Hello…..I’m a Middle-Age Head and I am a college flunk-out. Twice.
Yes, gentle reader, I managed to flunk out of college twice. I’m not proud of that fact, but it’s a part of my life. The first time I became “academically inelidgeable was after my freshman year. I was told by a tenured professor (picture Christopher Lloyd in “Back To The Future”) that I had to take five classes my first semester. What do I know…I’m just a freshman. I became overwhelmed very quickly. I took German as a foreign language…for all the wrong reasons. I had returned from an exchange trip to Germany, where I had fallen in love with a girl whose English was not so good. Not thinking clearly, I thought that I should take German to be able to communicate with her. It was a colossally bad choice. I also signed up for Biology 101. This was a class of 600, taught by a professor, a Scotsman with a thick brogue. He was not easy to understand and that situation was made worse by an inadequate sound system. Not only did I become overwhelmed but also ambivalent. There was little that attracted me from an academic perspective – except the campus radio station. In the long run, that was the source of my academic demise.
The university sent me a standard form letter, saying my academic performance was not acceptable and my GPA was below the minimum. Nice knowing ya! Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out.
Why I am I telling you this? Travel
I went into a serious funk at that point and my reaction to the situation was to run away. Run as far as I possibly could to avoid my parents’ disappointment. Run to shed the burden of failure. Run wherever I could as fast as I could.
So, what does that have to do with travel?
When I received the news, it was one year removed from my exchange trip to Germany. What little I had seen of the world sparked a wanderlust in me. My dream was to travel around Europe with nothing but a backpack, schlepping in and out of hostels, finding some itinerant farm work, and sampling all the sights, smells and textures that were Europe. That dream was put on the backburner, in favor of going back to college – okay, going back to the campus radio station. In the meanwhile, I worked a close shift at Mickey D’s and endured my father’s persistant harrassing. He wanted to know what I wanted to do and what my plan would be. All I wanted was for him to leave me alone so I could figure things out.
All of these memories from 1980 and 1981 came back to me last night when I was reading a travel magazine, “Afar”. It was a gift from a dear friend. The magazine presents travel as alternate lifestyle, where the purpose of travel is to emerse yourself in the culture you’re visiting. Those of you who enjoy Rick Steves and his “backdoor” style of travel will like this. The destinations are international. You won’t find Mickey and His World in there, and no stories about cruises. This isn’t a magazine of whitebread travel.
Reading “Afar” reminded me of that dream from too long ago, the dream of pulling up stakes and diving headfirst into a world of possibility. Young people dream these dreams, but often they are pushed aside and are replaced with practical goals. I had dreams to travel everywhere, but always seemed to find the obstacles – the reasons why I couldn’t or shouldn’t, not why I should and can. I may be a Middle-Age Head, but there is so much I want to do an see in this world. I want to return to London, live in Scotland and play lots of golf, spend more time in Paris, discover Tuscany, return to Germany and find that girl (I have that one covered already), and MORE! Yes, I have obligations here and now…my children, for one. But I’d like to would like to explore how I can work to live, not live to work. The only obstacle that prevents us from doing what we want is ourselves.
Hang onto your dreams, my friend. Find a way that you can make them happen. Don’t make excuses why you can’t – instead find solutions so you can.