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What’s the most eye-opening trip you’ve taken?
April 17, 2014 3:39 PM   Subscribe

This summer, I’ll be deciding whether I’ll be continuing with college, or if I want to leave and go into the real world and learn on my own. So I want to see the real world and get some perspective. What trips have you guys done that have been really eye-opening and meaningful?

I actually did a round-the-world trip about a year ago, and recently enrolled back in college after dropping out for a few years. But I haven’t really seen much of the world outside of the library and my apartment, which has been really frustrating. I’d like to get that worldly perspective once more—so I’m curious where you guys have gone that really meant a lot to you.
posted by markbao to Travel & Transportation (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not really clear what you're asking for here. You went on a round the world trip a year ago, but "...haven't seen much of the world outside the library and [my] apartment..." - one of these things is not like the other.
How did your trip change you? What might you have done differently? Sorry to turn the questions back on you, but I just don't know what to add.
posted by dbmcd at 3:49 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


It wasn't a trip that really opened my eyes, but two other things.

First, taking summer classes at a community college because I was bored (between "regular" college semesters. Now, I got my degree from a white bread private college that cost $$$$. Contrast that with evening classes at a community college where you have a diverse student population in terms of: age, race, economic background, educational background, reasons for being there, etc. For a group project I was paired with a woman around my age (20ish) who was on wellfare, had a kid or two, had a fast food job, lived with some kind of extended family, all the stereotypes. But when I went over to her house to work on the group project (her car was busted so she couldn't meet somewhere else, plus she had to watch kids) it turned out she was really smart. And you know, that surprised me because of prejudices I didn't even realize I had.

Second, working "blue collar" jobs during summers and school breaks and before grad school. Office jobs are this ridiculous fish bowl of life. I can't even explain it--they are unreal. But working jobs where you are working with people, serving them, getting your hands dirty, etc., that is more real world. I was a substitute teacher for a semester in a "bad district" and that tought me more life lessons than all the traveling I've ever done.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 3:53 PM on April 17 [7 favorites]


I'm not really clear what you're asking for here. You went on a round the world trip a year ago, but "...haven't seen much of the world outside the library and [my] apartment..." - one of these things is not like the other.
Just trying to give some background. I did a lot of travel before, but now I'm not really seeing a lot of the world because I'm so busy with school :P
How did your trip change you? What might you have done differently? Sorry to turn the questions back on you, but I just don't know what to add.
Totally valid question. I think my trip gave me good perspective on what kind of problems people face in different countries and conditions. I work in the tech industry, and traveling made me expand my mental model of the scale of problems, like what problems are common among many people and are important, and what problems affect only a small amount of the population.
posted by markbao at 3:57 PM on April 17


Another approach would be to dig in locally to some aspect of your own city's population that you're not familiar with--volunteering with homeless people, teenage mothers, etc. etc. Assuming you're used to a certain way of life, you definitely don't have to go to another country to have your eyes opened.
posted by three_red_balloons at 4:10 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


now I'm not really seeing a lot of the world because I'm so busy with school

It sounds like you are trying to come up with an excuse to drop out of school again.

I love traveling and visiting new places that I have only read about and meeting the other travelers and locals on my way. But I also recognize when I have professional/academic commitments that I have to follow through on rather than travel.
posted by deanc at 4:13 PM on April 17 [15 favorites]


Greyhound bus, San Francisco to Atlanta. I guess I was 22. I met people I would not normally know, and we were on there for three full days. This created an intense but short-lived bond, and I heard and told some amazing stories. Plus, I saw the country, saw exactly how big it is, crossed the mountains, saw what it's like to finally get out of the plains and see hills and trees again, all that stuff. I don't want to romanticize it too much, because it was an ordeal, and it got weird and scary a few times. It finished me as a Greyhound bus rider, in fact, but I am glad I did it.
posted by thelonius at 4:16 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


Dude. If your profile is telling the truth, and you're living in New York City and attending Columbia, you are living smack dab in the middle of the real world, and if you aren't seeing anything beyond the walls of your apartment, it's your own damn fault. Classes can be overwhelming, I get that, but a vacation (even one that's dressed up as an 'eye-opening trip') isn't going to change the fact that your Real World Responsibility, right now, is to buckle down and go to class.

