During the first week of my freshman year at University of Missouri-Columbia, my roommate and I (prophetically) painted the title to Cat Stevens song “On the Road to Find Out” in Day-Glo paint on our dorm room window. I only logged one year there before I dropped out and became a flight attendant for Braniff International Airways. I traded the four year college experience for a chance to discover the world. Though my career actually became traveling, my Braniff buddies and I were always looking for an opportunity to cobble together a few days off and take a trip somewhere. You would think we would want to stay home for a bit, but we were young, adventurous and there were so many interesting places to visit. Our tight budgets required modest accommodations. Staying in a Rome hostel or sleeping on the train while exploring England were the norm. We would loosely compile a list of things we wanted to see and do when we got to wherever we were going, but usually plans were ditched in exchange for spontaneity. My world view was forever changed by those impromptu travels.
Traveling with children can also alter your world view-dramatically. When you hit the child-rearing stage of life, the term “vacation” is revised to mean “kid-friendly”. Disneyland, camping, skiing, lakes, beach trips etc. become part of your job description as parents. Spontaneity during a vacation with kids translates into “Ok, Johnny is throwing up in the back seat so it looks like I’ll be staying in the car while you guys go see the Grand Canyon.” You learn to pack the following on family vacations; patience, love of drive-thru fast food, and Dramamine. Memories (good and sometimes not so good) are made on these getaways. However, the biggest bonus is watching your child step out of their comfort zone by engaging with different landscapes, people, and cultures. Consequently, their world view is changed.
As I have finally begun the post-post-postpartum stage of life, I find myself a bit jealous of the collegiate career I passed up. Not only for the knowledge I would have acquired back then, but because I have no true alumni connection. I do realize that saves me from being badgered during dinner by annual phon-a-thons-which can be a good thing. But when my husband and our kids (who all went 4 years to college) receive alumni magazines in the mail, I read them cover to cover. Isn’t that weird? Besides noting the enduring camaraderie among the alums who send in updates, I also read about the interesting tour packages offered by alumni associations. Most are educationally focused and some (like Northwestern University) may provide a faculty member to host the trip and offer enrichment lectures. Groups of old college friends sometimes go together and send in accounts of the wonderfully planned excursions these trips entailed. I examine the destinations and itineraries and make a mental note that one day my husband and I should sign up and go. The irony is certainly not lost on me that I have come full circle from my younger days. Now, I am MORE than willing to trade spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants travel for educationally-focused, college-associated, air/meals/hotel accommodations-included travel. I just want to show up and enjoy the fruits of travel research done by somebody else!
So, in light of this future fantasy of mine, I checked with a few colleges travel operators to see if you really HAVE to be an alumni to join the tour. Guess what? Your money is good without a diploma!! That being said, I absolutely believe in supporting the annual fund-raising efforts of colleges and universities. Even giving $5 to your graduating class when they call can help with their participation statistics. And remember just how much you enjoyed your 4 years of Higher Education. So, like the Beach Boys encourage us in their song–”Be True to Your School.”
Here are some of my favorite vicarious Alma Maters and links to their travel sites:
University of Missouri-Columbia
University of Colorado-Boulder