Travel and Practical Education

Graduation class of the St. Paul Hebrew Institute

Did you know that I considered getting my Master’s Degree instead of taking this life changing, amazing trip? It was school or gaining a practical education.

Things were starting to look so bleak within the Radio/TV/Film industry for me I seriously thought about going back to get a “real” degree. Maybe something that I wouldn’t hate too much. Something that wouldn’t get me laughed at during interviews (thanks jackass at Facebook).

I am so glad that I didn’t. I have learned so much over these past 178 days that I wouldn’t ever want to give up.

Welcome to the Travel School of Practical Application!

Your classes for the upcoming semester:

Learn Spanish!!


  • Spanish:
    • Sure textbooks can give you a good feeling about what you may be getting into when you’re speaking Spanish to a native but nothing prepares you for bargaining for tomatoes in a mercado. I’m now fluent enough to proudly display BILINGUAL on any resume.

Louise HarrisonSciences

  • Geology:
    • First hand experience with not only hiking up Paricutin, Santa Maria, and Chicabal, but learning what kind of volcanoes you are climbing (cinder cone, lava dome, etc.) along with the flora and fauna of the area.
    • First hand experiences with earthquakes!
  • Physics:
    • Learn and experience the physics of air expansion, pressure, and sound waves under water while scuba diving. Also, become familiar with different types of fish, coral, sharks and learning the wonders of bioluminescence.


  • Division and Multiplication:
    • Brush up on your rusty math by learning a million different currencies and how to divide by 2(Belize), 7(Guatemala), 12(Mexico), 20(Honduras), 22(Nicaragua), and 508(Costa Rica).

"A History of the American People"History

  • World History: Learn what was NOT included in your history books! Apparently, as an American, QUITE A BIT was left out.
    • I learned from a fellow traveler that the British got Belize from Guatemala in a really shady way. Did you know they got the land in exchange for a railroad to the main port? They got the land and never built it. Interesting!
    • A history lesson was given to us by a scuba instructor from Belgium. I had no clue that they conquered the Congo/Zaire by marching in and cutting off everyone’s hands.
    • Did you know that the Mayans were wiped extinct in Tikal because they caused deforestation 150 square kilometers around the ruins? They had NOTHING. No trees. No water. All floods. And everything grew back over 1000 years.

Maceration of Money


  • Central American Business:
    • All you want is a nice fruit in Guatemala? Sorry, all the big, gorgeous fruits are exported from some of the most fertile lands int he world. No veggie for you!
    • Want a nice cup of coffee in Costa Rica? Sorry, all the best beans are shipped to the US for connoisseurs in small coffee shops or Starbucks. No coffee for you!
    • Want a banana from the Banana Republic (Honduras)? Sorry, all of them have also been exported. The saddest bananas I have ever seen were in Utila.
  • Currency:
    • Did you know that Nicaragua intentionally adds 10% inflation to their economy every year?

Foods laboratory in home economics building (now Comstock Hall) in October 1917. Instructor appears ...Home Ec:

  • Cooking:
    • Learn how to make tortillas and chirmol from your house mom in Guatemala! Not to mention, if you want to get your fix while abroad, learn to make your own salsa. Nothing is spicy south of the border of Mexico.
    • Strapped on cash and tired of traditional spaghetti sauce? Learn to make white wine sauces and rouxs to make your culinary life more exciting! I know it has saved my sanity with the amount of pasta we have had to eat in Costa Rica.

Boxing class in Joe Edward's School, Berlin (LOC)

Physical Education

  • Hike, bike, climb, surf, swim, snorkel, and scuba dive into a more physically fit you!

Learn all this and more when spreading your wings and leaving the confines of your home. It has been worth every penny of our savings and every moment of our time. I feel like I have grown tenfold while out on this trip and the future makes me excited knowing that I’m learning something new every day.


51 Responses to “Travel and Practical Education”

  1. Dyanne@TravelnLass October 5, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    Brilliant post! But you forgot one of the most significant “classes”:

    The Humanities / Social Sciences. Indeed, travel is nothing, if not the perpetual “study” of the human spirit. It can wipe away prejudice, inspire empathy, foster compassion, and perpetuate global understanding. Indeed, few can travel without becoming just a smidge more empathetic of the many diverse peoples that share this blue planet.

    • Erica October 5, 2011 at 1:33 am #

      @Dyanne: Too true! One of the things I always talk about with friends and family is that if the world were to travel, we would understand each other so much more. Love and understanding grows from being around different people and you couldn’t have put it any better. Bravo!

  2. Pam October 5, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    This is a great summary post on the things you’ve learned so far.

    I love the things I learn from travel. It’s amazing how many subjects make sense now!