One of the things that bothers me about our generation/cultural moment is that we fetishize travel in this ridiculous way - we talk about travel as this thing that Changes Us and Makes Who We Are and Gives Our Life Meaning, when really, 99% of the time, travel is just a thing that people with extra income get to do for fun. I saw an OKCupid profile one time where a guy was like, "Your picture of yourself standing at the top of Machu Piccu doesn't impress me any more than your picture of yourself standing in front of your Ferrari. That's all conspicuous consumption. Show me something you made."

I'm sorry if this is too much tough love/not answering your question, but I really do believe that the real world you seek is right in front of your face. I went to college in NYC and the volunteer opportunities there are unparalleled anywhere in the world. If you have the chance to stick around this summer, please don't buy a plane ticket somewhere far away to gawk at all the poor people. Use that money to pay your rent and then get on the subway and head up to Columbia Presbyterian and volunteer with the kids there (they have an amazing tutoring program) or work the desk at one of the homeless shelters, or...anything. There are a million possibilities. That might open your eyes to the obvious real-world truth that going to college Columbia is an extraordinary privilege, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you really should not waste it.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 4:33 PM on April 17 [82 favorites]


Work a near minimum wage job in a city that is deathly expensive. Survive on your own (have roommates to split costs - but yeah... loans, rent, food - yer on yer own). Rescue a buddy out of a crack den at 3:00AM in Chinatown and drag him home to crash on your couch to make sure he gets to work the next day. Have him defecate on your couch in the drunk/drugged stage. Recognize that there is very little that separates you from that life and your own. Think about raising a kid, and how a kid would fit into this lifestyle.

Given that it sounds like you are in new york, just a few small changes in your summer plans and you will approach your fall semester with a vigor you did not know you possessed hell bent on never working a minimum wage job again with a renewed appreciation for all people and what hard work is.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:29 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


It sounds to me like the real-world experience you want is an escapist Eat Pray Love type of journey, but the real-world experience you actually need is more mundane and closer to home. This is easy to find: talk to people more, take the bus more often and to different places, volunteer or get a part-time retail job, spend a summer on a farm or as a camp counselor or something. Explore your community and see what interesting things you can find.

Truth be told, the first things I learned about the "real world" as opposed to college were unfun things like "you need to wake up at 6 to make it to work on time" and "this friendly fellow on the street is probably a scammer" and "maybe you should have asked about roaches before signing the lease." It's tempting, especially when you're young and have no commitments, to think that some sort of grand journey will change your life. But however wonderful that experience is, at some point you have to come back home and go back to work. The meaning that sticks with us is the one we work on developing every day.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:43 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


The most eye-opening trip I ever took was actually a week-long class trip to Chicago in college. I took a course on Urban and Rural Architecture and, after spending some time in the classroom learning about theory and history and stuff, we drove to Chicago and actually hit the pavement to see some real Urban Architecture.

Dude, my eyes were OPENED. Buildings were no longer just these big things that were built for shelter and for storing all of our stuff. Buildings had stories, lore...they had souls. Chicago windows weren't some sort of whimsical fad. Mies van der Rohe's modernist buildings weren't just big boring simple glass structures, they were revolutionary. I learned how to gauge the age of a neighborhood by the style of windows and rooflines. I was gleeful when I saw an International Style concrete house across the street from a Second Empire Mansion - what a wonderful place Chicago was where you'd see those two facing off. It was like learning a new language. It was awesome. And I'd been to Chicago many, many times before. I had no idea.

