Post-grad plan: Five years abroad
By Sarah Van Zanten
Where in the world is Ben Kaplan? This week, Nicaragua, trekking around on his rusted, gearless one-pedal bicycle, dodging cows, goats, horses and stray dogs to reach a fishing village hotel with the only Internet access within an hour’s distance so he can post to his Facebook fan page and his travel blog, the aptly named Where in the World is Ben Kaplan?
Next week he might land in a different village, town, country or continent. Hard to tell. Because Kaplan ’09 has left the United States and does not intend to move back before 2014. He graduated with a degree in business administration, an emphasis in marketing and a dream of traveling the world. His goal is to finish a five-year world tour with more money than he started with, by working his way around the world through any means possible. Kaplan’s global trek is a smashup of travel lust, journal and business plan.
“My friend said the other day, ‘Ben, why do you dream to the stars? Don’t your goals seem a little out of reach?’ and my response was, ‘And you what, dream to the floor?’ Look, you have nothing to lose. Find what makes you happy, and do it!”
In addition to the blog, which he hopes Chapman friends will visit for updates, he’s thinking ahead.
“I want to inspire people and help them realize anything is possible. My dream is to become an inspirational/motivational speaker after all of my travels,” Kaplan says.
The 23-year-old got the travel bug after living in the U.S. Virgin Islands during summer 2008 and followed that with a semester abroad in Panama his senior year, with help from the Chapman Study Abroad Program.
“I think programs like Study Abroad are so important, it is an amazing experience to actually live in the country. You are there, living, and completely immersing yourself in the culture, transportation, daily life and language,” said Kaplan, a California native.
“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘dream like a child, make decisions like an adult.’ When we were children, we believed we could accomplish anything. … I decided I wanted to travel the world. However, because I’m not a millionaire (yet), I needed to find a way to make it work financially.”
But he says he has an in-born entrepreneurial spirit, having earned his first $100 bill at the age of five by collecting loose change, selling artwork to family and attempting to dance on the street for tips.
Before leaving the United States for his five-year trip, Kaplan knew he needed a base of savings to cover initial costs. He sold his car, most of his belongings and even plasma twice a week, setting off for Israel on graduation night. In Israel he modeled, waited tables on the beach and worked as a television sports host for an English-language program that aired during the 2009 Maccabiah Israel Games.
And Kaplan is a master telecommuter, at times waiting tables by day and working as a freelance marketing specialist by night.
Traveling the world as an English-only speaker might seem difficult to many, but Kaplan is thriving. He has volunteered in Panama and Nicaragua teaching English, improving his own Spanish along the way. He plans to teach English during his next trip, living in Mumbai, India, along with networking to land a job in a hostel or restaurant in the city.
“I plan to stay completely away from Europe for the first three years,” Kaplan said. “I have nothing against Europe, but the cost of living is high and the culture is more similar to the United States than a place like India. For my first three years I want to live in countries that are completely different and have a lower cost of living. By doing this, I plan to save as much money as I can to fund living in Europe.”
Kaplan plans to finish his travels in Italy, where he intends to earn a master’s in business administration in Milan. If all goes according to plan, he will complete his goals by 2014.
“Wherever I end up after all this, my goal is to help people. In a big or small way, I want to help change the world in a positive way.”