Hi, my name is Rita Golden Gelman and I have no home and hardly any possessions. I am homeless, but I’m not poor. I’ve been traveling around the world for 27 years on the modest royalties from my kids’ books. You may have heard of More Spaghetti, I Say! I’ve also written a book called, Tales of a Female Nomad, where I talk about my life connecting with people in Mexico, Central and South America, Indonesia, India, Thailand, New Zealand….and lots more.
Living a nomadic life has opened my heart and soul and mind; and the lifestyle has brought me incredible joy. It’s also led me to some dramatic conclusions. The most impactful is the following: if the U.S. had a population that has interacted with other cultures, on a face-to-face level, we’d be a much more compassionate, respectful, and understanding country. And I think we’d be a lot closer to peace in the world. How the world sees and treats us depends on how we see the world.
I think the most important thing that happens to people who are lucky enough to live in other cultures, is that they realize that people, wherever they are and whatever they look like, are really all the same. In every culture people laugh and sing and eat and pee. Tribal people in New Guinea who hunt with bows and arrows, smile and cry. Like us, they love their children and share their food; they are sad when people die. And they are curious about the world they live in.
I want more than anything to create a U.S. population that has crossed borders and connected with other cultures. The question is, how do we create that population? After a lot of thought, I have decided to focus on encouraging high school students to take a year (or even a month!) after they finish high school to travel. It’s a custom in England, Australia, New Zealand, Germany. Why not in the U.S.? There are already programs set up. There are lots of ways to fund it. Many colleges are happy to defer entry for a year. Colleges know that students who have done an international Gap Year are more confident and motivated. A Gap Year gives them direction and self-esteem. Employers consider it an advantage to have employees who have experienced other cultures. It’s a win, win experience.
If the idea is relatively new and you don’t know what you think about it, have a look below. Which group are you in?
I hope to see you here again next month when I will write some hints about some strategies I use to connect to people in other cultures. I hope you will choose to change the world with me.
Don’t even think about doing an international Gap Year (or semester or month) if:
- You think learning has to take place in a classroom.
- It’s never occurred to you to question some of the rules that your parents and teachers have planted in you, such as, “You have to go directly to college or a job once you graduate from high school.” They’ve convinced you that going to college immediately after high school is like going to first grade after kindergarten. It’s predetermined.
- Your future is clear and you’re convinced that seeing the beauty, observing the wisdom, or experiencing the pain of poverty and the richness of life in traditional cultures would just get in the way of your goals.
- You can look at the tiny dot where you live on the world map, and you have no curiosity about all those other countries and ways of life out there.
- You’re certain about what you want to major in and what you want to do for the rest of your life, and your choice is based on knowing who you are and an awareness of the many different options that are out there. You’re afraid that if you are exposed to ideas and situations, you might question your decision. Besides, you and your family can’t afford a Gap Year. It’s just for rich kids.
On the other hand, start saving and working and exploring the many different ways to do a Gap Year; and check out the programs and scholarships that are available to high school graduates if:
- You think it’s time for a break from classroom learning.
- You’d like to explore the world and yourself a bit before you begin college or get a job.
- You’d like to connect with people who are different from you and learn about other ways of life.
- You’re not afraid of a little hard work to earn the money or find a scholarship that will get you into a Gap Year program.
- You want to contribute to peace and understanding in the world, and you know that in order to do that, you have to get to know that world, firsthand.
- You’d like to find out who you are when you’re on your own, responsible to yourself and not to parents and teachers.
- You are intrigued by the challenge of crossing borders, the experience of tackling difficult situations, and the independence of thinking for yourself.
- When you look at the tiny dot where you live, you know you that you are cheating yourself if that’s all you ever experience. You believe that the first-hand experience of another culture will be very different from reading about it in a book.
- You know that most employers these days consider it an advantage to hire young people who have experienced the world beyond academics and national borders.
- You’re not afraid to research the options and figure out how you can finance a Gap Year. You know that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen.