I have a (backpacking) dream!

I’m not Martin Luther King Jr. nor do I think that I’m the backpackers version of Martin Luther King Jr……but I HAVE A DREAM!! I have a dream that one day the US Government (and all other governments too) will institute a broad, cultural & educational internship/ambassadorship for all its young citizens. As soon as the youth would graduate high school, and before attending college/university or entering the work force, they’d be required to complete a full year of travel, study & work-study, which was completely sponsored by the state. A year where the youth would have the opportunity to broaden their minds, stimulate their brain cells, socialize with foreigners from around the globe, where they’d visit museums and monuments and great feats of architecture. A year where the people of the world would have the chance to integrate their ideas, beliefs, dreams and passions with one another. I have a dream!!!

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I have a dream where all adults would be fulfilled in their lives, de-stressed and content with their jobs because of the opportunities afforded to them by their government when they were in their youth. Where all people would be appreciative of the great memories they’d created while traveling abroad. Where all people would be given the opportunity to find themselves and find their true calling before being shuttled into our current higher education monstrosity. I have a dream where countries would tolerate one another’s differences, without resorting to horrific wars, because of the seeds sown amongst generations of travelers. I have a dream where the youth, whether rich or poor, for one year, would be treated as equals by the entire world. Where they could study, travel, work, go on pub crawls, have relationships, fall in love and go on adventures with one another. A year where the daughter of a CEO and the son of an inner-city factory worker would be in the same strata. A year where the youth would be forced out of their comfort zones into an expansive world that would leave them appreciative and in awe of the world that they live in.

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In short, I have a dream for a brighter future and a better world where everyone gets to know the joy of backpacking, visiting monuments & museums, seeing that street band play in a foreign city, going for a walk in the woods in a different country, drinking glacier water as it melts on the mountain, kissing the girl you met on the train, taking a class at a foreign university, getting into an argument with someone at a hostel and then drinking with them and realizing that your cultures aren’t all that different, going to Oktoberfest in Munich for the first time and just missing your train connection at 1am and the next train isn’t until 7am, eating a pizza in Rome and seeing the Champs-Élysées. It’s a dream that is far-fetched right now but it is certainly possible. Some countries such as Germany have had similar programs during our modern time where you could either join the military or join a volunteer service. So maybe it’s not as outlandish an idea as I think it is?

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Human beings are not just a commodity to be pegged, prodded and used as fodder. Each moment, each word and each step in a persons life has long lasting psychological impacts on them and sociological impacts on society. Parts of the world are broken and intelligent thinkers in charge need to make positive changes or else we’ll see more radical groups like the Islamic State and the reckless governments who view people as numbers and not living beings. Maybe if we were afforded the chance to speak, learn and bond with foreigners, on a large scale, then we wouldn’t view certain cultures as radical, evil or dangerous….and vice versa. I once met a North Korean fellow during my travels….we hung out and drank beer together….he was a funny dude….he told me….’I don’t like George Bush. I don’t like what he does. But I like the Yankees. And I like you’. Well maybe when he went home he told his family & friends….’Hey I had a good time with this American. He was nice. They’re not all bad’. And there you go….tolerance. Progress. One small step at a time. I certainly told people about the awesome North Korean guy who was obsessed with German beer and the Yankees. How he got out of North Korea and traveled? Beats the crap out of me!

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So, how would this dream actually work? Well it’s fairly simple…in principle. Students would have to sign up for their accommodations (state sponsored hostels) and air-fare/train-fare (State sponsored) similar to the way they sign up for classes in college. There would need to be some ‘Backpacking Counselors’, which initially I’m sure the government could find amongst the travel bloggers and travel enthusiasts out there. Those people would staff the hostels, lead tours and help the students. Then eventually, those ‘Backpacking Counselors’ could be staffed by some of our youth that just fell in love with backpacking and they made it their career to assist others in their journeys. Those folks could work at any of the state sponsored hostels around the globe. They’d be viewed as college professors sort of….but KICK ASS college professors. Those counselors would also make sure students were getting enough culture and work-study. Each sponsored hostel could also have a tiny military presence (country of sponsorship or NATO or what have you) just to ensure that student travelers are safe and also to give certain soldiers a better job than cleaning out the latrines at their local military installation. It’s the technological age….so each student would have a data-chip in their ID card, which would be linked to their personal ‘student travel website’. All information would be cached/collected so that their counselors could make sure they were 1. Doing enough cultural activities (museums, guided tours, plays etc.) 2. Doing enough work-study (example: they’d need to work for 2 months out of the year at state sponsored hostels in food service, office work and janitorial duties) and 3. Seeing enough of the required cities on the list (example: each student would plan their own custom trip but would be required to see such places as- Dublin, London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Barcelona, Moscow, Athens, Istanbul, Cairo, Hong Kong, Brazil, Tokyo etc.). Also, for Americans (or any locals and their own country of residence for that matter) they’d be required to visit a certain portion of their own country too. I mean, how can you broaden your horizons when you don’t know about the place that you’re actually from…..right?

