University or Travel?How about both? Pura Vida.

Lucy Theobald


2 years ago in Gap Year

Pura Vida. Taken to mean Pure Life or Full of Living. Every motion of the beautiful country of Costa Rica encompasses their national motto. Their willingness to protect the environment, the rich biodiversity hidden within the rain forest and perfectly peeling waves that aren’t justified by postcard pictures. It’s paradise.

I only spent two weeks in Costa Rica back in February 2015 but I caught the surf-travel bug instantly and was thirsty for more adventures. But after that little stint, I returned to my office job; a high pressured financial services firm which I detested. It caused me a lot of stress, resulting in a deterioration in my mental and physical health, which became quite serious at one point.

Initially, my escape was going to be University but I was dreading it. The idea felt like a dark cloud wallowing over me and wouldn’t go away, when all I could think of was travelling and surfing.

My impulsive decision making saved me. Just two weeks before the university term was commencing, I rang the university to cancel my place. Adrenaline had been pulsing through me, I was filled with anxiety but excitement at the same time and after coming off the phone to the uni I felt lighter and floaty, just like how I felt after sunset yoga in the treehouse in Costa Rica. So I got a new job and started to save for travelling and booked South Africa, Sri Lanka and Indonesia for 2016.

So why did I choose to travel over university?

Sunrise Surfing in Costa Rica

 Why Travel?

Close your eyes.

Picture, in your mind the country or adventure that’s been on your bucket list for too long.

Think about what you want to do there, what you want to learn and what attracts you to travelling.

I don’t need to explain to you why you should travel, you’ve probably justified it for yourself.

For me it was the dream of taking my surfing to a new level, freedom from conforming to societal norms, a chance to learn from new social encounters and cultural experiences and to give myself the chance to regain a more positive state of health.

Change In Motivation

Travelling turned my aspirations upside down. Before I went on my various adventures I was very driven by getting good grades, a first-class degree, landing a peachy job and having a ‘comfortable life’.

That all doesn’t seem so important now. I sometimes worry I’ve become soft and lazy because I don’t have the same aspirations of others my age, but what motivates me now is making a positive work life balance, keeping myself in good health and doing my best to help others. Maybe it’s because of the simple lifestyle you make for yourself when you’re travelling, the exposure to nature and raw environments and seeing how unsustainable ‘more developed’ areas of the world are, that caused this change. There are more important things in life than financial success.

Perfect Mal Pais Peelers – Costa Rica

 Why Uni? The Reality Check

All of the above sounds great and dreamy, but the world I’d carved out for myself came crashing down when September came around and travels came to an end. I had the opportunity to go away again for the winter season to Sri Lanka but I picked university.

So why, this time round, was it university instead? I realised I couldn’t use travelling as a quick fix. It wasn’t a sustainable way of living for me; taking on dead end jobs which I hated then escaping abroad time and time again. I wanted to do something more, something where I could see myself making a more positive contribution and finding a more sustainable balance. I researched internships and jobs in the charity and green sectors where I could work worldwide but the same word kept coming up in the criteria. Degree.

I needed some sort of higher education qualification as even more people were attaining them. Achieving one myself, will not give me an advantage over other people and won’t guarantee me anything; but it will keep my head above water and open new gateways. As much as I wanted a chilled/stress free way of life and to ‘live in the moment’ I did need to do some planning ahead.

Finding the Uni/Travel Balance

So after 3 deferrals, 3 rounds of applications and 4 course switches, I’m at uni doing my degree. Surprisingly, I’ve landed on my feet, living in Cornwall and surfing in between lectures. I’m getting my head down and studying, working for Ticket to Ride (thanks guys), swimming and gyming when I’m not surfing.

I’ve adopted more of a work hard play hard attitude. If I work hard I can still travel and get qualifications at the same time. This October I’ll be working in Spain with Ticket to Ride, I have the opportunity to work in Meribel at the Ticket to Ride Mountain Lodge over my Christmas break and Sri Lanka over Easter. But travel doesn’t have to mean you have to get on a plane and jet off to some exotic palm tree bearing paradise. In the last yearI’ve explored more of Cornwall than anywhere else. Through University I’m making travelling opportunities more sustainable in the long term.

You can make university into your own experience and reap the benefits from it however you wish. But it’s not for everyone. I don’t think it’s for me, but in a really weird strange way it’s helping me get my Pura Vida feeling back by finding better life balance between work and travelling.

Where do we go from here?

My advice to anyone, who’s unsure whether university is for them, is to go travelling. If you are intending to go to university, take a gap year before to go travelling, that’s invaluable experience you won’t get in a lecture theater. If you are planning on traveling, then go on a surfing adventure. When you’re at University, plan your next trip.

But if travelling doesn’t motivate you, find what does and get a good balance in your life. Live a life ‘full of life’ just like the Costa Ricans and make everything into your own experience, don’t live by other people’s experiences.

Pura Vida maaae