The long vacation only happens once a year so travel while you can, urges Omar BurhanuddinOmar Burhanuddin for Varsity

The long vac is approaching, and with it the terrifying prospect of not seeing our friends until October. It’s time, therefore, for students at Cambridge to restart their frenzied planning for how to fill in the next three months. The choices are familiar to us all. To intern, or not to intern? What about a summer job, and if so, where? Still others will preach on Camfess that we shouldn’t feel guilty about just doing nothing.

“Not to echo your average MASH-goer, but do it for the plot, if nothing else”

All of these miss the mark. Like a second-rate Anthony Bourdain, I am here to make the case for travelling as much as possible. That’s right: pull on some boots, strap on a knapsack, and leave the country. We’re young, we go to a University with unusually long breaks, and so are well placed to do so. There are plenty of ways to do this on the cheap - au pairing, funded TEFLs, Workaways - making travelling an accessible option for lots of people.

Not to echo your average MASH-goer, but do it for the plot, if nothing else. Consider the experiences you’ll have. You might wind up managing a classroom of kids who don’t speak your first language. You might snack on homemade hummus at stopovers on a hiking trail in the countryside. You might even find yourself sticking your hand up a cow’s backside in exchange for food and lodging. If you haven’t done at least one of these things (or all of them, as I have), you haven’t lived.

You won’t get the usual reasons to travel from me. ‘Cultural immersion’, ‘ditching creature comforts’, ‘developing spontaneity and adaptability’ - forget it. I know these are just platitudes, and am all too aware of the shtick that student travellers usually face. Youth travel, I’ll admit it, all too often veers into lifestyle guruism. Who hasn’t encountered one of these bullshit artists - typically of student age or a little older, who dress and talk like Russell Brand - who claim to have ‘found themselves’, and ‘learned more from [insert marginalised group they encountered for 5 minutes] than they learned from me’? Question them just a little, and you’ll soon uncover some horrendously problematic takes.

“At Cambridge, it can feel like there’s constant pressure to fill our holidays with CV-fodder”

Stereotypes of cultural insensitivity aren’t the only reason that many students are put off from travelling. At Cambridge, it can feel like there’s constant pressure to fill our holidays with CV-fodder, in a bid to put term-time productivity to shame. Without being too specific, I can recall meeting many of these personalities in my time here. One spent her holidays managing rallies for a major European political party, whose youth wing she headed. Another developed an app with software he’d created and had patented. This is not to mention, of course, the back-to-back vac-schemers. It’s only natural, in this environment, that we feel pressured to do something ‘useful’ (read: marketable) during the holidays.

Let this article be a humble plea for us to forget about all that, to go ahead and book our next flight. I recognise, of course, that though upfront costs may not be very high, not everyone is on an equal footing here. While the more privileged can goof off in the holidays, safe in the knowledge that they’ll scoop up a job at mummy’s firm the moment they graduate, others cannot afford the opportunity cost of relinquishing vocationally-oriented activities. This acknowledged, I would still ask that we consider the following familiar questions with more than the usual care they receive. What is it we would like out of life? What is it, really, that we’re working towards? What kind of person, ultimately, do we want to become? I can’t tell you how many adults I’ve met who, beyond talking shop, just don’t have very much to chat about. It might sound harsh, but they simply aren’t very interesting people!


Mountain View

EU youth mobility is exactly what the UK needs

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that travelling, of course, is the perfect antidote to this. However, speaking for myself, I can say that I’ve bonded with some of my best friends through these experiences. This hasn’t always been direct, but instead by exchanging stories of the funny, frustrating, and downright bizarre situations we’ve found ourselves in overseas. Once you leave a place, the memories of it can feel like a sealed capsule that forms an ineradicable yet unseen part of yourself. You might fear, as time goes by, that those moments feel increasingly unreal and lost. Sharing these stories with others opens them up again, and keeps them alive. Those memories form intimacies which, fondly shared, can develop powerful relationships.

Travelling, then, doesn’t have to be primarily about ourselves, or the bragging rights (which will only make you insufferable). Instead, it can be about how we relate to others. You’ll walk more lightly, listen more carefully, and share more generously. As summer approaches, we should redefine the stereotypes of student travel - gap yahs, Varsity ski trip bros, mission trip gurus - and reclaim it as a respectable activity for us all.