Live for today, travel tomorrow

Yes, you should totally blow your financial aid and have as much fun with it as you can. Why not? We have the rest of our lives to pay this debt off, right? Soon enough we will all scurry about to our varied occupations; work our wonderful, young fingers to the bone; our beautiful, youthful faces will become wrinkled and ugly; our opinions will become dated. The life we now so studiously piss away amidst textbooks and coffee will seem but a dream so long ago.

We will say things like "I remember when…" or "When I was young…" etc. And how will you finish these sentences? What will be you stories from college? Will you say, "It was fun, but I mostly just studied a lot?" Boring. Your college years can be a wonderland of decadence, drunkenness and travel, if you just play your cards right.

"What can I do?" you say.

Well, you have to start by securing the funds. This is as easy as one, two, three, and it goes like this. One: apply for financial aid (if that doesn’t work, get your parents to sign off on "parent-plus" loans). Two: arrange to receive your funds (which now requires a bit of maneuvering thanks to Higher One). Three: spend as impulsively as possible until all of your easy money is gone.

Once you get the money squared away, you should begin to consider ways to blow through it. The best way is to travel, and with Spring Break coming up, allow me these suggestions.

I think it’s easy to forget that there are a number of cities on the West Coast that can be easily accessed for a relatively insignificant amount of green paper. I have visited Seattle; Vancouver, B.C.; San Francisco and Los Angeles in the past year, and you can too. Live a little.

Start simple with Seattle.
Estimated cost of this trip: $150 – $250. When you’re there, stay at the Ace Hotel. With rooms starting at $65, this centrally located hotel is sexy and inexpensive. The nightlife in Seattle is a lot like Portland, but a little less cool. During the day if you have any money left from a night of drinking and eating, you can visit the Experience Music Project, the Space Needle or the aquarium. If you’re broke, there is the Pike Place Market (Who doesn’t enjoy seeing raw fish thrown around like Frisbees?) or the Science Museum, where you can go into a room full of tropical butterflies that flutter around like beautiful, little flying flowers.

Next, head north to Vancouver, B.C.
Estimated cost: $250 – $350 for a weekend. The best way to do a trip like Vancouver is to get a group of non-felon friends to share in gas money and hotel costs. Although the city may seem a bit boring, there are a number of redeeming qualities, like the Vancouver Aquarium, which houses the most beautiful sea cows, dolphins and the like. The best place to stay here is the Tropicana Hotel. This dilapidated, ’70s-style hotel is dirt cheap. It’s around $100 for a two-bedroom suite. Also at the Tropicana is a basement swimming pool painted like a tropical island, complete with sand bars, palm trees and parrots.

Now that you’re ready for a really good time, go to San Francisco.
Estimated cost: including airfare, $400 for a weekend (if you can stay with friends). In my opinion, San Francisco is probably the most beautiful city in the country. The hills, architecture, bridges and Mission district murals set it apart. San Francisco is also the oldest city on the West Coast so there is a sense of history and culture everywhere you go. Some fun things to do here are record shopping at Amoeba, drinking at the Phone Booth and Pops, eating the best breakfast in the city at Just for You, the best dinner at Blow Fish, and the best sausage at Rosa Monday. During the day you can just wander around the Mission and look at the murals, visit the stinky Sea Lions and chubby tourists at Fisherman’s Warf, go to Alcatraz or visit the newly remodeled SF MOMA.

Go big, go Los Angeles.
Estimated cost: including airfare, $450.00 for a weekend (if you can stay with friends). Los Angeles is kind of lame, but the weather is great and you can probably run into famous people (yippee!). Here you can visit all the crazies on Venice Beach, go shopping on Melrose or get a hot dog at Pink’s. At night choose among a bunch of bars that are all filled with similar L.A. types. Generally this city is a bore, though parts of Echo Park are pretty fun.

I supposed you could just put your money in the bank and graduate with a few thousand dollars less in debts to pay back, but then again when your peephole to the world seals up, what’s another stack of paper money going to do for you then?