Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - July 23, 2010

Guest Opinion: Shifting the paradigm of Palo Alto to the world

by Wolf Price

I'm just another person from Palo Alto working to continue this city's pattern of innovation. I was born and raised here by a family of artists, both parents professional photographers, so I didn't fit into the normal Palo Alto trend.

My parents filled my life with artistic opportunities and encouragement. Growing up in Palo Alto brought together technology and art. I discovered invention to be the sculpture of technology.

At 16 I was granted a film-making scholarship to Innerspark, a residential college-level course for the top artists from California school districts, at Cal Arts in Valencia. The teachers there advised against art school, and said I should learn from experience. So the conventional college track wasn't for me.

How could it be? My experimental mentality was reflected in my role models: Gandhi, Ansel Adams and Alexandra David-Neel, the early 1900s explorer whose works supposedly influenced early voices of America's Beat Generation.

I wanted to be the American Richard Branson billionaire but with minimalism, or the next Kerouac, without a drug addiction.

But understanding the world — experience — was my most pressing need. I applied to a study-abroad program, but after seeing the price tag, and having already worked hard at Whole Foods to save, I realized I could do the trip solo for far less.

At 17, my summer after junior year at Paly, I went to Europe for six weeks with my bicycle.

That trip changed my life. I came home, graduated early and returned to Europe for three months. In Spain I took a ferry to Morocco, and my experience in North Africa again changed my perspective. The signs were clear: Traveling was my passion, and would help me realize my dream of contributing to Palo Alto innovation.

Never on vacation, never with a guidebook, the aim of my travels was education. I immersed myself in different cultures, and learned about the human condition and the world via direct transmission.

I studied books on history and culture, and networked with other travelers to help decide where to go next. I traveled through Nepal, rural Thailand, India, Bangladesh and all over Central and South America.

I liked the Third World because for me it made life meaningful. I was immersed in reality. There was no escaping the constant experience of minimalism and the benefits of a frugal life. All around me in the most simple surroundings were the happiest people I had ever met.

While my peers were binge drinking or using study drugs to stay awake cramming in some college, I was ordaining as a monk in rural Thailand, or working 10 hours a day building an Eco-dome and digging up Mayan artifacts in the Guatemalan jungle.

I knew I had discovered an unconventional path to success. Instead of spending thousands of dollars to study a subject, one can work under practitioners in the field, learn from experience — and get paid. I immersed myself in sustainable communities in Central America. I analyzed Buddhist and Vedic teachings in temples and ashrams in Thailand, Nepal and India.

I studied and worked in 50 countries around the world and returned to many places several times.

"So who paid for it?" I have been asked. In a given month I spent $100 to $300. I'm self-supporting from my photography business in Palo Alto.

While exploring the meaning of life around the world I expressed myself through photography, writing and video. I discovered wonderful people, visited paradisaical places and learned valuable lessons.

Many changes people want and wait for in the world already exist. I saw the difference between the lonely individualist Western ideal and non-Western culture of community: a friendly togetherness that is impossible to ignore.

The point of this nomadism is clear — to devote my life to leading a new movement in alternative travel and education. I want to inspire young people to take time before or during college to see the world from a more three-dimensional perspective, so as to maximize the value of their college experience.

I'm ready to share my tools to experience a world where people are happy with food, water, shelter and family.

Now that I've seen how people can be genuinely happier with simple lives than with money, I am free to be satisfied with any outcome of my own life. With my methods one can go anywhere and be welcomed with open arms. Bike down a street and dozens will invite you to eat with them, or inquire where you're headed.

It's important for young people to recognize that there are teachers and lessons everywhere for one's entire life and to understand that the most significant lessons in life aren't in the curricula of Harvard or Stanford. The push for high-profile education can leave one with little or no time for introspection and developing life skills, integral to deciding one's future.

After six years discovering and practicing my international lifestyle what do I have to show for it? A global community and a portfolio of media and inventions that can change the way people perceive the world. I believe I'm ready to help reinvent the travel industry, or part of it. By writing a universal guidebook I'll expose people to the possibilities of the modern world, and teach people that virtually anybody can do this.

Over the years I've taken photos, made films and created a website to share my joy in independent experiential travel.

As time goes by I understand more that one does not need to live like me to realize that simply seeing one's surroundings in an open-minded and friendly way will change everything, at home and abroad.

I'm always happy to help people make the most out of their hard-earned travel time. Six years on the road may seem like a long time, but insha'Allah, it's just the beginning.

Wolf Price is a native Palo Altan and attended Palo Alto High School before embarking on creative and educational travels. His website is www.WanderWolf.com, and he can be e-mailed at wolfprice@gmail.com.

Comments

Posted by Phoebe Z, a resident of Addison School
on Jul 23, 2010 at 4:52 pm

This is wonderful Wolf, I love hearing about your travels and your perspective on the fundamentals of travel and culture. I think this is very important for people to learn, at any age. I am so happy to see you on such a magical path.


Posted by Ruth, a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2010 at 6:50 pm

it's inspiring to see what Wolf has done in life and will do in the future without having gone to college. We should teach our kids to understand that college is just a step on the path.


Posted by Angela, a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Hi Wolf, I met your mother in Ubud, Bali. We made an instant connection and she is dear to my heart. I am from Hawaii, been living in Bali full-time for 7 months. Your article is right on the money, living simply, immersing yourself in the culture, not being a tourist and stopping to reflect on life's daily lessons...prior to coming to Bali I was not spiritual and so uptight. Now every day I wake up alive I am so happy to have another opportunity to continue my journey and make a difference. While everyone back home thinks we are crazy or "checking out", if they would take a blind leap of faith to see the world, their lives would be forever changed. Keep on the good work and aloha


Posted by Wolf's Dad, a resident of another community
on Jul 27, 2010 at 7:38 pm

I also want to add Wolf found love and married this year.


Posted by Suzanne Barnett, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 27, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I am Wolf's grandmother, and I was very disappointed that Wolf wasn't going to attend an Art University. I have been proven wrong. I am very proud of Wolf. He is an extremely talented young man, and I realize now that he had the courage to follow his dream.

I am a Television Producer of 2 of my own Shows. I had Wolf as my guest on a recent Show. He was so well informed about his life experience, travels etc., as well as being so enthusiastic about his unusual new life style . I have had very good feedback on his performance.


Posted by Andrew L. Freedman, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 28, 2010 at 10:25 am

Hi Wolf,

Your article here is inspiring and brought back memories of my Peruvian travels!

I too grew up here in Palo Alto and when I was 22, I asked a travel agent to find me a place that is far away, different, and inexpensive. At that time (1979), the Peruvian Government offered a special charter flight (LA - Lima - Cuzco - Lima - LA) for only $386. The catch, you had to stay there for 3 months.

Having never traveled, I was stunned at first when I arrived in Lima. I learned to travel cheap, 2nd class, with the Inca's their animals, by bus and train. I met so many people and made many friends. I learned more in 3 months than, more than what a university could have taught me. In looking back, it was one of the best times of my life.

I really enjoyed reading your article - you are a very good writer!

Andy


Posted by Lisa, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 29, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Wolf, thank you for taking the initiative to get this published right here in Palo Alto. I love that you have "come home" with your message of living a creative lifestyle and learning so much about yourself by serving communities and being open to new experiences.

This is really a perspective that we can only get by doing it ourselves, but what you've written gives us something to drool over in the meantime.


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