Higher Education: 8 Lessons Learned From Adventure

You can learn a lot by getting outside and hitting the road.

By: HB Mertz
August 4, 2015

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After spending the majority of my life in school, one aspect of my education that always seemed to be lacking was a practical application for what I was learning. It seemed that more often than not, we would discuss real world situations, but never had many hands-on lessons that would allow me to understand exactly how my education related to the real world.

After graduating college this past spring, I decided to drive across the country in search of adventure and not only have I finally gotten to use some of my education in a tangible way, I've also learned many lessons that the classroom just isn’t able to teach. There are endless lessons to learn on the road, but here are a few that stick out to me that I hope will encourage you to seek a higher education that doesn’t exist solely inside the walls of a classroom.

Photo: Andy Earl

1. Financial management

I've always attempted to be frugal with my spending, but being on the road forces you to do this. The last thing you want happening to you is to run out of the money you have set aside for your adventure. I've learned how to stretch money, be responsible with my spending, and have cut out things that are not necessary. Being on the road has helped to set me up with the mindset to be smart with my money for the rest of my life.

2. Interpersonal skills

There is no course, as far as I'm concerned, on how to interact with people and successfully build relationships. On the road, you meet so many people and you learn how to interact with those who are completely different than you. I've had the opportunity to meet and interact with people from overseas and from different upbringings and backgrounds. I've enjoyed refining my people skills in order to successfully converse and interact with all sorts of people.

3. Flexibility and creativity problem solving

In many of my classes, I was taught how to handle specific situations. However, I never really seemed to figure out what to do when things don't go perfectly and how to readjust accordingly. On the road, not everything will go according to plan. A campground may be full, or you might not be able to go to a certain location due to inclement weather or a sea of tourists. At first, these situations would overwhelm me since I usually didn’t have a backup plan, but learning to be flexible and adjust when I would hit a bump in the road has been a great experience. The good thing is, being on the road gives you the time and the opportunity to adjust your plans when necessary. It just may take some time getting used to. In the end, you'll be left with a skill that will translate across any job or endeavor you may tackle in the future.

4. You aren't entitled to anything

This sort of goes along with learning to be flexible. It's more of a mindset than anything, but understanding that you aren't entitled to anything will help you become determined to make situations happen for yourself. I realized how important this was when I was in Yosemite National Park. When I arrived, the park was well over capacity. No parking spaces, limited camping spots, and tons of tourists in every popular attraction. I realized that just because I showed up did not mean that I would be given a positive experience in the park. Everyone there is trying to make their experience the best it can be, so it's incredibly important to understand this. If you want to see everything on your list, you will need to be determined and ambitious to make it happen, because nobody is going to reserve a parking space for you or give you a free campground. Being on the road has taught me just how important it is to make things happen for yourself and understand that I’m not the only one trying to enjoy the outdoors.

Photo: Tiffany Nguyen

5. Time management

While it may seem like you have unlimited time on the road, it is still important to schedule out your days in order to be efficient with driving, money, and time spent in parks so that you can see everything you want. For me, I have had a great practical understanding of why you need to make a schedule and how to do so in order to maximize your time. Being on the road is a great chance to put this skill to the test, and certainly will teach you how to be time conscious if you are not already.

6. Organization

Some people may thrive in a messy environment, but that usually doesn’t fly on the road. I'm organized to begin with, but I've realized how important it is to stay on top of it while you are on the road. Keeping your car clean and in order makes it easy to find things, and in my opinion, helps keep a positive mood. Organizational skills are something that will be important for the rest of your life, and a road trip is a great way to practice this. I promise, things go much more smoothly when you have everything in order in your car, campsite, or even your day pack.

7. Cooking skills

Unless you went to culinary school, chances are you didn't have any cooking classes in school. You can only eat so many PB&J sandwiches before you realize you need to get creative. Cooking every meal yourself over a fire or out of the back of your car allows you to make a wide variety of meals, and certainly forces you to cook healthy in order to refuel after a day on the trails.

8. Humility

This last point was definitely something I didn't expect to learn while being on the road. Chances are, you'll do something dumb like take a wrong turn or fall in the ocean while trying to take a picture (both have happened to me). You can either let things like this affect your mood and morale, or you can learn to roll with the punches and laugh at yourself when you do something dumb. I know that after a month on the road, it's important to not get worked up over the little things, and enjoy each part of the journey.

Photo: HB Mertz

Getting out on the road is not only a way to use the skills and tools you have been taught in school, but it will teach you much more than you could have ever initially imagined. I've learned a great deal from being on the road and I would encourage anyone to find the time in their life to hit the road and learn these invaluable life lessons all while enjoying the great outdoors.

Cover Photo: HB Mertz

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