BY ROB HOFFMAN
The phrase “I just wanna get my degree under my belt, but I’m going to do a ton of traveling after university” gets passed around amongst university students more often than a joint at a Tommy Chong barbecue.
Understandably, this is a common perspective when first pursuing post-secondary schooling. Everyone else is shipping off to brainiac-boot camp, and the idea of packing your life in a bag and hoofing it through a series of unfamiliar countries—without a plan and with just a few months worth of savings— is a prospect seemingly similar to announcing to your university-bound colleagues “I’ve decided to become a garbage man!”
Of course, not going to university right away doesn’t mean you’re destined for the factory line. However, the fear of falling behind combined with parental pressure and herd mentality make “playing it safe” the more comfortable alternative to social stigma coupled with self-doubt. Today, the concept of pursuing schooling after travel never even comes to mind.
However, understanding the bolded line between the definitions of schooling and education, is it really “safer” to pursue schooling before travel?
Travel is one of the most clear-cut routes to discovering your passion and broadening your perspective exponentially.
Career and lifestyle choices are intrinsically connected, but today are collectively valued in that order. The capitalist social engineering slogan reads; a career is principal and lifestyle obeys.
Pursuing an educational path before you understand your passion is like starting the second level of a house before you have built the foundation.
After all, how are you going to know what you want to do in life, before you’ve even seen what you can do in life?
True travellers understand that travelling is not about the finish line, but about the moments of the marathon—realizing that each breath is significant. A journey is a run-on sentence composed of small islands of adventure. In truth, adventure is the most practical form of education. It is learn or burn.
When you travel each moment has the capacity to humble your perspective and expand your resourcefulness
You learn the value of people and the importance of social skills, the flexibility of your own capabilities and the capacity to be humbled by your surroundings— which is the only way to fully absorb them. Essentially, these are the three branches to understanding how you can best contribute to a society. A few months of unrestricted exploration, savage resourcefulness, and meeting minds with strangers will inspire the sort of thinking you won’t find among the cataleptic creatures of your sleepy hometown.
That’s worth restating: Traveling is not just about discovering the world, it is largely about discovering yourself.
Too often, people make crude decisions about “what they want to do in life”, choosing the career which seems to yield the least amount of immediate boredom, rather than one they are truly passionate about. This terrible misunderstanding is the root of post-secondary boredom and depression, both symptoms of apathy towards arbitrarily paving a path that you must later walk on.
Of course not everyone needs travel to discover his or her passion. There are a minority of lucky individuals who are discovered by their passion. However, the chances that one will know the direction of their calling at 17 years old having only witnessed a peephole of options is much like an amnesia patient hiking in the backcountry without a compass— most walk straight until they starve.
Traveling is not just about discovering the world, it is largely about discovering yourself.
With the projection of tuition for Ontario post-secondary schools to reach $9,483 by 2017, according to a recent report by The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, schooling is a financial commitment that most people can only break their backs for once.
If you’re simply looking to “get it under your belt”, chances are you’re not ready to enroll or you have been seduced by one too many reruns of Animal House.
Advice from an honor student turned university dropout—take some time to travel to understand yourself, the size of the world, and the scope of your options, so that when you do undertake a formal education, you’re seeking a surplus of knowledge that you can apply—not just a degree to apply with.
Education is not inherently boring. And if you’re often falling asleep in class, don’t be fooled and hopeful: that 4-year span of excruciatingly mundane schoolwork isn’t career initiation; it’s a just warm-up for a lifetime of dissatisfaction.