I recently finished a three-and-a-half week working holiday in Amsterdam. I went there knowing no one except for a college friend, and I ended up having a great time without spending much money (compared to typical travel expenses).
Here’s my advice for planning your own low-cost, high-experience trip to Europe.
In the tech startup world, there’s something called MVP: Minimum Viable Product. It represents the idea that, instead of trying to create a perfect new product, just get something out there and see if people actually like it.
Fake Grimlock―an anonymous “giant robot dinosaur” who shares startup advice on Twitter (@FAKEGRIMLOCK)―has another definition. To him, MVP means Minimum Viable Personality. You can’t just have a good product: you need a compelling personality behind the product. No personality = boring product = no one cares.
How does one acquire a personality? In this video, Grimlock explains.
“After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.”
When I was 11, I went to wilderness summer camp for the first time. I didn’t brush my teeth for two weeks. It was fantastic.
Next summer, I made a camp girlfriend. She was 14. I told her I was 13. We held hands for one steamy week. Then she discovered that I was actually 12, and I learned that lying to make someone like you doesn’t work.
A few summers later, I went on the camp’s most challenging backpacking trip. I helped plan the route, pack the food, and lead the group. We hiked to a high elevation river, played on natural water slides, and ate orange drink mix powder straight from the bag. Life was good.
Then, as I did every August, I went back to school―and life seemed to lose its color.
I did well in school. But that didn’t make things better, because camp and school felt like two totally different worlds.
At school I learned how to memorize a fact until Friday, alter the margins on an essay to create a higher page count, and study as little as possible for a test.
At camp I learned how to figure out what I want, take the initiative, conquer my fear, own my victories, and learn from my failures.
To my teenage sensibilities, the annual ratio of camp to school didn’t make sense. Why didn’t I go to camp most of the year and then head off to school for a couple months to learn grammar or algebra or whatever else camp couldn’t teach?
Fifteen years later, my sensibilities haven’t really changed. I still love working at summer camps, and I’ve designed a life around running my own multi-week, camp-style education and travel programs for teenagers.
But the biggest lesson I’ve learned? School isn’t necessarily the enemy. Life isn’t about school versus camp. It’s about seeking the engagement, excitement, and pleasure of camp-style, self-directed learning—as much as possible. With this as your mission, school becomes merely an asterisk.
Dear friends, family, and readers,
Here’s my 2013 year in review, a.k.a. “purdy pictures and nice stories from Blake’s life.”
Thanks for following my adventures,
The year started—as many do—with a packed bag. I was off to New Zealand for 6 weeks of hiking, farm volunteering, and exploring the absolute beauty of the South Island. 10 awesome teens and my good friends Julie and Cameron joined me for this Unschool Adventures trip.