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 12:16 am #

      @Pam: Thanks girlie! I think that is what got me obsessed with travel in the first place – coming home with a million different things I learned from our first trip.

  3. MUGS October 5, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    U can officially say you enrolled in the university of life, doing a masters degree on “The World”! NOT EVEN THE BEST UNIVERISTIES WORLDWIDE HAVE A COURSE LIKE THIS!!!!!
    I think everyone should have a long term travel experience like you guys. It would change the world in a positive way!!!!

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 12:17 am #

      @MUGS: Oh hell yeah! I want my damn alumni shirt too! 😀 But really, this has been so incredibly enlightening. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

  4. Technosyncratic October 5, 2011 at 5:08 am #

    Brilliant idea for a post – and the old photos are *awesome*!

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 12:18 am #

      @Christy: I’m a sucker for The Commons photos. I find them fascinating and definitely add to posts. 😛

  5. Maggie October 5, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    So good!!! I love this post. It’s true; you can learn a LOT from the world! I also agree with the first comment from Dyanne about the Social Sciences. Probably the biggest subject to learn about while traveling and I think, the most interesting. Next time I think about going back to get a masters, I’ll remember this post and stay out on the road. 🙂

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 12:19 am #

      @Maggie: Thank you! ♥ I had been writing notes for this post for some time and felt compelled to share it this week. Now, I’m not trying to steer people clear of getting masters degrees but I just like knowing we’re getting educations – 2 for the price of 1? 😛

  6. Jaime October 5, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    Oh I love this… I have learned so much traveling. So much more than I would ever learn in a class. It’s insane how people think travel is not that important, but I think it is. I think its key to help us understand the world a bit more & how we are all connected in the end.

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 12:20 am #

      @Jaime: Isn’t it so awesome!? And you get a first hand geography lesson on different countries! *wink* I love finding that all people love and laugh. It is so refreshing.

  7. Thomas | Jus Getaway October 5, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Yeah its amazing how you always hear study and going back to school and more learning as the key. What about life in general having fun, doing things and learning from living. For some people learning is best through school. I think the fact the you are learning on this amazing trip is something that is unforgettable. And hey if you want to go do school you can to that later or even online while you travel.

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 12:48 am #

      @Thomas: Don’t get me wrong – if I had all the money in the world I would be in school AND traveling. Something’s gotta give in this case when I have to choose one or another. I have no beef with people who choose to be scholarly. I would love to if I had the opp as well. I’m just so happy that I’m retaining all the knowledge I’ve learned so far!

  8. Robyn October 5, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    Love this post! Makes me feel so much better for not getting a University Degree and only getting a College Certificate for a 9 month program.

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 12:53 am #

      @Robyn: I really think that college isn’t necessarily for everyone. I’m a true believer of that. Not to mention the market is so saturated with people with bachelors degrees it hardly means anything anymore.

  9. Alisha - Small World Pursuits October 5, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Hey guys!!! I love, love, love this post!!! So much so that I am going to do some post pimping and put it everywhere! Interesting enough, during my travels my lessons learned have been very similar but I still often find myself contemplating if I should get my Masters when I finish up the trip. Like you though, experiencing the real world would always hands down win out over classroom education in my book! Great job at putting into words the value of getting out and exploring the world! Love it!!

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 12:55 am #

      @Alisha: Thank you girlie! I’m glad all my note taking and efforts have not gone to waste. I rather like this post and am glad I have a… pimp? ♥ I still am thinking about my masters. I just have a million things I would like to specialize in!

  10. Juno October 5, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    Brilliant post Erica. How true. I’ve thought about this actually too. I once thought, full of regret, why I went to grad school, but I believe that was my priority at that time. But yes, totally agreed with everything and specially history. In school, history can be one of the most boring subject. Bunch of things happened in what year with who….. how can we remember that all? But I found myself that remember, and interested learning history whenever I go somewhere. THAT is education, not from the text book.
    So glad you wrote this one.

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 1:35 am #

      @Juno: Aww, shucks! I’ve learned so much about the Mayans and Spanish conquistadors down here! Like, to see first hand the damage/positive outcomes of the past has been phenomenal. It is like having a field trip every day!

  11. Randy Bullis October 5, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    great post sweetheart. You made the right choice, you can always go back to school later if you want. this is an opportunity you can’t pass up.

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 1:36 am #

      @Dad: Thanks a million. I’m still not even sure I want to go back. If I do, it will be for personal, mental gain. 😛 I’ve felt so amazing since leaving to travel.

  12. Dalene October 6, 2011 at 4:21 am #

    What? Learning? I thought you guys were just on a long vacation?

    (Don’t you HATE that??!!)

