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Wealth, Happiness, Time-pass, and the dark hole of formal education

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Boston, Massachusetts, USA

August 6, 2007

“That is the charm of a map. It represents the other side of the horizon where everything is possible.”
-Rosita Forbes

I am getting ready to leave the old USA again…. but the only question is: Where do I go? I don’t really care is my only answer. I will just wait for the impulse, and then ride it out. I will just pull out an atlas and dream into the maps- Then! will know where. I have been haphazardly working on a B.A. degree from LIU’s Friends World Program since 2004, and I only have a little more work to do to finish it. Maybe I should just do it. The only thing that is holding me back is the fact that the price of the school sky rocketed to over 30% more than when I began. I would think that there should be some kind of grandfather clause that says that a a school cannot raise their tuition excessively during any given student’s tenure. It is false advertisement to a T. When I began I was told that the school cost significantly lower than what it is now. Oh well, money is the cheapest thing in the world. But the thing that gets me is that I do not know any practical reason to finish: other than the feeling of accomplishing something. I do not feel as if the school is now equipped to really teach me anything anymore. It use to be excellent, but it has since gone far, far downhill, while the price has gone up in torrents. But alas, it would be a good feeling to actually graduate. Maybe I will do it, maybe not. It is just a matter of getting the money, and I just found out that my financial aid only covers half of the amount that I need. I made only around $7,000 last year, so it is not economic prowess that resulted in me being served such a deficient financial aid package. It is just the way things have become in the USA. Either students truly cannot afford an decent education, they have to go half-rate cheap schools, or they dig themselves such a deep hole of debt that they can never get out of. Is is worth it? But I really enjoy studying. This odd-ball international school that I have sporadically been attending has enabled me to both travel and study. It is unique, and is the only reason that I have been able to make it this far in my university education. But I also know that Open Road does not wait for degrees or love or studies. When it calls, it calls. I feel it calling me. It is about time for another Vagabond Journey Around the World.

But it is interesting to mention that Mira is the cousin (close relation) of Barack Obama, who is a very real candidate for the presidency of the United States, and she has even had to drop out of school because she honestly cannot afford to pay tuition! Seriously, I wonder how Mr. Obama intends to address the educational ills of one of the most prominent countries on the planet when his own family cannot afford a college education? It is rather appalling.

But that is just the way things are now in the USA: the land of the rich or the poor. The plane in between is ever shrinking. I do not think that the United States is a wealthy country. There is money, yes, but not wealth.

When I mention wealth I do not mean gross yearly income but rather a conglomerated ratio between income/ expenses/ free time/ general cultural and geographic disposition. I would not regard one as wealthy who lives in a New Jersey high rise making 60,000 a year who works 40 hours a week for all but two weeks in a year, whose debt far exceeds their income, and is forever in the thorough of a polluted, mono-cultureated landscaped where they slaves away in an office cubicle all day just to return home to their high rise so beat that they only watch television and dream of retirement. Even though they make more money than three quarters of the planet I do not feel that they are well off. Money is not a true indicator of wealth. Andy the Hobo Traveler http://www.hobotraveler.com/ says that he measures a country’s wealth by its smiles.

By this token I would regard China as being surprisingly well-off, while Vietnam as being poor; Thailand to be among the riches countries in the world while England as being a place of disparity. I remember smiles in Ecuador, Chile, Mongolia, Spain, Nepal, and Egypt, and scowls in France and Ireland. This is only my impression, of course, as in the written words of Ben Jonson paraphrased in the book Tales of a Traveller, “I am neither your minotaure, nor your centaure, nor your satyr, nor your hyaena, nor your babion, but your meer traveller, believe me.” I believe balks at objectivity to be nothing more than pompous friviality.

I just remember standing on a hill that overlooks the blue city of Jodhpur in the Rajastan when a group of young Indian men came over and began talking to me. Our conversation turned to sports, and one of the young Indians joked that the national sport of India is “time-pass.” If only the world could take this example we all would wear more smiles. Just simple “time-pass” is all I need.

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Filed under: North America, Travel Inspiration, USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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