Instead of delving into a 9-to-5 pace, Colleen Kinder sought out a national fellowship that took her to Cuba. The 2003 Yale graduate spent her first year out of college marching with students opposed to Fidel Castro, volunteering in a nursing home, salsa dancing and writing. She received an offer to publish a book midway through her adventure, a book that would spur young people to look beyond the cubicle and revel in possibility.
"Delaying the Real World: A Twentysomething's Guide to Seeking Adventure" (Running Press Book Publishers, 2005, $12.95) invites recent grads to redefine the "real world" by creating their own life-changing adventures. Written as a guidebook, "Delaying" draws on anecdotes that span the gamut of post-grad opportunities––from entertaining on a cruise ship to leading spiritual service projects in rural communities.
Five years after the book's publication, its ideas, resources and stories continue to inspire recent grads to seize their 20s as a prime, possibility-filled decade.
Broken into seven chapters that cover international opportunities, outdoor pursuits, volunteer ventures, careers in creative arts, and how to reframe living in one's hometown again, "Delaying" suggests that "you can never go wrong in doing what you love, because it will only lead you further into your passion."
While some of the listed websites and suggested programs are outdated, and critics argue that Kinder writes from a position of privilege, "Delaying" is based on ten optimistic pillars––timeless words of wisdom for any 20-something:
1. Thou shall not rush in vain. Don't fear taking a year to rediscover yourself and explore new avenues.
2. Remember what year you're living in and keep it holy. Don't dwell on where you'll be in 20 years; focus on the present.
3. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's salary. Be yourself and do what you need to do to be happy.
4. Vary, vary, not the contrary! Just because you majored in finance doesn't mean you're destined to be an accountant. Diversify, dabble and discover.
5. Blessed are the adventurous, for they will stay that way (and inherit the earth). Those who take risks and get out of their comfort zones will to lead more interesting lives.
6. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Google search. We have the blessing of more than enough information to sift through.
7. If it seems like a long shot, then definitely shoot long. What do you have to lose?
8. If money is standing in your way, plow it down. There's no adventure that can't be funded through grunt work. Think of money as a challenge, not an excuse.
9. Just do it. In the end, it's up to you to make the adventure happen.
10. Redefine real. Live by your own rules and create the 20s of which you dream.
Since her year in Cuba, Kinder has obtained a master of fine arts degree in nonfiction writing; been published widely in the United States; and traversed the globe with academic grants, taking up residency in Iceland, Mexico and New Hampshire.
Her advice to restless and eager 20-somethings? "Read on, dream big, be gutsy, and make your 20s the sweetest decade of your life."