Soooo - maybe you don't need to pick up and run off to see the world in a whole new way. Perhaps you can find a way to see your current surroundings through a new lens...take up photography? Or painting or sketching - art'll force you to see things differently. Chat people up and learn what the people in your neighborhood do all day. Volunteer. Journal. Actively go out LOOKING for something new, an adventure. You don't have to go across the world to have your eyes opened.
posted by Elly Vortex at 5:58 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


in 1976 i hitchhiked/hopped freights from los angeles to portland, maine to visit a woman. by the time i got there, she already had another boyfriend, but her lobster fisherman parents treated me like a visiting prince, perhaps aware of the relative merits of...oh well, for a week i got to eat as much lobster as i could, and i saw a lot of america up close along the way.
posted by bruce at 6:05 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Something I've always wanted to do, but never had the dosh for, is to cross Canada by train. Fly as far east as VIA will go, get on, and actually see the country I live in, from coast to coast.

I figure notebooks would be necessary equipment, while laptops and cellphones and whatnot would be unnecessary.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:35 PM on April 17


While I was in graduate school and feeling burned out and in search of something else to distract me in the meantime, I volunteered for local political campaigns. I got to meet my neighbors, drive people to the polls, and work with local activists, some of whom ended up working for major Washington, DC politicians. I also campaigned in neighboring states canvassing through apartment buildings and housing projects.

This isn't the first time I have seen a returning student complaining that in college the other students (and themselves) are too isolated from "the real world." And the thing is-- that's sort of the point. Your job is to be intensely focused on your field of study and the environment of the university. Heck, college was a big eye opener for me because so many of my passages came from very different backgrounds than I came from.

"The real world" is still going to be there in a couple of years after you graduate. Focus now on what you will not have a chance to do later, which is the school experience itself.
posted by deanc at 6:36 PM on April 17


My road trip around the ring road in Iceland opened my eyes to just how much we do to try to tame nature in the US (and many other places in the world).

Spending several months couch surfing with friends and family gave me a lot of perspective on what normal life looks like for others (and how easy my normal life is in comparison), but I can't totally recommend that.
posted by ktkt at 6:44 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


India blew my mind. I have traveled a lot - Western Europe, Canada, eastern Africa, South Africa, China, Thailand, but it was India that had the biggest impact on me. I had seen extremes of poverty before, but nothing like what I saw in India. Everything was intense, like a fever dream: extreme heat, extreme colors, extreme crowdedness, and unimaginable poverty, sometimes adjacent to wealth.

Here's what I wrote in my journal, shortly after I left the country:

"Ultimately, my experience of India was a masochistic one. I would go out and within minutes feel like I was drowning and fighting for my life, trying to get back to the shore. I would berate myself – how could I have done this to myself again. Then I would go limp, emotionally, and as soon as I stopped fighting, I’d feel encouraged. “Yes,” I’d tell myself, “I can do this.” But even that attitude would get sucked away by the heat and by nonstop assault on all the senses – my clothes sticking to my back and legs; the endless chatter of car horns; the barrage of colors and indescribable poverty adjacent to new development; a parade of odors both good and bad, every three feet; a cornucopia of flavors from sweet to fiery hot. No matter the circumstances, I would always end up feeling beaten down at the end. I’d slink back... tak[ing] several hours to recuperate. Then after half a day or a day, I’d go out again, entirely optimistic, unbelieving that I would get my ass kicked again.

I don’t miss Chennai – I don’t ever want to go there again. But I know that there were so many other places that I didn’t see, and I want to give them all a chance. I want them to give me a chance. I really wanted to go to the Kerala backwaters.... I want to spend a week or a month at an ashram – there’s a famous one in Pondicherry that I visited, but the 20-minute tour was just a tease.... I only had time to eat in Mamalapurim, but there are rock carvings there that are supposed to be magnificent. Of course there is the Taj Mahal... and yet the area around the Taj is supposedly even more destitute than the bad parts of Chennai. I want to see Ganges River and the places where they cremate the dead. I want to see all of it. Even in Chennai, I would like to visit the film studios... so already I contradict myself. I would go back Chennai to see Chollywood. India - you win again."
posted by lolo341 at 6:51 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all your answers so far. I think I wrote this question in a way that misconstrued my intentions, so just wanted to clear that up:
It sounds like you are trying to come up with an excuse to drop out of school again.

