Know the feeling? We’ve all been there at one point or another. It’s the feeling you get when you’ve been dedicating yourself to something for a long time—longer than you’ve ever dedicated yourself to anything before, and now the end is fast approaching. You can feel it in your bones. The indescribable rush of pride and energy that comes with being young and embarking upon a new adventure is upon you. Let’s just come out and say it: You’re graduating.
They call it commencement for a reason. It’s the end of your college years, but the beginning of a different phase of your life. You will be setting out into the world, into the workforce, and your school days are now to be relegated as flashes in your fond memory banks.
But stepping right out of school and into the workforce doesn’t sound like the bag of fun we expect after all this trouble. Not by any means. We want to celebrate, take our first full-fledged steps out into freedom. So let’s take off! Be it partying or adventure travel, vacation looms large on the horizon. And if you’re just graduating, here a list of the top places to go after university.
1. Cancun, Mexico
Although you may have heard this before, Cancun is still on the hotlist of places to go if you haven’t been before. Miles of white beach, cheap beer, and an overabundance of young club-goers fills this once-small Mexican town with revelers. The parties are notorious, the clubs hedonistic, and the outdoor activities fantastic.
Fancy a horseback ride through the beach or jungle? You can find that here. How about an ATV tour with tequila tasting? Also here. Want something a little more exotic? How about a spa day where little tropical fish nibble the dead skin off your toes? Yep, if you can stomach it, they have that too.
Read more about things to do in Cancun
2. Machu Picchu, Peru
Many people like to travel with a purpose, to accomplish something. You’ve just finished acquiring that long sought-after degree, so you can do anything, right? Well, maybe not anything, but certainly a trek through the pristine cloud forests of Peru wouldn’t do you any harm. Check it off the bucket-list; Machu Picchu is high atop the Inca Trail and is known world-wide for its stunning views, the incredible stone-masonry, and the sense of deep peace that comes with visiting this sacred once-royal retreat.
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3. Auckland, New Zealand
What’s doing in Auckland? Most Zealand trips originate in this capital city, and though there’s plenty to see here, many visitors just want to get out and explore the rugged coastline famous for its boating, skydiving, sailing, white-water rafting, hang-gliding, canyoning, hiking, parasailing, skiing, heli-skiing, para-skiing… you get the picture.
Filled with all the majesty of never-never land, New Zealand, either north or south, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the outdoorsy. Filled with excitement, spectacular vistas, and wine-tasting extraordinaire, New Zealand’s got it all should you desire it.
4. Cinque Terre and the Italian Coast
Cinque Terre, meaning literally “Five Lands” in Italian, is, as you might expect, a great place for a couples retreat. Five picturesque mountain towns join together on a strip of rocky and olive tree-lined coastline to complete a beautiful Italian escape. Long a backpacker favorite, in recent years Cinque Terre has become something of a luxury hotspot, particularly the town of Monterosso which has a more modern feel to it. Spend your time getting to know the old Italian way and fall in love all over again under a moon over the Mediterranean.
5. Greek Isles in the Early Season
If you plan well, the Greek Isles can be an incredible escape and dirt cheap too. The early season starts in May, and the tail-end belongs to the month of September, so if you wind up getting finished with finals early, or your thesis runs a tad bit overdue, there’s celebration to be had either way. Hostel prices can drop by half, and eager hoteliers often treat their guests to free lunches, ATV rides, ouzo tastings, you name it. And then there’s always the glittering Aegean, a healthy nightlife, and the beautiful seascape to contend with…
Read more about things to do in Greece
Spanning Chile and some of Argentina, Patagonia has long been on the list of adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. Known for being a mythical nature preserve of small mammals and plants of lore, today Patagonia serves as a fly-fishing hotspot, a glacier-hiker’s dream, and the place to go when you’re looking to get away.
Here, you have you choice of places to jet in from, but the most popular is Buenos Aires (a party town not to be overlooked in its own right) and then a skip over to the mountain town of Trelew. From there you can hike all the trails your heart desires. Or, if you decide to go half-way in, you can just jump on a catamaran and coast the rest of the way. It’s your vacation, after all.
Read more about things to do in Chile
7. Egypt’s Mighty Pyramids
It’s been on your To-Do list for so long it’s practically your father’s To-Do list. You must see the pyramids. Why? For whatever reason, the pyramids and their illustrious draw have pulled visitors to their dusty steps from all nations and races for centuries. Perhaps that’s why we still go.
The greatest standing testament to the origins of the species we call Homo sapiens is nestled in a bustling, winding, conurbation called Cairo that smells of all the wonders of the old world. Ride a camel through the Sahara or smoke shi-sha (hookah) with the locals by the Sphinx. Here, you can unwind, explore a bit of the Middle East, and go back to a place where, somewhere down the line, we all called home.
8. Dublin, Ireland
Ask a Dubliner and he’ll tell you: there’s only one city in Ireland. Yep, you guessed it—it’s Dublin. Though understandably biased, their statements aren’t wholly without merit. If you want to see the famous green grasslands of Ireland, this is a great place to start. If you’re looking to party, here too is where the nightlife lies. And if you’re of a more literary sect, again, this is your town.
Writers in Ireland pay no income tax, have their run of the numerous bookstores here, and are generally a welcomed breed. Perhaps that is why literary greats such as Joyce, Wilde, Swift, Seamus Heaney, and Eavan Boland all have left their light on, at some point or another, in this great town.
While the whole of Thailand is beyond the scope of this article, the whole of Thailand is a great place to visit. Here you can lose yourself at a Full Moon party, wade through crystal clear waters while living on dollars a day, ride an elephant, and pay spiritual homage to the Buddha of your choice. And though June through October is roughly considered the rainy season, rarely does it rain for days on end, while serious financial gains are to be made when booking for this time of year.
Read more about things to do in Thailand
10. Baja Surf Trip
This is the one to send postcards home about. There’s no specific destination in mind, but you’ve gathered your buddies, you’ve cast off your trappings, and you’ve all piled into your VW Vanagan. Here, you’ve got your surf breaks picked out, your travel guidebook and your pocket Spanish phrasebook and you’ll be sure to stop in Rosarito for cheap spiny lobster and a few Coronitas. Here, it’s all about the uncharted dusty path and the friends you make along the way. Hunh, sorta sounds like college, doesn’t it?