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Want a Useful Education? Skip University.

by Globetrooper Todd | 9 Responses
Education Abroad

We enter this world as newborns with an insatiable curiosity. Because suddenly, snatched from the comfort of the womb, we’re dropped into this foreign world where everything is new: the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, everything.

But as we grow, and as we ‘mature’, our environment becomes familiar. We can no longer just open our eyes to find a world of discovery; we must manufacture it. So we end up entertaining ourselves with university, careers, and heaven help us, reality TV.

Surely there’s more…

The Problem

The last straw is when you catch yourself saying, “Wow, you learn something new everyday”. Because people don’t say this as a statement of fact; they say it when they’re honestly surprised to learn something new. Personally, I think it’s a grave travesty when learning becomes so unexpected.

The Solution

So how do we re-visit that day when we left the womb; the day when life wasn’t such a grind and the world really was our freshly-shucked oyster? Simple… We travel.

When you open your eyes in another dimension (let’s imagine Calcutta, Cairo or Cartagena) you’re not clutching for the odd life lesson, you’re completely swamped by a world of contrasts. As you look in any direction, you see a world of humanity and life, rather than a world of financial derivatives, legal contracts and diet books.

The Case Study

Life is a Road When Lauren and I first arrived in Montreal, we found ourselves learning like children again. Everywhere we looked, we thought, “We should do it this way at home”, or, “Are these people nuts, why don’t they do it this way?” There were countless lessons, and this was only Canada (quite possibly the most similar country on the planet to our homeland, Australia).

When we visited the Middle East and Africa… well, let’s just say we’d been living with our eyes half-closed for 20+ years. And I don’t mean closed to struggle, I mean closed to fulfillment, community and adventure.

The Curriculum

But the real lessons of travel (which aren’t taught on campus) show that your values have less to do with Lamborghinis and more to do with making a difference, exploring the unknown, and of course, spending time with honest and thoughtful people.

It may sound defeatist to look the other way of modern consumerism, but then it sounds pretty insane to voluntarily live in a prison (be it a cubicle, suburbia, an actual prison, etc.).

The Pre-requisites

Thankfully, and somewhat ironically, there are no entrance exams for an Education on the Road. Because to subsist on the road is an education in itself. So the only pre-requisite is a thirst to know what’s really out there.

In all seriousness though, imagine yourself post-MBA. Then compare that to yourself post-long-term-round-the-world-discovery. Which version of you would better grasp global issues? Which version would know how to make a positive impact? And which version would know what it means to lead a fulfilling life?

Apply Now

Where do I start? Start with these: The Great Circular Indian Railway ChallengeA Trip to TimbuktuTrips visiting North Africa and Trips through Indo China

Posted in How-To Guides, Travel Hacking | July 19th, 2010

9 Responses to Want a Useful Education? Skip University.

  1. I agree with the premise of this post, though I must say what I most value learning in college wasn’t the curriculum, but rather the social relationships I made. For that reason alone I believe college is worthwhile. Really enjoyed this, thanks.

    • Hey Keith, thanks for dropping by. Loved college too. Don’t think travel is a replacement, but certainly a complement (wish I’d done it sooner rather than later though). What I miss most about college is walking in at 10am, sun blaring, seeing students lying on the grass reading thoughtful literature. You know, the epitome of “taking it easy”. I’d grab my spot and “take it easy” too. I miss that peace of mind.

  2. I agree, it’s incredible how much you learn when travelling – we almost take it for granted. You are constantly learning about new cultures as well as picking up new languages and skills along the way. In our case we have the additional learning experience of going freelance and making a living as digital nomads. That’s a big learning curve!

    • Hey Erin. Totally agree about the freelancing part. It’s a monumental challenge to make your own money like that. I know too many people with multiple business degrees that have never earned a dollar of their own. Until you try, you just don’t realise how tough it is. But what a real-world experience hey?

      Love your blog by the way, especially your write-up about Kerala, which we’ll be visiting soon ( One day, when I’m feeling really daring, I’d like to write a provocative piece on democracy vs. communism.

      All the best, Todd (hope we accidentally on-purpose bump into you guys soon)

  3. I left home when I was 18, spent a year in England, came back in France at 19. I started university but all I could do while being stuck in the classroom was looking through the window and wondering what was out there. All it got me to learn was how to deal with depression.

    I left home again when I was 20. I have now been in Seoul – South Korea for 2 years. I have met people that I never thought I would ever have the chance to meet. I learned things about myself and the world that I would never have learned back in this stupid classroom. And I have spent such a quality time learning from all these people I have met.

    Now this is time for me to go home again.
    Though I have travelled, I have also been studying.
    I am studying economics thanks to a parisian university that provides a bachelor’s degree in econ/management with a correspondance option.
    As a result, I have been able to see the world but I still had the chance to not give up on the career I once wanted to have. A career that will hopefully take me wherever I want to in the near future. And if I don’t end up doing what I want to do, I gained enough confidence in myself to be able to just pack my bag and hit the road again.

    • Leslie-Anne, what a great comment. I especially love the line, “All it got me to learn was how to deal with depression.” It’s great to hear a story about someone following their whims and wishes. We’d love to hear how the next chapter goes, whether you’re able to settle down or whether you set of for a new adventure. All the best. Maybe we’ll bump into each other on the road.

  4. My adventures are not about to stop, not for a very long time at least. I’m going to volunteer at an orphanage in Nepal next summer. And for this year ahead of me starting September till my going to Nepal, I’m going to travel and enjoy where I come from: Europe and France (surprisingly enough, I don’t know my own country that well…).

    The world is indeed a small place, so see you in the middle of Saudi Arabia someday! =)

  5. Namaste !!!Greetings from Nepal!!!
    Leslie-Anne,Nice to hearing about that,If you Need any help about Nepal please contact me.I would like to help to you.

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