Introduction Part 2: Fighting a storm in Norfolk and Finding Compelling Options for College Students

May 23rd-24th

I have been off the blog for a couple of days because one day I reworked the layout and the next day my computer got the “Windows XP Security 2011 Virus” which poses as an antivirus and demands you buy it while closing every window you try to open by claiming infection. The tech guys at the University or Richmond helped me solve that problem though, and now I’m back.

I am still in a sort of transitory phase. I have passed through much of Virginia without taking too much time to see it. A stop at the university yielded a productive meeting with my boss, Brian Eckert about freelance writing, a good lunch for $6.50 and a fixed computer. Then on to Norfolk to see my friend Robert and an air mattress. So, I have not really started the part of the trip that will take some endurance, but will soon enough.

In the meantime, this is another opportunity to discuss the purpose of this trip and what I hope it will provide. In my last post I wrote about what I hoped to get out of the trip personally, but today my focus will be on what I can show to other people.

I hope to show that jobs and internships are not the only things to do during the four college summers. Especially freshman year, when internships are difficult to snag and jobs scarce, the opportunity to do something different is the best it will ever be.

Dredging at Virginia Beach looked to me like sewage.

The common response to this is: “But everyone else has an internship, and if I don’t get one I’ll fall behind and never get a job.”

In an extremely competitive environment, you need to seem more prepared than everyone else in order to get the job. That much is true, but I’ll counter with this: You can’t get truly better than everyone else by doing the same thing as everyone else.

What I mean by this is, you should stand out from the crowd, without standing out so far as to raise red flags. You know exactly what a college degree will bring you. The odds are good you’ll have a steady salary and a steady job. Going through college provides the safest way to all but guarantee financial stability and fairly good quality of life.  Some people want more than that though. We’re still young enough to dream of wild success and celebrity, but for some people, those dreams came true. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, the CEO of SpaceX (the company picking up where NASA left off) and others are examples of how far a good idea can take you even if you drop out of college.

Of course, very few of us will realize that sort of lifestyle, but the lessons they provide are worth learning. They never did things the same way as everyone else, from dropping out of school to becoming entrepreneurs. They developed a strength of self which cannot be gained in a residence hall or a classroom.

So don’t drop out of college unless you have a million dollar idea, but do shake things up. I’ll reiterate: You can’t become better than everyone else, by doing the same thing as everyone else. Logically, everyone who is doing the same thing will end up at the same place. If you want more, try something different.

A beautiful day at Virginia Beach. Way too many hotels.

For me, one of those different things is this Road Trip. I have the ability to do this because I worked part time all year, and saved up for a car long before that. I may run out of money before I finish, but it will still be a worthwhile trip. That said, I’m often asked, why not wait a few years?

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the college summers. Together, they form one whole year of our lives in which we have some freedom from full time work or family. It marks the last time, unless we are independently wealthy, that we will have this kind of time until we retire. So not only can a project like the Road Trip of Passage help you develop personally and professionally, now may be the only time you have to do it!

So I encourage you to seriously consider embarking on a trip or project you feel passionately about, or if you can’t think of one, travel to find one. As I drive around discussing my plans with people I get one of two responses:

This: “I did that when I was your age. It was one of the best choices I ever made.”

Or this: “I’ve always wanted to do that. I almost did one year but I never got around to it.”

First responses literally never stray from those two answers. It won’t be easy of course, and you’ll second guess yourself a lot along the way. You might get caught in a storm, like I did today in Norfolk, but it will come after a perfect day on the beach.

The power went out, and the wind picked up without warning and blew merchandise through the street.

Robert, Liz and I rushed into the car as the drenching came.

As I was driving yesterday a lyric on the radio stood to me (paraphrase): You best bet on yourself, because you’re your own best bet. To me that band is saying that you have to take risks and not just do things the standard way, and that even though risking your self and future is the scariest thing to risk, the best bet you’ll ever make is on yourself. When it pays off, the person that gains the most is you.


2 responses to “Introduction Part 2: Fighting a storm in Norfolk and Finding Compelling Options for College Students

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