Monday, March 9, 2009

The Traveling Teacher

I like to think of one of my so-called "careers" as that of an anti-career counselor.

I mostly practice this on an as-can basis -- meaning, where ever and whenever I can slip in my subversive messages, I do: into writings (of course), conversations (especially with kids), college-class discussions, interviews, karate classes ... where ever a teaching moment may arise, I endeavor to grasp the opportunity to impart the message of The Option:

You don't necessarily have to join the rat-pack racing for the job, house, cars, toys, etc. etc.

You really can choose to live a life, rather than merely make a living.

The Option is to realize and recognize that there are options. And to realize they're real, and valid, and worthwhile, and attainable.

And so it came to pass that one of those most recent teachable moments arose around the barbeque grill. (An anti-counselor must always be ready to dispense wisdom ...) I was with my nephew, a 17 year old fresh out on his own, seeking those first tenuous, troublesome steps into the Big World, out there.

His big question, it seemed to me, was, what to make those first steps toward.

He is a thinking man, it's obvious, since he already has the insight to question the well-trodden, downright traffic-jammed, trail toward paycheck and pension oblivion. He also made it clear he'd much rather be following less-traveled roads toward faraway places and exotic other worlds beyond the one he grew up in.

A boy of my own heart, for sure. And I, of course, had an answer -- one he perhaps hadn't heard much from the other adults around him (being from a big city back East), or school, or on TV:

Yes! Travel, yes!

Make a life of traveling, yes!

If I could give my nephew anything at that point -- at that moment in time together, and at that point in his life -- the best I could do, I believed, was to give him that: a big fat yes!.

Then, though, I had to really be a counselor: I explained to him that while I believe being a traveler, even a bum -- not just someone who takes trips, but one whose whole life is traveling -- is doable, even preferable, to a "normal" career path, it is, nonetheless, a "career": It still requires learning, preparation, patience, persistence, and strategy to make it happen, and to make it work.

That might mean working two jobs for a while to finance a trip; or it can meaning acquiring skills that you can use to work while you do extended trips -- for years, even. (I, myself, found restaurant work and professional driving (buses, trucks, limos, taxis) to have paid for a lot of traveling and bumming for me.)

Mostly, though, I urged him to start now, immediately, to make those dreams of his come true -- even when he goes back to that big city back East. No matter what he did. In everything he did.

Study.

Prepare.

Strategize.

And do those with persistence and patience.

That, too, is the traveler's journey. That, too, is Yes!

Take it from your anti-career counselor.

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This post also appears on InsideOutsideMag.com.

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