College grads backpack the world


He hiked to the top of a 12,000-foot volcano, spent the night in a Laotian jail, taught English at an orphanage, slept on the luggage racks of buses as he traveled through Southeast Asia. Lars Pedersen is part of a movement among young people to backpack the world before dogged responsibility latches on.

A nation-wide trend is beginning to make its mark on college graduates in Provo. those who have done it say backpacking around the world is a valuable learning experience that should be seized upon at the right time. For many college students, the right time to travel the globe is immediately following college graduation.

Pedersen, a finance graduate from California State University, Chico, in northern Calif., said he believes the freedom and lack of commitments many college graduates enjoy make young men and women prime candidates to visit different cultures.

“Commitments are being held off longer and longer these days,” Pedersen said. “This is a great thing. There’s no rush to grow up and get serious, you have your whole life to do that. Go see the world and have some fun before you don’t have that chance. Avoiding responsibility? No. But, postponing responsibility? Yes.”

Some BYU students are embracing the trend and taking advantage of their freedoms to travel the world. David and Karly Andrew, a young couple from Orange County, Calif., got married this past June and left seven days later to spend their first summer together on a prolonged honeymoon exploring the European and Asian continents.

David Andrew learned a lot about himself and even more about marriage on his month-long expedition.

“The only times we really had some disagreements were when we were tired or hungry,” Andrew said. “We made sure we got enough sleep and food and the trip was wonderful.”

Andrew and his wife said backpacking is not an excuse to postpone a career, but a small window of time in which young people can learn from different cultures. Andrew recently had an interview with a potential employer who was raised in India, and he impressed his interviewer by sharing what he learned from Indian culture.

Pedersen’s parents encouraged him to travel the world and engage himself in foreign cultures. As graduation neared for Pedersen, his friends began making plans to backpack together through Europe. But Pedersen was determined to throw himself into an unpredictable adventure in a region of the world he was unfamiliar with.

“Europe is a beautiful place, but I wanted some adventure,” Pedersen said. “I wanted to immerse myself in different cultures and see the world, not just the glamorous vacation stops. And I wanted to do it alone.”

For six months, Pedersen found himself engulfed about by adventure. Starting in Indonesia, Pedersen leisurely traveled through the region, relishing the people and culture of Southeast Asia. He haggled his way for free meals, meager jobs and traveled across the entire country of Cambodia for less than $15.

After six months of living among the people of Asia, Pedersen had racked up memories, lessons and that mysterious tattoo. Although Pedersen cannot decipher what the tattoo means in English, he can share precious lessons he learned while backpacking trough Asia.

“I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of doing,” Pedersen said. “I have become much more confident and comfortable trying new things. People are friendly around the world so stop talking about embarking on an adventure and just do it.”

Tommy Johnsen, a business student from Kearney, Miss., who backpacked through Europe last summer, said some of life’s greatest lessons can be learned through experiences with people and cultures that differ from our idea of normal.

“I strongly encourage all college students to get out of the country and experiment something new,” Johnsen said.

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