At some point, I heard that "breaks" in the resume are viewed unfavorably by employers. But! I would argue that travel, especially extended, non-vacation travel, is a better preparation for life and work than university. Personally, I gained perspective and context from my travels that I could not have, indeed, did not gain at a university. Plus, 10.5 months abroad was far less than 10% of the price of my Ivy League degree. Which I don't plan to use any longer. But that's another story.
To demonstrate that travelers can learn very real, very useful skills and abilities, I've prepared...
- Barber: Styled men's and women's haircuts with only a Swiss Army knife, hot water, and bravado.
- Language tutor: Practiced English conversational skills with beginner through intermediate learners via impromptu interactions. Focused on phoneme pronunciation via a self-developed lesson plan in a monastic setting.
- Driver: Drove on both the left and right sides of the road (not under the influence of anything).
- Ambassador: Represented the culture of New York and the United States to individuals who were unfamiliar with Americans who are not in movies or on television.
- Cook: Prepared snacks and meals with minimal supplies (a carrot, a package of instant noodles, a Swiss Army knife, and 1/2 teaspoon of imagination).
- Accountant: Managed trip finances and delivered an exceptional experience under budget.
- Nurse: Treated blisters, toenail afflictions, profuse vomiting, violent diarrhea, and so much more. Attended Himalayan Rescue Association's altitude sickness seminars; correctly diagnosed AMS in idiot trekkers ascending too fast.
- Guide: Knows hiking trails from New Zealand to Malaysia to Nepal, proper method adjust a backpack, and correct trek pole technique.
- Diplomacy: Can tactfully listen to the entire world complain about Dubya and praise Obama without becoming involved in political discussions.
- Foreign languages: Familiar with Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Cambodian, Nepali, Turkish, and Hebrew. Speaks Spanish well enough and English fluently. Proficient in Globeish (simplified international English) and, when all else fails, pantomime.
- Negotiation and bargaining: Adept at getting as close to the "locals' price" as humanly possible without facial plastic surgery, CIA-operative training, or conversion to Islam. Remember, if you don't want to kill each other by the end, you left money on the table.
- Mental currency exchange: Able to convert between multiple currencies on-the-fly while bargaining hard (see above).
- Kung fu trip planning: Expedia is for amateurs. Who else would travel on Azerbaijan Airlines?
- Metric system: the only non-European, non-scientist, non-graduate student person in the U.S.A. to understand that salt should be purchased in grams, while salty snacks should be purchased in kilos.
- Can sleep anywhere: I'm sure this is relevant somehow.
- Active listener: believes that everyone has a story; even if you don't understand their language, you can still drink tea together.
- Immune to culture shock: traditional squat toilets, water buffalo milk, riding on the roof of a bus? Ok!
- Master of open-mindedness: knows the difference between hijab, chador, and burqa, and no longer notices when a woman is wearing one.
- Practices self-restraint: spent 313 days within 10 meters (see "Metric system" above) of one person and did not murder him in his sleep.
- From planner to do-er: how many people talk about wanting to "travel more" and to "see the world," and how many actually do it?
Ng at Five Brothers Restaurant, Siem Reap, Cambodia