    Really brilliant post! 🙂

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

      @Dalene: I know – WHY would I ever consider trying to LEARN! God. 😛

  13. Caanan @ No Vacation Required October 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    Ah, yes. A Master’s In Living Life to the Fullest. If only corporate america recognized the value of this “degree.” 🙂

    And I see in the comments that you have the support of your dad. That is awesome.

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

      @Caanan: Shaun is currently working on his bachelors? lol It is a shame that people don’t look to travel as a way to show what kind of character you have. I mean, I’m putting in the hours like a college student right? 😀

      And yeah, my dad rocks.

  14. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista October 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    I loved this post too! It is the reason I am a huge fan of studying abroad or taking time off between college and career in a foreign country. the learning can not be quantified or monetized and should be recognized by all!

    • Erica October 6, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

      @Debbie: Thanks! I really regret not taking advantage of studying abroad when I was in school. I just couldn’t afford it since I was paying for college myself. I would catch myself eyeing the Oxford posters everywhere.

  15. Mica October 7, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    Yay I love this post! It’s the school of life baby and you can only get in by getting out! lol! All of this is so true. Also I agree with the first comment- learning patience, respect for all cultures- and well, you also learn so much about yourself!

    • Erica October 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

      @Mica: Respect is so incredibly important! Especially learning the customs and everything. I seriously considered being an ambassador.

  16. sarah wu October 7, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Wow that’s alot you can’t never get from a degree. I totally with you on the history part. You learned so much about a city that maybe only the local will know too. I remembered I was visiting chateau in Montreal. And it turn out that Ben Franklin was there to discuss if he wants to join the French or what…

    • Erica October 9, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

      @Sarah: It is definitely an intensive degree for sure. Full immersion! I feel so dumb for not knowing the history of the world. I have a Canadian friend that knows more about American politics than I do!

  17. Stephen October 8, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Very true. Travel is the best education.

  18. dtravelsround October 10, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    to think, i was going to take my money and go to grad school, too. so glad i did traveled instead. so true about everything you learn!!

    • Erica October 11, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

      @Diana: I’m so glad I came as well. I was so confused up until we left. I’m also glad Shaun has been part of the learning as well. We’re getting 2 for 1 degrees in life.

  19. Ayngelina October 11, 2011 at 4:29 am #

    I had taken a lot of international marketing courses in university that taught me cultural differences but they meant nothing until I actually experienced things for myself.

    • Erica October 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

      @Ayngelina: I’m actually kind of sad I didn’t take any of those – since I was allowed to as the marketing school was in the school of communications with us. i’m sure it is a bit different in practice than in text books.

  20. Federico October 11, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    Travel is such a great school. I didn’t know about the 10% tax increase in Honduras!

  21. NLM October 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Funny post–thanks. Disappointing not to get good fruit in fruit producing countries–had the same problem finding rack of lamb in New Zealand…go figure!

    • Erica October 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

      @NLM: You couldn’t find lamb in NZ?! Oh wow. I think that takes the cake! 😛

  22. Raymond @ Man On The Lam October 12, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    I love those little tidbits I learn along the way — stuff that I could never ever see in a textbook. Great post!

    • Erica October 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

      @Raymond: I know! Although I can imagine how daunting a textbook would look if it contained EVERYTHING.

  23. Abby October 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    YEAH!!! Love this. And it’s so true. All coffee is not shipped out of CR though, although it’s most readily available at the gringo supermarkets. 🙁

    • Erica October 14, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

      @Abby: You can find coffee at AutoMercado! It is just that the super high quality stuff is shipped. I couldn’t find the Santa Elena Coop coffee anywhere!

  24. Stephanie - The Travel Chica October 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    I totally agree that you can learn so much from travel, but I really like how you’ve presented it in this post.

    • Erica October 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

      @Stephanie: When I was studying the physics of air underwater from a textbook is when it dawned on me that we are still in “school”. <3

  25. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ October 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    I find I learn a ton on the road when I’m not even trying to. I think it has to do with being forced to learn the customs, language and currency. That also extends to learning more about the country and so on..

    • Erica October 21, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

      @Lindsay: I guess you are put in a position where it is sink or swim. Luckily we always swim. Would suck to know what sinking is like.

  26. Maddycat October 22, 2011 at 5:17 am #

    Great take on the life of a traveller… Love to get to the Americas one day soon… us Aussies are even less educated than Americans. Learned a few “home truths” about my own country on my trip to Uluru this year… maybe I can inspire you to head down under?

    • Erica October 22, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

      @Maddy: Thanks! We’ve been dying to get to Aussieland but it is so expensive to get there. I don’t think that I will be able to get there in time to do the work holiday visa as well so it will be an expensive vacation endeavor. The Great Barrier Reef calls me!


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