I love traveling and visiting new places that I have only read about and meeting the other travelers and locals on my way. But I also recognize when I have professional/academic commitments that I have to follow through on rather than travel.
Yeah, I understand how this could have seemed that way. The idea is more to make sure that I don't pigeonhole myself into a field without getting a wide perspective of what I could do, that is, the options that are out there. I've already done travel for travel's sake. This summer is for me to take time to figure out what I do want to do professionally, and part of that is travel. (Part of it is also sitting down and reading and stuff as well).
[we fetishize] travel as this thing that Changes Us and Makes Who We Are and Gives Our Life Meaning, when really, 99% of the time, travel is just a thing that people with extra income get to do for fun.
A lot of the time, yes. The way I phrased this question might have made it seem like I want to take a frivolous trip or some sort of getaway from which I could rationalize leaving school (which is my bad for not realizing that). In this instance, my intention is to build a better world view from which I can make some decisions about what my career direction will be.

Separately, I really like your idea of working/volunteering somewhere, though, and didn't think about that. Definitely doable. Thank you!
Your job is to be intensely focused on your field of study and the environment of the university.
I totally agree—but the problem is that I'm not completely set on my field of study / direction, and I'd like to take this summer to make a more solid decision on that. I'd like to be sure about that before I commit 3 more years, so that's why I'm taking this summer to think about that.

Hope this clears things up.
posted by markbao at 6:59 PM on April 17


A car bomb exploded less than a hundred feet from where I had eaten lunch 30 minutes prior last year when I was in Tel Aviv. That usually doesn't happen when I visit places, and it freaked me out.

Flights to Kiev are pretty cheap right now, I'll bet.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:11 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


"A car bomb exploded less than a hundred feet from where I had eaten lunch 30 minutes prior last year when I was in Tel Aviv. That usually doesn't happen when I visit places, and it freaked me out."


...and scene.

(Or: ... End Scene. Depending on who you are asking.)

A friend of mine just volunteered in Guatemala with a group who does recoveries of victims from genocide burial sites. Her focus in Grad School is Forensic Anthropology, but she is quite well rounded academically. This is her passion and quite life changing. I could go on and on about her insights and experiences.

You might be setting the bar too low if you are this hungry.

Maybe memail if you want to be put in touch with her?
posted by jbenben at 10:11 PM on April 17


Do you have certain fields that you are interested in that you are trying to choose between? That could help us to answer your question. For example, spending time in a rural village in a resource-limited setting working on health issues could help you decide whether you are interested in public health or clinical work. (I use that example because it's something I did that prompted me to get a master's in public health - I think what pretentious illiterate says is very wise, but not all trips to impoverished areas are just about gawking at poor people, you just have to be very careful and intentional to avoid ending up doing that).

I don't think that a person needs to have their life entirely figured out in their first year of college as much as it may seem that way when you are there. People's lives take very unpredictable trajectories and the wide world allows for you to make marked changes in your career plan numerous times after college, and many people do so. I know people with a degree in economics who've had a successful career in computer programming, and people with a degree in African studies who've had a successful career in investment banking. I know people who've done everything from computer programming to the military to teaching high school mathematics who've gone on to be successful physicians (my own field, and I did creative writing in college).