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Obviously there’d be some exceptions to the rule. You wouldn’t want criminals traveling around or people who didn’t complete their high school education and were looking for a freebie. There’d have to be some type of incentive to getting this state-sponsored opportunity. (For example, ‘you must receive your high school diploma and have volunteered X number of hours in your community and have a clean criminal record [within reason of course cause cops LOOOOVVVEEE to arrest people these days]) And there you have it. The basis for a world of adventurers that would learn from each culture and eventually work in every industry….from simple people who farm and cut trees, to people who become CEO’s, bankers and politicians. Would this proposed system work? Of course it would. Education fills your head. Travel opens your mind and stimulates your senses. Meeting people from other cultures and walks of life educates you even more, makes you tolerant and expands your world view. And instituting a program like this for the youth of the world….well……give it a try and see how AWESOME the world would be a generation later. You can educate yourself (great!) and watch all the news and all the documentaries that you want, good or bad, but they’ll still never be the same as putting your feet on the ground, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds & conversations, eating the foods and immersing yourself in another culture. And back to those bad eggs or youth with a less than favorable background. We wouldn’t want to exclude them because that’s not entirely fair. Maybe they’d have the option to join a branch of the military and get their world travel through a 2-year volunteer service with NATO or some type of world sponsored guard service. Hey, the ‘World Guard’ just like the ‘National Guard’.

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I’m just a regular guy. I don’t have an ivy league educational background that would put me into a decision making spot in politics, nor do I have the desire nor the connections to do so. I don’t have the fame, money or prowess to create a foundation and lobby our policy makers in this area. I don’t even have a full-time job right now. But what I do have is a voice….and a lot of experience. I know what I’m talking about. And I know that this is something that is progressive, has high potential and that the governments of the world need, especially the US government. It wouldn’t even cost that much when you put 2 and 2 together. Maybe it’ll take 50 years. Maybe it’ll take 100 years or even 200 years. But it’ll happen whether it’s sponsored or not. People are waking up. They’re realizing that there’s no adventure left in the world and the life that we’re spoon fed to live isn’t a life that they want. So, for those of you that read this….maybe you’re already in a place of power, maybe you’re a student who will one day become a senator or a young genius who will become a renowned scientist….and maybe you like my idea. And maybe, just maybe….you’ll go backpacking and have an adventure of your own….so that you’ll know EXACTLY what I just talked about. Turn off that TV. Stop saving up your money for the same vacation to Ocean City that you’ve gone on for the last 10 years… and do something new for a change.

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Eventually we’ll all realize that the various Gods we worship are essentially the same. That some of the religious rules we follow are outdated and need to be amended or thrown away. That the differences in our cultures can be appreciated and tolerated….and some of those differences are merely in text books and in the news and aren’t differences at all. That our own mind is the only thing preventing us from taking that next leap into an unknown realm of understanding and a better existence. The old ideas may not be working anymore…..and we’ve gotta start somewhere new….or else we’ll continue beheading others who in a different world we’d be having a coffee with, running crusades and blowing up buildings that in another world we’d be taking tours and snapping pictures of, having unending wars instead of having unending symposiums and we’ll constantly live in turmoil as if we’re on thin ice instead of living as if anything is possible.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this M.A.V.B.L.O.G. Maybe you agree. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ll give this legs and run with my idea. Who knows? I’m just writing stuff on the interwebs for people like you to find. As always, be good to yourself, be good to others, be good to animals, follow The Golden Rule and have a great day.