In this hour-long documentary “Skills Powered” from Roadtrip Nation, three young adults explore the idea of using their skill sets on a 21 day, 3200 mile cross-country trip. In some ways, the road trip that Alex, Ryan, and Shyane set out upon is like a condensed version of a Winterline gap year, though they focus solely upon tradework.
Who are the travelers?
23 year old Alex went to college on a soccer scholarship. However, after an injury he’s unsure what to do with his life. “I want to try everything,” he boasts. “I’m going to be a sponge for this trip.”
Ryan is 24, working in a job he doesn’t love. Ryan brings up a point that many people struggle with: “for a lot of us, a four year degree just isn’t feasible.” And as he’s going to learn, while college can be a fantastic investment, it isn’t necessary for every person in every job. “A cubicle seems like a jail cell to me,” Ryan tells the camera, and “I think it’s kinda ridiculous that we expect an 18 year old kid to go into tens of thousands of dollars of debt without them having any idea of what it is that they want to do.” So desk job and college aside, Ryan is eager to find out what else is out there, especially the things beyond his imagination.
“There’s stuff out there that I’m sure I don’t even know exists, and it might be what I love to do but I have no idea that it’s even out there.” We agree with Ryan, and that’s exactly why skills are such an integral part of a Winterline gap year.
Finally, there’s 19 year old Shyane, who’s lost about what to do for a living. Shyane didn’t have a great family life growing up, is lost about what to do for a living, and is afraid to go back home and feel stuck again. So she turns her gaze outwards to explore the possibilities.
What lessons did they learn?
Along this trip, the three get to learn from individuals in a variety of trades: welding, woodshop, cooking and buffet management, solar energy and sustainable housing, animal behavior consultants at the Oklahoma City Zoo, engineers at the GE Aviation plant, scuba divers, small business owners, makeup and wardrobe consultants, musical technicians, and audio engineers. Some of the professionals loved the skill their whole life. Some didn’t even know it existed or give it a try until they were older. Some went to college, some didn’t.
Each tradesperson had fantastic advice to give to Alex, Ryan, and Shyane. Though much of it follows the same vein, it can be hard to internalize this type of advice when you’ve grown up in a society that teaches the typical “high school, college, work” path is the right one. So we’re going to let each tradesperson tell you that this isn’t the one and only path you can take to success.
- “You don’t have to feel like a failure if you don’t go to a four year university.” – Lisa Legohn, Welder
- “You have to explore in order to find out what you really like, but don’t let opportunities pass you by. They’re not always going to come and knock, you have to go find them.” – Lisa Legohn, Welder
- “You have to be in love with what you’re doing because life has many ups and downs but it’s that love that keeps you going everyday.” – Leticia Nunez, Chef
- “There’s a huge on-the-job training aspect that you can’t get in a book. You have to go out and start doing it and learning and making mistakes and building upon it.” – Kimberly Leser, Curator of Animal Behavior & Welfare
- “If you think that you like something and you want to pursue it, pursue it. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a career for 20, 30 years and hate it and by the time you realize that, you’re ready to retire and you don’t have any other options. Now’s the time to explore that.” – Bill Lamp’l, Small Business Owner
- “You have to look for your own opportunity. No one is going to hand it to you.” – Nancy Feldman, Blue Man Group Makeup Artist and Wardrobe Supervisor
And by the end of their trip, the young adults had taken this to heart. “I feel like I’m more awake,” Alex says about returning from this experience. Shyane felt as though she experienced an “aha” moment working with the seals at the zoo. After, she admits that there are way more options for work than she ever would have assumed. “I’ve always had a fear of just jumping into something. But worst case scenario, you just jump into something else.” She concludes. Finally, Ryan “didn’t even know that a lot of these careers existed. All I knew was to go to a four year university. [But] you can do trades and be successful and love what you do.”
We highly recommend that you watch the documentary to see this growth for yourself, but if you don’t, take away a lesson from Alex, Shyane, and Ryan’s journey: there’s a whole world of possibilities out there, and you won’t know until you try them.