I think it's a great idea to try to know yourself and your interests and your skills before you choose a career, but I don't think that knowing yourself and those things about yourself comes from going to a certain destination - I think it's about giving yourself time and space for introspection wherever you may be, and choosing experiences based on what precisely you're trying to resolve that will help you clarify your feelings.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:46 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


There are endless possibilities because pretty much anywhere you go has the potential to give you some new perspectives and in that sense have the eye-opening value you seek. I say has the potential because just going is not enough, you need to immerse yourself in some way in the local scene to reap the full benefits. So as for where to go, it really depends not so much on which place is more eye-opening but rather on what specific type of experience you want to have.
posted by Dansaman at 2:29 AM on April 18


I don't think that knowing yourself and those things about yourself comes from going to a certain destination

Totally agree. Travel does not magically provide answers. If you're interested in working on a particular issue in another country, that's another story, so maybe you could clarify if that's the case. Otherwise, repeating what I and others said above about exploring a different side of NYC.

For what it's worth, I think there's some value in just committing and finishing a degree, though I can see arguments on both side of this. I didn't know what I wanted to do after graduation, but if I had waited to figure that out, I might still be thinking about it a decade later. I've had a good career so far, and I think all that really mattered to employers, in my case, was that I had a degree, not the particular subject.

Also, you say you work in the tech industry. Are you trying to change careers? Do you have a previous degree? If you're in tech, do you even need a degree?
posted by three_red_balloons at 4:34 AM on April 18


Are the many, many career services and academic advising offices on your campus not helping you figure this stuff out? What do they say?

College is about gaining skills, sure, but it's also about learning to put up with The Stuff We All Have To Do. That includes working with other people, getting through the entirety of a complicated (or mind-numbing) project, all that.

No matter how much money you have, or how often you can take off to explore the world, you need those skills.

I get that you don't think you're getting enough perspective where you are. But going somewhere else won't help you if you don't know what to look for, or how to look for it. That's the same problem you have where you are.

So settle down for a bit and do some of the dirty work of examining yourself, rather than other people or places. When you get the tools that allow you to do that more thoroughly and compassionately, you'll not only be better equipped for life in general, but better equipped to see and feel and do things elsewhere in the world.
posted by Madamina at 6:08 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I get that you don't think you're getting enough perspective where you are. But going somewhere else won't help you if you don't know what to look for, or how to look for it. That's the same problem you have where you are.

Exactly. What perspective are you hoping to gain or change, and why do you think you have to go somewhere else to get it (especially since you're in NYC)?

You said above that you want a wider perspective on the kinds of problems that need solving. That is an admirable goal - too many people end up kind of locked in to a narrow way of seeing and thinking about things. But ask yourself why you think you can't do that without leaving the city. Maybe you also just want to have fun and love to travel and that's great! Things don't have to be 100% pure to have value, but be honest with yourself about your motives.
posted by rtha at 7:07 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


This summer is for me to take time to figure out what I do want to do professionally, and part of that is travel.

Speaking as a professional in an international field, know that traveling for work is exhausting and by no means a vacation.

But for more useful advice, look into the Peace Corps. Your technical skills should give you some expertise that is needed somewhere, and joining the program will give you a reason to go to another country for useful purposes, instead of simply traveling there. You sound like you're searching for answers on how the world fits together and what your role in this big world is, and I think an extended stay in the Peace Corps could go a long way towards shaping your thoughts in this area.

But first, you need to graduate college.
posted by Liesl at 7:11 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


If you're not open to having meaningful and eye-opening experiences in your day to day life (especially in college in NYC!)...you can't necessarily force it to happen through traveling. But I do believe that travel can inspire that feeling/mindset while abroad and hopefully when you return to your everyday life as well.

That being said, my advice would be to study abroad if you can - that way you can stay in one place long enough to really get to know it. I don't personally have a ton of travel experience under my belt, but a semester in Italy gave me a huge appreciation for people who make the move to a new country where they have to learn a new language, especially those who move due to unfavorable conditions in their home countries. Once you graduate college and get into the so-called "real world" and (presumably) working full-time, it's hard to be able to take off that amount of time again to live somewhere else.

