Practical Education
Thoughts, Travel

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 thoughts on “Travel and Practical Education”

  1. 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.

    1. @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. 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!

    1. @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. 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!!!!

    1. @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. 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!

    1. @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? 😛

  5. 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.

    1. @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.

  6. 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.

    1. @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!

  7. 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.

    1. @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.

  8. 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!!

    1. @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!

  9. 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.

    1. @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!

    1. @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.

    1. @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.

    1. @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.

  10. 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!

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

  11. 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…

    1. @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!

    1. @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.

  12. 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.

    1. @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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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. 🙁

    1. @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!

    1. @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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