Alternative Education

Education of a Wandering ManMy brother Seth recommended a book to me recently, which I then read and thoroughly enjoyed. The book was Education of a Wandering Man by the author of so many great Western books, Louis L’Amour.

Throughout Education of a Wandering Man, L’Amour tells stories of his “education” and how he came to be such a good writer. His qualifications didn’t include a college degree or even a high school diploma. Education doesn’t only come from school. In fact, many things are best learned outside of school.

L’Amour dropped out of school at 15 years of age and traveled the world. He picked up any odd jobs he could to earn money along the way—not an easy thing in the 1920’s and 30’s. Since he was able and willing he found work as a ranch hand, miner, sailor and sometimes amateur boxer. He traveled extensively in the western part of the United States as well as overseas. He often asked locals about the history of the area wherever he was. He listened to the gunfighters, lawmen and cowboys who had lived the stories of the Old West firsthand. He explored the towns, mountains and country sides of those old stories. This level of immersion into history and geography helped him write incredible, page-turning novels later in his life. L’Amour said, “No matter where you go, east, west, north, and south, there are stories. People are forever asking me where I get my ideas, but one has only to look, and to live with awareness. All men look, but so few can see.”

Another way L’Amour continued his education was reading. He had books with him wherever he went. He frequented libraries and also spent some of whatever money he earned along the way to buy books. He often read over 100 books per year. By the time he wrote Education of a Wandering Man he had amassed a personal library of over 10,000 of his favorite books. Of course he also wrote 86 novels, 16 short story collections and 3 nonfiction books of his own! Not bad for a high school dropout.

Here are a few more Louis L’Amour quotes to think about this week:

  • “A book is less important for what it says than for what it makes you think.”
  • “One becomes a writer by writing.”
  • “I do not believe the human mind has any limits but those we impose ourselves.”

As you probably know by now, I’m a huge advocate of books, lifelong learning and self-education. I partially credit Louis L’Amour books for my love of reading. I read many of his novels in high school. I also read the Narnia books, Hardy boys, Nancy Drew and a smattering of non-fiction. Any kind of books are useful to get a person into the habit. I now read a ton of non-fiction(18 books so far this year). I’d like to tell you that I gained my financial freedom by reading books. But sadly, I dragged my wife through many lessons the hard way. Don’t follow my path, follow my advice. Read the books. There are MUCH easier ways to financial freedom than the challenges I took on. As L’Amour says of learning the hard way, “I believe adventure is nothing but a romantic name for trouble.”


  1. So true! I love traveling through the bookshelves here at home. Books can show me the whole world.

    • Exactly! L’Amour said, “The armchair adventurer has all the advantages, believe me. …I believe adventure is nothing but a romantic name for trouble.”

  2. Christopher Martin says:

    Would love to be educated the way that Louis was. Thanks for the post!

  3. Christopher Martin says:

    Also, this post made me think of an article I read some time back. Below is the link. Very good.

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