When I graduated from college, like so many others, I was up to my neck in student loans and bills, and didn’t have the faintest idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I had grabbed my diploma, walked off the commencement stage, and started looking at entry level positions, only for panic to set in…every single job had the most unrealistic expectations of fresh college grads.
I realized the process of finding the right job was going to take some time, and I’d need a temporary gig, something flexible that would facilitate my search. That’s when a friend told me about Lyft, the tech company he was working for in San Francisco. This was late 2013, and Lyft was in its infancy. I wasn't really familiar with the ride share service, but I knew it had something to do with taxis and large fluorescent pink mustaches.
I applied, interviewed, got hired, and was on the road. At first, I was a little sketched out by the idea of letting complete strangers in my car, but within 2 weeks, I realized Lyft was the answer to my prayers, because driving meant freedom. I could work whenever I wanted to, for however long I wanted to, and take time off whenever I wanted to; I was liberated. But it wasn’t the flexibility that made Lyft so special, it was the community.
It was apparent that Lyft had dedicated concerted effort to market their service with a focus on community and camaraderie, calling itself ‘your friend with a car,' and that really resonated with people. Most of the time, passengers would hop in my front seat and trade perspectives with me for 15 minutes. I quickly realized the platform had incredible utility as a research tool that I could use to help narrow my job search focus.
I began working commuter hours every day, bringing people to and from work asking them questions like, “What did you study in college? What did your first postgraduate position entail? What would you have done differently? What are your biggest regrets?” I gave rides to people of all walks of life, from every culture and industry, yet there was an overwhelming consensus on each person's biggest regret; that they had started their careers immediately after college.
I lost track of how many people told me that they wished they had taken advantage of the transitional period between university and career to embark upon an adventure. It was like clockwork; I’d ask, “What was your biggest regret?” to which they would reply, “I should have traveled more.” Before their career got serious. Before they went to grad school. Before they got married. Before they had kids. Before they bought a house.
Before life happened.
I’m stubborn as hell. But after the umpteenth person told me they should have traveled more, I decided to listen. Only one problem...I’d never left the country in my entire life, and had no idea where to start. I put a notebook my car, and changed my line of questions; now I asked people, “What is your favorite place in the world to travel?” Their eyes would light up as a rush of memories came back to them, and they’d excitedly jot down destinations, advice, and incredible messages. My mind was made up; my career search would be put on the back burner, and instead my goal was to travel the world, for as long as possible, and return with the education and perspective that only an adventure can provide.
I crunched the numbers, if I was gonna pull it off, I had to be extreme. I stopped spending money on anything but the essentials. No more eating at restaurants, no more drinking or partying, and no more hanging out with my friends. I Lyfted like crazy, sometimes up to 80 hours in a single week. Every action I took would either move me closer or farther away from my dream of backpacking across the globe. Every action was a foot placed firmly on the gas pedal, or on the brakes.
I had to be able to pay San Francisco rent, along with all my other bills, and still save up enough money to travel for what became a 6 month adventure around the world. And if I was going to be gone 6 months, not only would I need enough cash for those 6 months, but I’d need 7 months worth of additional student loan payments, as well as prepaying 7 months of my cell phone bill.
If you dream of traveling like this, I’m here to tell you that it requires just two things; relentless work ethic, and an unwillingness to take no for an answer. I paid rent to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, working a job that didn’t even require a high school diploma, while continuing to climb out of student debt, and was able to accomplish my dream because I believed in my heart of hearts it could be done.
Don’t let anyone or anything stop you, be it circumstance or opinions from friends or family who think you’re out of your mind. You’re not. People will judge you. They'll question you. They'll call you self indulgent, irresponsible, childish, reckless, and may accuse you of 'running away.' You're not. You're running to. You have every right to live a life of excitement and adventure, because we are all food for worms, and we must make this journey through mortality special.
If you’ve just finished school, you have 6 months before your student loans begin to accrue interest. I highly recommend driving for Lyft, saving as much as you can for 3 months, and I PROMISE you will have enough to travel for at least 3 months, if you’re dedicated, detail oriented, and budget properly.
You can sign up to be a Lyft driver by clicking here.
And if you’ve never used Lyft, you can get $50 in free ride credits by clicking here.