What My High School Guidance Counselor Didn’t Tell Me

You’re being rushed into a life of indentured servitude.

The education you’re going to purchase will be mediocre. At times, what you will be taught will be an insult to the intelligence of a kindergartner. Skip the debt and take time off now.

Explore yourself and the world around you.

When your intellect compels you, listen, read, write, question. If you want to learn skills, purchase only the classes that excite you from an online education platform.

Take your time. Don’t feel the need to be rushed along with the rush.

I was rushed and did what I was supposed to do: I took on crippling debt, went to college, graduated, then got a job. When I got that first IT consulting job, it was miserable, so I quit, and left for Peru.

And in college the biggest lessons I learned were from foreign language classes, teaching myself through Google searches, or travels.

To diminish the tidal pull of societal pressure, I’d like to offer a look at college expenses and compare them to the exciting alternatives available online and on-demand.

Warning: the alternative costs less, offers the opportunity to live in exotic places, and develops skills to broaden your mind.

The Numbers

Attending a college is expensive. Consider these numbers for the 2015–2016 school year:

  • $82 The average cost of a new text book.
  • $1,298 The average cost of text books, per year.
  • $9,410 The average tuition at a public college, for in-state, on-campus students.
  • $10,138 The average cost of room and board, per year.
  • $37,172 The average amount of student loan debt carried by 2016 college graduates — a new record.

That’s an extortionate amount of money to spend learning how to be an employee,  a writer, a basket weaver or whichever job title you are pursuing.

Today we get food, groceries, Uber rides, dinner dates, books, toilet paper and even spouses online. Why not get your education online as well?

Choose Your Own Path of Education

With an internet connection it is possible to learn from anywhere on the planet. Online education offerings are specific, powerful, current, and taught by the best in the field.

Even the old, prestigious institutions are getting into the game with MIT and Stanford offering free online courses.

The leading online education platforms like Creativelive, uDemy and Lynda.com offer courses taught by pros. A few of the many courses available are:

Alternatively, you could spend $10,000 for one year at a college that will require you to take meaningless ‘weed-out’ courses on your way to a 4 year degree.

Just imagine how happy you’ll be spending 6 hours handwriting accounting journal entries, and the deep satisfaction you’ll have knowing you’ve just spent $200, per class, for the pleasure.

Imagine the deep insights and epiphanies you might experience in a business communications class that offers lessons such as:

  • How to sit at a table.
  • Where to place a fork, knife and spoon.
  • Talking on your cell phone while peeing is rude.
  • Yelling on your cell phone is rude.

These lessons, and more, are available in the mandatory $82 text book. Add to your bill tuition, fees, room and board, and interest on the loan you’ve just taken out. You’ve been scammed.

Thanks for that, Ohio University. *Deep Breath*.

For comparison, let’s break down what’s included in the $179 Fundamentals of Photography course available at CreativeLive.com:

For $179 you get:

  • 113 Video lessons in HD
  • Lifetime access, anywhere, anytime
  • Streaming and downloadable files
  • Available on desktop, mobile and tablet
  • 20,000 other students taking this class and sharing their work on the site
  • Take the class on your own schedule — No missed classes.

For about the average price of two new college textbooks you get an immersive, professionally taught photography course.

With the ability to take a class anywhere, what might a day of choosing your own path of education look like?

Dream Bigger

Imagine taking your photography class from a jungle bungalow in Costa Rica. You open your laptop in the morning to an immersive soundbath of jungle bird song, and the sweet aroma of Costa Rican honey-fermented coffee.

At your own pace you dive into the day’s photography course, occasionally checking Facebook to see pictures of your friends at college getting faded on cheap beer and a complaining about their accounting homework.

Delighted with your decision of independence and a self-guided path, you step outside into the filtered sunlight and a toucan lands on your shoulder. A perfect photo opportunity for today’s class, and a selfie opportunity to show your friends at college.

This dream is several clicks and boarding pass away from being a reality.

Enter the greatest form of education:


Americans treat travel like an exotic, unobtainable activity reserved for the elite. And if you’re not staying in a resort, you’re probably a hippy vagabond.

People who say travel is expensive and warn others to not travel are scared. They’re also severely uninformed. Ignore them.

Thanks to sites like airbnb and couchsurfing, living in exotic locations around the world is affordable. And it is often more affordable than living in the USA.

For example, at $10 a night, one week of accommodation in Ubud, Bali costs less than the average price of a new college text book. Don’t believe me? Have a look yourself.

Think flying is expensive? You can purchase a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Bangkok for the price of one hour in Accounting 101. Check Google Flights for more itineraries and let your dreams get bigger.

If you choose the self-guided route of travel, know that you’re not alone, although you might be the only American.

That is, you might be one of few Americans experiencing the life that our friends in other countries treat as a necessary activity.

The Overseas Experience & GAP Year

“An Overseas Experience (OE) is a New Zealand term for an extended overseas working holiday. It is sometimes referred to as “The Big OE” in reference to the extended duration of the travel — typically at least one year and often extending far longer.” — WorkNewZealand.org

In New Zealand the Overseas Experience (OE) is a right of passage. The Kiwis understand that the work and life experience from travel broadens the mind.

In many other parts of the world it is completely normal for people to take a GAP year — a year or longer traveling sabbatical between high school and college, or college and the professional life.

We need more broad-minded Americans and less indentured servants posing as college graduates.

You’ll be saving yourself. You’ll be saving money. If you’re open to it, your mind will be broadened by the perspectives gained from immersion in new cultures, languages and diverse ways of life.

Your broadened mind might even lead you to create a new idea to save the world.

Go Forth

You’re in the best time of your life to take a chance on yourself, and you’re rich with something you will have less of later: Time.

Give yourself the permission to use the ample amount of time, without the worry of debt, to shape a beautiful life and a beautiful mind.

Make your classroom a room in an alpine village in Switzerland, a cafe in Buenos Aires, or a coral reef in Australia.

Use this time to explore. To take risks. To create.

Go forth, learn and travel.

3 thoughts on “What My High School Guidance Counselor Didn’t Tell Me

  1. Pingback: To Travel Like a Pro, Don't Do These Things - Timo

    • Timo Post authorReply

      Mad respect to you, Chet! Your travels have been a massive inspiration to me. Onward!

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