I've also had some friends who had good experiences in the Peace Corp - which opened their eyes so much that they had a tricky time transitioning back home, at least for the first few months or so.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 7:19 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Here's another thing to consider: when you're going around the world, looking at the issues of people's real lives as "problems that need solving" to provide perspective for yourself... remember that a huge percentage of people around the world CAN'T change their perspective. It would take a massive amount of work and luck that is well outside of the realm of possibility for many people. Perhaps more importantly, even if their life circumstances changed, their perspective wouldn't necessarily change, either, because of the way they were raised.

I'm not talking about stereotypical people in Indian shantytowns, either.

My husband grew up in a factory town in the Midwest, the son of a single mother who worked for a cereal factory. When he was in high school, he was not given the opportunity to go on the college track. He was convinced that "I was not college material." He graduated from high school and eventually worked the overnight shift at a gas station. Working at the cereal factory was basically the big goal in his life, because it would give him union benefits. Several of his friends have that sort of job right now. He sometimes describes his job at Hardee's as "one of the best jobs I've ever had" because of the people who were there.

Today, he's a network engineer on the management track, and I couldn't be more proud of him for the way he has persevered to get to that point. But the biggest legacy of his upbringing is the way he learned to just accept "no" for an answer. Small things, big things... whatever. He was taught from early on that being dismissed -- and having other people determine which opportunities are available to you, regardless of your dedication or ability -- is just a way of life that you can't change. At various points in his life, it's limited him in his education, the way he spends and saves his money, his relationships, all that.

These days he doesn't do that as much, but it's still there. It's taken a lot of self-reflection and pushing by me (the exact opposite) to change. Most people don't have that luxury, or that kind of personality.

So think about how your own "lack of perspective" relates to the perspective of people you see around you. Unless you develop your own perspective where you are -- and you will see no greater diversity of perspective than in a place like NYC -- I'd argue that you can't adequately do so anywhere else.
posted by Madamina at 7:45 AM on April 18 [6 favorites]


I totally agree with what pretentious illiterate said - you are more likely to be changed by what you do not where you go and what you see. Volunteering and hard work will take you outside yourself, and you can either do that locally or combine with travel.
posted by belau at 7:53 AM on April 18


In 1996 my father had just died, so i saved some money from my awful finance career in London, decided I wanted to be a journalist and make a documentary, persuaded a friend to travel with me, bought a cheap ticket to the Dominican Republic, then Panama, then Colombia.

We heard about a group of Irish and English hippies (aka The Screamers) who had moved to a guerilla controlled area. We went there, made a documentary over 6 months interviewing academics, pols, guerilla and hippies. I met a girl, now my wife and live in Colombia since 2006, and our two Irish/Colombian kids.

My advice is don't just travel. Travel with a purpose or a project in mind. And take good risks.

Bon voyage.
posted by lapsang at 9:06 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]


"rural" china, hands down. I mean the tier two and three cities, which still have six to thirty million people but are rarely visited by foreigners. want to know what it feels like to be a celebrity? take a K-train from shanghai to a city like xiangtan. visit gyuiyang, ychang, chongqing, chengdu, kunming and fly back to shanghai. you can do this in two weeks, even in ten days if you really wanted to. you will have thousands of people staring at you, all trying to figure out where you are from, eager to talk to you. most will not speak english or ever have seen someone who looks like you in the flesh. many will be shy around you. many many will want photos. I was at the three gorges dam and people wanted photos with the foreigner, not of the dam.

I have been living in china for nearly two years and am still amazed by how different it is from any other place I have lived in. if you have two weeks and want to do this, send me a mefimail and I'll put you in touch with a local travel agent and give you some tips to do this dirt cheap.
posted by krautland at 9:06 AM on April 18


Thanks again for the great stories so far.
treehorn+bunny: "Do you have certain fields that you are interested in that you are trying to choose between?"
Kind of. My main focus right now is psychology (/behavioral science), and my interest areas relating to that are political science, economics, and system dynamics. On the psychology front, I'm hoping to work on a lab on campus next year, and plan on doing a lot of reading during the summer.
treehorn+bunny: "I don't think that a person needs to have their life entirely figured out in their first year of college as much as it may seem that way when you are there."
I'm split on this issue. While I think that's true (and I think that a lot of folks make an early decision at 18/19), I also think that folks can have the opportunity to use college in a directed/intentional way, studying those things that are directly pertinent to what they want to do, while also becoming well-rounded by studying things outside of that area. In other words, I think college can be really powerful if used in a way where someone figures out what they want to do, and apply higher education as a way to get there.

