Roadtrip Nation: Redefining the College Experience
I’ve been a huge fan of the Roadtrip Nation crew for years and years now. It’s absolutely incredible what these guys have managed to do with just one simple idea. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the group, here’s a brief explanation of who they are, how they started, and what they do, direct from the official website:
It all started with four friends and one dilemma: “What do I want to do with my life?” Fresh out of college and unsure about the career paths in front of them, they were determined to expose themselves to more than just the traditional life roads. They hopped in an old RV, painted it green, and hit the road to talk with inspiring people from all walks of life, to find out how they came to do what they love for a living.
Today, Roadtrip Nation has evolved into a PBS series, three books, an online community, and a student movement. We send people on the road who are interested in exploring the world outside their comfort zone, talking with individuals who chose to define their own road in life, and sharing their experiences with our generation.
I can actually still remember how I first discovered these guys: I was browing in the University of Pittsburgh bookstore, where the first Roadtrip Nation book was being displayed on an end-cap, and for some reason it immediately caught my eye. I remember picking up the book, flipping it over and reading the back-cover copy, and just being entirely blown away by how incredibly cool this thing was: the concept, the book itself — the entire package, really. I’m sure I was also incredibly envious for not having thought of it first.
Anyway, not long after I discovered that first RTN product, I read that the guys had inked a deal to sell their book inside Starbucks, and I believe the PBS show — which I’ve unfortunately never had the chance to see — debuted right around the same time. And then I lost track of the group. I don’t remember hearing anything about them at all for years, although that’s probably just because I was out of college, and therefore far outside their marketing reach.
But about a month ago, I drove over to the Camden campus of Rutgers University to see one of my all-time favorite travel writers, Rolf Potts, give a reading from his recently released book of essays, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There. And wouldn’t you know it? I was leafing through a pile of event flyers and postcards before the reading started, when all of a sudden, my eyes landed on a thick stack of Roadtrip Nation postcards. I grabbed a couple cards, and although I have no idea where they are now, I’m fairly certain they were advertising the current Bring Roadtrip Nation to Your Campus project. This is an extremely kick-ass initiative, so if you’re currently a college student or a college professor or instructor, and if the Roadtrip Nation idea interests you in the least, please keep reading.
Basically, the RTN crew drives around the country all year long, traveling from college to college across the states, and can be hired to give a variety of different presentations about their experiences on the road. And their experiences, as the long quote at the very beginning of this post explains, basically consist of a series of interviews with phenomenally interesting business people, creative entrepreneurs, self-made celebrities, and other people who happen to love the work they do.
In fact, I don’t know if this is something they’re still doing, but in the first book, they actually interviewed people with jobs that wouldn’t normally be considered enviable — garbage men, for instance — but who still happened to absolutely love those jobs, for whatever reason. The idea, of course, is that it absolutely does not matter what you decide to do for a living, as long as you actually like what it is you’re doing.
That may seem like an obvious enough statement on the surface, but in our American society, where each one of us is judged each and every day by the job we hold, it can be pretty tempting to follow a career path you have no interest in whatsoever, assuming that career path happens to be particularly high-paying, or high-profile, or whatever.