Suggested listening while reading: Dirty Paws by Of Monsters and Men
Two years ago today, after dropping out of college and during what would have been my 4th year at the University of Michigan, I went to Iceland for the first time after watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
I’d planned to go alone but on the night before the flight, my friend Katie Reed called me to ask if I could go skiing that weekend. I told her my plans, and she and a friend, Maya Serkin, booked their tickets last minute. Sometimes the best laid plans were never laid at all.
The trip ended up being the start of almost two years of non-stop travel that would take me all over the world and see my flying over 125,000 miles per year while I would have been in school.
I’m taking a “break” from travel for the most part, but the trip to Iceland and the other trips I would end up taking were some of the most fun experiences of my life. I made amazing new friends, worked remotely on Praxis, spoke at dozens of events, learned to love and appreciate America in a way I had never done before, and cured myself of the insufferable travel bug that infects so many of today’s youth.
And I did it all debt free while paying less than college tuition before most of my peers graduated and while skipping boring, soul sucking classes.
I meet students regularly nowadays who are bored in college and want to travel but who will ultimately shackle themselves with debt and find themselves unable to afford to do what I did. I spoke with a young girl a few years ago who told me she had so much debt that she would be lucky at her current salary to be able to start traveling when she was in her mid-30s.
This is tragic. Young people go to school because they’re told it’s the only way to achieve a particular goal only to find that the debt and lost time prevents them from achieving that goal.
This is of course not to say that you should skip college just to travel. If I had to choose between traveling and working during those few years, I would have chosen work every time. There is nothing that will help you find out what you’re made of more than being accountable to creating value on a job. I was simply fortunate that I was able to build a career working remotely and had the income to afford to do whatever I wanted to do and to excuse to visit places as a speaker.
But if you are in college now and you do want to travel when you graduate, why wait? Too often the goals we put off become goals we never achieve. For a fraction of the cost of tuition, you can have now the thing you think you want after you graduate.
Tim Ferriss has a great question he asks in The 4-Hour Workweek that helped me make the decision to leave school:
What is it costing you — financially, emotionally and physically — to postpone action? If you don’t pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in one year, five years, and ten years?
The answer for me was a dark one, so I made the jump and it’s made all the difference.
Funny enough, if you do this, you’ll find like I did that doing something different, doing anything different than your average young adult, speaks magnitudes more about you as a person and a professional than a college degree does. If you learn to speak about your experiences like a salesman, people will see what you did, like they see my years of travel, as an asset.
Our trip Iceland ended up as one of the more memorable ones of my life. We spent two days exploring Reykjavik, driving the Golden Circle, eating good food, trying to find the Northern lights, and growing enamored with the strange beauty of the island in winter.
To think I could have been in a fluorescent lightbulb lit classroom taking classes I hated with a professor who didn’t want to be there…