I'm sorry, I just don't buy it. If you want to backpack across Europe right after you graduate college, before joining the workaday world, what is stopping you, other than you?
I was listening to NPR the other day and one of the stories claimed it's no longer feasible for recent college graduates to undertake this right-of-passage. The stated reason? Economics. Oh baloney. Unless you put yourself hundreds of thousands of $$ in debt to go to college (and whose doing was that?) or you expect your parents to finance the trip, what is so radically different about the economic situation now than it was when I graduated? In constant dollars, youth hostels cost no more now than they did in 1971. Yes, inflation has made stuff cost more but that goes for everything, not just backpacking trips. So what's different? Work hard the summer after you graduate, save all that $$, and go. Come back when you're out of $$.
My wife's niece and her future husband did exactly this just a few years back. At the risk of sounding more cranky than I already do, I'm going to guess that the producers of this NPR story either talked to the wrong young people (maybe some whose version of backpacking includes hotels, foie gras, and other amenities?) or their research let them down. I recall several people telling me I was foolish to hitchhike across country in the late 70's. I didn't listen and I'm glad for having followed my own instincts vs. the conventional wisdom. When someone wants to indulge their wanderlust, they find a way.