A Different Approach to Learning… and Travel

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor into the mind.” — Seneca
“Five years from now on the Web, for free, you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.” — Bill Gates (2010)

The first quote has always been true. The second, not so long. It’s where these two statements intersect that sparked my interest at the back end of 2015.

I had a great job at a Management Consulting firm in London. On the surface life couldn’t be better. But underneath I was restless, I wanted more.

The problem was the more that I wanted consisted of two things: world travel and a new career in Software Engineering. Two things that conventional wisdom would tell you cannot be attained simultaneously.

I could plunge myself deeper into debt with a masters degree, tying me down for a year to one city, with a schedule and syllabus that someone else decides, meaning I couldn’t possibly afford travel before or after.

Or I could fulfill my desire to see more of the world by taking time out of “the system” and give up on the career change, potentially jeopardizing my current career. My employer certainly wouldn’t hold my job for me indefinitely.

The opportunity cost of taking either of these routes seemed too great.

Then it dawned on me, could I do both?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 5 years or so, you will have noticed the meteoric rise in popularity of both Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from some of the most prestigious universities in the world (MIT, Harvard, and Stanford to name a few), and other educational platforms such as Lynda, Udacity, Udemy and Free Code Camp. The list of such providers seems to be endless and ever growing.

The appeal of such companies and courses is obvious. The traditional education monolith is broken. The expectation that plowing yourself deep into debt to obtain a degree that will provide you with an avenue into the career and life you want is no longer true. As well as the exorbitant expense, you also have to commit 3 or 4 years of your precious time for an undergraduate degree and at least a further year for a Masters.

As always, governments are slow to realize such things. Silicon Valley however, is not.

These platforms provide world class educational opportunities in anything from knitting to computational neuroscience, all at a slither of the price of a traditional degree, if not completely free.

Most are self paced, meaning you can learn alongside other commitments, or study intensely and acquire new skills at a rate of knots. The requirements for the courses provided by these companies are usually low. You’ll need a steady internet connection (most courses contain some video), and the discipline and free time to see the course through to conclusion.

I figured that I could acquire the new skills I needed while traveling the world for the same length of time I would have spent completing a masters, all for a fraction of the cost.

Fast forward to today, after 6 months on the road, and I’m 4 MOOCs and 5 countries down.

I’ve learned a ton on my journey, such as which destinations suit this lifestyle, what’s the best balance between comfort and price for accommodation, and how to keep focused when you’re surrounded by some of the most beautiful and interesting places (and people!) on the planet.

The number one thing that was missing from the majority of my journey was a community of like minded individuals pursuing similar goals to mine.

I found myself stuck between two worlds:

On the one hand there are Backpackers, committed to unadulterated hedonism. Backpackers are easy to meet. Most stay in hostels that are geared toward making quick and deep connections with people.

There is no doubt that spending time with the backpacker crowd is fun, and you’ll meet lifelong friends from all around the world. But when you’re trying to study, you can imagine, it’s distracting to be surrounded by people who’s purpose essentially amounts to having as much fun and good times as humanly possible.

On the other are the Digital Nomads. Their burgeoning ranks largely attributed to Tim Ferriss’ book, “The Four Hour Work Week.” Digital Nomads typically have well established careers or businesses that can be executed entirely over the internet. Because of this, they are able to live anywhere in the world that has a stable internet connection, often while collecting a western-level income. This phenomenon means that they can exploit geo-arbitrage to live in absolute luxury.

I didn’t quite fit into this community either. My budget was probably less than half of what most Digital Nomads live on. And although the work ethic of this community better suited my ambitions, personal connections were much harder to come by, and when they did, were never quite at the depth of those you find among backpackers.

And so I found myself bouncing between these two communities each having it’s endearing qualities but neither quite fitting what I needed. I wanted the deep connections and good times that the Backpackers had, as well as the purpose and work ethic of the Digital Nomads.

And so the idea for Edumadic was born.

Edumadic organizes and leads 12 week programs around the world for carefully curated groups of online learners who want to pursue their love of travel and adventure, without jeopardizing their education.

Each program visits 3 different countries spending 4 weeks in each. All travel, accommodation, and suitable study spaces (with fast internet) are provided at the real local price, not the one you find online.