Before you graduate college you should probably know…

Kelly Skahan

Being a 20-something is a daunting task. Everyone tells you these are supposed to be the best years of your life; you’ll meet your best friends, create ridiculous stories to tell your grandkids and get out of trouble more times than you can count.

Unfortunately, the economy is kind of putting a damper on your plans for adventures right now. Backpacking through Europe? Scratch that. Road tripping across the country? Sorry, buddy. Taking a year off to explore the world? Try again.

Regardless of your post-graduate dreams, you’re still going to need to finance your survival, and going hostel-hopping in the Mediterranean doesn’t exactly pay the bills.

Lucky for you, there are ways you can have some pretty great adventures after college without neglecting those pesky student loan payments. In fact, you can even take advantage of those same three post-graduate dreams if you slightly alter your methods.

Take the European back-packing trip for example. Though your finances may limit your chances of running with the bulls in Pamplona and throwing tomatoes in Valencia, you can still do Europe in style if you pick the right companions. The ideal travel buddies? High school kids. Your alma mater is probably hurting for chaperones willing to make sure a bunch of juniors and seniors don’t make complete fools of themselves in Europe over the summer. Lots of schools have month-long programs touring Spain, Italy, Ireland, England, France or Germany for foreign language, art or history credits. Call up your high school, and see what they have planned. You’ll likely be a saving grace when you volunteer to keep an eye on the kids, and the school will probably let you tag along for a discounted price. While this definitely puts a damper on your crazy ‘Euro Trip’-esque fantasies, you’ll still get to see the sites for cheap and put some volunteer experience on your resumé while you’re at it.

The road trip is a slightly more difficult dream to make a reality without spending a load of cash. With the economy all topsy-turvy these days, gas might be $2 per gallon one day and $5 per gallon the next, so don’t bank on being able to pay for that all by yourself. To fulfill this dream, you’re going to have to offer up your services again. is chock full of people who need help moving, and a lot of them are trying to get a car from one state to the next. You could find somebody in Philly (or New York or Boston or wherever you like for that matter) who needs to get to Texas or the Midwest or the West Coast, and see if they’re willing to pay you to drive their car for them. Arrangements vary; usually you’ll need to find your own way home, but they’ll also pay for gas and lodging since you’re saving them the pain of getting a car from one place to the next.

If driving a stranger’s car is too sketchy for you, see if someone will at least split the cost of an epic road trip with you. Got a friend who is taking a job across the country? Tell him or her you’ll help drive if the two of you go 50/50 on gas and hotels. You’ll get to see the country, visit all the tourist trips and bond with somebody post-graduation for half-price.

Finally, there really is a way to see the world after graduation without breaking the bank, and you can find it right through Villanova by taking a year off to volunteer after graduation. Want to travel without worrying about a passport? Jesuit Volunteers Northwest gives you the opportunity to live in Alaska for up to two years as a volunteer, and AmeriCorps will give you a stipend to volunteer in hundreds of communities around the country.

Interested in a more exotic locale? Rostro de Cristo lets you volunteer in Ecuador, and Amigos de Jesus gives you the chance to work at an orphanage in Honduras. While you won’t exactly be circling the globe in 80 days, you’ll visit exotic places and help out some of the most needy communities in the world, and that makes for the travel experience of a lifetime.