then it’s your initiative to research it and read about it. If you want to find the best local restaurant then you have to ask around for yourself. You don’t have any homework from your professors or your bosses or your clubs or organizations. While traveling, you still learn as much about the real world without the lingering horrors of homework and grades.
You can be anyone you want to be – Did others ever lump you into a stereotype or make judgements on your appearance? Well, none of those preconceived notions matters now, because when you’re traveling, you can be anyone you want. You can be an adventurer or a partier or a conversationalist. You can be introverted or extroverted or somewhere in between. If you don’t like what people back at home think of you, it doesn’t matter. When you’re traveling, you’re out in the world and you can be whoever you want to be. Most importantly, you can be who you truly are without having to worry about what people back at home think.
During this “sophomore slump” phase, I get the urge to get up and go somewhere almost every day. Whether that place is just outside of campus or a three-hour bus ride away, I always make time each week to get away from my surroundings and experience something new. By taking a little bit of time to incorporate travel into my life, I’ve found the transition into sophomore year to be much smoother and enjoyable. Whether you’re a sophomore in college or a few years into your office job, taking a break to travel can surely help you break whatever “sophomore slumps” you may encounter.