In essence, I think the next 3 years are pretty critical for me, and I don't want to use the resource of college (and the 3 years) toward the wrong end. (Insert "no wrong path", etc. but I think it still counts.)
treehorn+bunny: I think it's a great idea to try to know yourself and your interests and your skills before you choose a career, but I don't think that knowing yourself and those things about yourself comes from going to a certain destination - I think it's about giving yourself time and space for introspection wherever you may be, and choosing experiences based on what precisely you're trying to resolve that will help you clarify your feelings.
Yeah, that's true. I haven't yet figured out what those experiences are (hence why I'm asking here for some serendipitous inspiration!) but that's a good way to approach that. Thanks again for your insightful comment!
>everyone that said to explore a different side of NYC
Yes, this is something I'm thinking about for sure. That's a big reason I decided to come here, so it's definitely an option.
three_red_balloons: Also, you say you work in the tech industry. Are you trying to change careers? Do you have a previous degree? If you're in tech, do you even need a degree?
I've more-or-less left the tech industry (dropped out, startup, RTW trip, back in college). In tech, you don't really need a degree if you've built up good experience. But in other fields, particularly the sciences, it seems necessary.
Madamina: So settle down for a bit and do some of the dirty work of examining yourself, rather than other people or places. When you get the tools that allow you to do that more thoroughly and compassionately, you'll not only be better equipped for life in general, but better equipped to see and feel and do things elsewhere in the world.
Thanks for this. This is something that I'm actively working toward—anything you recommend to read/think about on this front?
rtha: That is an admirable goal - too many people end up kind of locked in to a narrow way of seeing and thinking about things. But ask yourself why you think you can't do that without leaving the city.
That's a good point, and I definitely think I can—"eye-opening trips" certainly can be in the same city—but I also think there's a higher variability outside of the city/country/continent that would serve well to this goal. I think both would be doable.
Liesl: You sound like you're searching for answers on how the world fits together and what your role in this big world is, and I think an extended stay in the Peace Corps could go a long way towards shaping your thoughts in this area.
Forgot about the Peace Corps. Thanks for this, this sounds like this could work toward my goals.
posted by markbao at 9:49 AM on April 18


Hey, so my tough love perspective on traveling to find yourself may have come from the fact that I was once a Peace Corps volunteer. It was always my long term plan, and in fact, I left six weeks after I graduated from college in NYC. The knowledge that I was going to join the Peace Corps shaped my college experience more than anything else, because the volunteering experiences I chose grew directly out of my desire to "prepare" myself for the Peace Corps. That was, in fact, impossible, butit nonetheless drove me towards a lot of really interesting & useful experiences. If you're flailing a little bit right now trying to figure out how your college experiences relate to Real Life (a concept that is too big to define) one possibility for you might be to think about ways you could use your time in college to ready yourself for something like the Peace Corps. So for example, if you decided that, after graduation, you wanted to teach public health and AIDS education in West Africa, you could use this summer to:

-Enroll in an intensive French class

-try to get a part time job working in some kind of hospital environment (ER, or student ambulance - you can get trained as an EMT)

-Volunteer with AIDS patients or at hospice

-take an area studies course as an elective

Etc.

I think if you set aside the question "What can travel do for me?" and ask "How can I best prepare myself to bring something of worth to other people?" you might find it easier to see the way your studies connect to the real world, and you'll get a lot more out of your traveling, too.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 10:45 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


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