Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

  Wanderjahr

One European cultural habit I truly admire is the concept of "wanderjahr", where a young student takes a break from college or trade school and tours the world.

My friend and former colleague Ed Skinner had commented on my blog a while back while I was feeling frustrated and depressed about the state of America and my role in it, and written something rather profound, which he expands upon here, beautifully.

I keep seeing politician after politician promise subsidies of one form or another to higher education, or trying to get the government out of education, or further into it... while the declining dollar makes it ever harder for Americans to travel. There are still plenty of low-cost places to stay throughout the world, if you are flexible, and willing to live without air conditioning and cook your own food.

Me, I treasure my time spent learning out of school - summer vacations, travel, my current location - far more than I treasure the daily corrosive conforming grind of school.

Absolutely - more people in America (not just the military) should see the world, and (especially) visit places that challenge their precepts. War mongers should visit war zones,
Anarchists, Lebanon, Darfur, or Somalia, Socialists, Hungary, Libertarians, Nicaragua, Democrats, Venezuela, Republicans, China. Stay a while. Learn the language. Talk to people. See things from their perspective.

While subsidies and tax breaks for education are legion, breaks for travel are not, unless done for business. I don't advocate tax breaks for travel, or direct government involvement, there are other options. After all, a trip around the world, planned carefully, costs far less than a semester at a good school, even at current exchange rates. You can even work your way around the world, and stay away from incurring those massive college loans for a while. A cultural shift would be required... "Son, I want you to grow up, and see the world".

A year spent on the road is good for the mind and cleansing for the soul.

I don't know anyone that has traveled that hasn't come back profoundly changed by the experience.

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Comments:
Besides Hostels, couchsurfing.com bewelcome.com and hospitalityclub.com are great resources for cheap places to stay!
 
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