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Vagabond generation

By Jiang Yuxia (Global Times)

10:50, June 27, 2013

Fan Chang jumps in Tingri County in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Frustrated when he was turned down from a master's program, Fan Chang decided to take his life on the road for a few months.

With only 500 yuan ($81) in his pocket, the 22-year-old graduate of Jia­xing University in Zhejiang Province hitchhiked to the Huihang Ancient Way in neighboring Anhui Province in May 2012 to begin his journey. The 13-month adventure took him across China and southeast Asia as he earned money doing odd jobs along the way. He faced multiple near-death experiences, one coming on only day two, when he nearly slipped off a 1,800-meter cliff, but was saved when his backpack hooked onto some rocks.

Speaking over the phone from his home province of Hubei, the wanderlust said he was happy to conclude his gap year travels earlier this month.

Settling down and getting a job don't frighten him like they did before.

"I was arrogant and restless ... before I set off on my journey. Now I've become much stronger," Fan said. "I've embraced the responsibilities and the love from my family and friends that I ignored before. I feel ready to return to a normal life with a settled mind."

Fan is part of a growing contingent of young people in China seeking adventure in their early 20s. Instead of taking stable jobs, more are opting for exotic experiences after graduation or a few years after joining the workforce.

The current job market may be contributing to the recent rise of this travel trend. According to the Ministry of Education, the number of college grads hit a new high this year at 7 million, up 190,000 from last year. While there are about 9 million jobs created this year, college grads have to vie for employment against 16 million other job-seekers, according to Beijing-based magazine Caijing. Those who don't want to fight for a spot are looking for an alternative.

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