No Regrets: Choosing Travel Over School

Delphine Zebouloun
January 16, 2024

I don’t know about you, but I had no clue what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be after high school. To be completely honest, I still don’t. The idea of spending thousands of dollars in the hopes of figuring it out never felt right to me. I had the grades and the motivation to learn, but I had a strong feeling that going to a 4-year University wasn’t for me.


My senior year of high school was mostly spent planning my first solo international trip to Europe. While most of my peers received new cars and nose jobs for their graduation presents (Hi, I grew up in Orange County), my parents bought me a EuroRail pass. I cried because I was so happy to have parents that never pressured me into doing what I felt wasn’t right, including never forcing me to attend Summer Jewish Camp. 

I knew my decision was challenging for them, but they supported me anyway. My dad had just seen the movie Taken and was terrified I would get abducted on Day 1. “You are too boy crazy, Delphine, and I am NOT in good enough shape to run around Paris and rescue you." Fair enough. 

So after a long lecture about safety, I embarked on my first solo trip to Europe.


Six weeks later, I returned home with a clearer understanding of who I was, and what I wanted. The lessons I learned abroad couldn’t be taught in a classroom, yet they made up most of my education, and most importantly, influenced who I am as a person today.  

Choosing Travel Over School

Lesson #1

The first and the most important thing I realized was how small I was. It is in a teenager’s genetic makeup to be selfish and think the world revolves around them. As soon as I stepped out of my bubble, I quickly learned that I didn’t matter. This realization felt both liberating and extremely scary.

Jumping off waterfalls in Costa Rica

Lesson #2

Your perspective shifts dramatically. Right from the start, traveling solo humbles you. No amount of money in the world can change the fact that you are alone in a foreign land. 

But that vulnerability is a beautiful thing and can inspire you to communicate with strangers, fully immerse yourself in a new culture, or get you out of your comfort zone.

Trying new foods

Lesson #3

After someone broke into my hotel room the first night and stole almost all of my things, I quickly learned that material possessions had little effect on my happiness. I continued on with my travels despite losing most of my belongings. 

The best part? I had a lot less to carry around! 

Apart from the cash and my camera, I didn’t miss much of anything. The bigger lesson was becoming self-aware of how I reacted when things didn’t go as planned. I may have cried for four hours, but I carried on with my trip and my kept my positive attitude.


The lessons are truly endless. I could go on for days, but nobody has time for the full “Delphine’s 18-year old self discovery”.

So, in short, at 18, I caught the travel bug. Scratch that, It was more of a travel plague. 

After coming home from my trip, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that would enable me to travel the world

And here I am, not only traveling the world myself, but enabling others to travel as well.


I’m not saying going to a 4-year University is a mistake or that going to school is a waste of time in any way. I ended up going to college after my trip and obtaining a 2-year degree. Who knows where my life would have taken me had I chosen to study at a University instead of traveling to Europe. 

All I’m saying is, traveling is responsible for teaching me the most about myself, others, and the world around me. 

So if you’ve solely focused on a college education and you’ve never traveled solo, I encourage you to give it a try. And let the learning begin!

Delphine Zebouloun
Delphine is trip leader and travel writer for Under30Experiences. A France native turned California girl, Delphine enjoys frolicking in nature, surfing, and chocolate croissants. Five years ago, she traveled to Costa Rica and fell in love with the country. She has lived there ever since, continually learning, exploring, and giving back to her new home.


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