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A Law Grad Wanders Around the World

Jess in the desert

Midway through 2013, I was about to finish my undergraduate law degree. I was starting my Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice and I was bored, bored, bored. On a whim one morning, I was browsing through some travel websites, procrastinating, and later that afternoon I had booked a trip to Africa.

After graduating that December and partway through the graduate diploma, it occurred to me that I would never be as unattached and carefree as I would be the day I graduated from that course. I would have all my legal qualifications, a couple of degrees, and over a year’s worth of unpaid work experience under my belt, but nothing to step into immediately after graduation.

Since I was already going to be in Africa for six weeks, I was halfway to Europe, and I had been saving for a trip like this since I received my first tooth fairy payment back in 1997. I spontaneously added another six weeks in Europe to my trip.

Midway through 2014, a year later to the day, I was on a red eye flight to Zimbabwe about to begin an adventure that would take me across two continents and through over 20 different countries, from the depths of the Kalahari Desert to the bustling cities of western Europe.

One of the things I loved most about being on the road was the simplicity of it all. Law school is complicated. University is complicated. Life is often just incredibly complicated. Being on the road isn’t. In Botswana, I took a Makoro canoe trip down the Okavango Delta. Guided by some locals, I camped on the river for a couple of days. Elephants wandered in and out of the camp. We caught and ate fish from the river. There was no phone reception or internet. The only people for miles were the guides and the small group I travelled with. There was a lot of time to think and to appreciate the little things. After such a grueling degree, this time was important for me to see a different side of life.

One of the other benefits of travelling just after graduation was that it gave me something to look forward to in that final year. The last twelve months of study can be a real drag. You can see the light, but it’s dim. Full of uncertainties, an unstable job market for law grads and a lot of life pressures. I can’t even count the amount of times I was asked what I was going to do when I graduated. I also can’t count the amount of sideways looks I got, when I told people I didn’t know.

Planning to travel at the end of university can alleviate some of the pressure, and give you time to enjoy your success, rather than be constantly worrying about the next step. It’s hard not to be caught up in the present when you are navigating the German metro… and there’s trackwork… and you don’t speak German.

Travelling, especially alone, will naturally make you more confident and independent. It’s character building, and that can only be a good thing for any future career or study. When you can only rely on yourself, you learn that you can fix just about anything and you learn a lot about yourself as a person. I liked only having myself to rely on. From giving myself first aid in the desert in Zimbabwe, to negotiating the Italian bus system in Venice, getting through the hard nights in a tent when the temperature dropped below zero and there was no running water, let alone the prospect of a hot shower. Trying to convince French customs that you do not have Ebola, but you do have a nasty flu, losing your passport hours before you are due to fly home. Knowing how to solve legal problems for everyone else is one thing, but knowing how to look after yourself and rely on yourself, is an incredibly valuable skill to gain from travel.

At the end of my three months away, I came to realise that while it is easy to get caught up in our life bubble, the one where all we do is study, work and worry, it is also pretty easy to get out of it. And well worth it, if it means coming back just a little bit more appreciative of what you have and where you are going.

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