'Walzing’ with Nature – young peoples’ love for the road, minimalist possessions, and sleeping under the stars
conference contributionposted on 2022-04-06, 04:22 authored by Christian SchottChristian Schott
“Was ich nicht erlernt habe, das habe ich erwandert.“ “What I did not learn, I hiked” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German Poet, 1749 – 1832) Rapid technological advancement and societal changes are impacting on virtually all aspects of life, including leisure and work mobility (Sheldon, Fesenmaier, Woeber, Cooper and Antonioli, 2008). Despite these seismic changes there is at least one mobility tradition that has changed little over the last century. With the mission of celebrating and instilling century-old values, including connection with the land that sustains us, and practices in young people the German tradition of Wanderschaft resists the tide of change. Wanderschaft, also known as Walz, is a form of mobility for crafts people that is organized and supported by guilds with their origins in the middle ages. Because the Walz is for young people during the important transitional life stage between adolescents and adulthood it is closely related to van Gennep’s (1960) Rites of Passage. Many of the rules and practices that date back to medieval times have not changed over the last one hundred years. These rules are strictly enforced and are akin to what today’s academics would consider as slow travel (Dickinson, Lumsdon, & Robbins, 2011) and avoidance of consumer society. Walzing youth possess only a minimalist bundle of belongings, which see them through their journey of at least three years and one day, and start their journey with only five Euros. In keeping with the tradition they are required to wear a century-old outfit that celebrates their craft and guild; one outfit when they travel and one when they work, rendering additional clothes apart from underwear redundant. They travel only by foot or by hitch-hiking with people who stop to share their car, truck, boat, etc; as a result they are don’t own cars nor other items that anchor or bind them, such as mobile phones. Although these young people are very resourceful when needed, the tradition is founded on the traditional societal values of supporting those that have less as well as the generosity of strangers for food, transport, and accommodation. Interestingly it also has strong underpinnings of valuing and supporting young people as they transition through the awkward stage of adolescence, which in the Walz tradition is akin to Turner’s (1969) liminal phase. They walk significant parts of their Wander–schaft and sleep under the stars to connect with and learn from nature, the road and people and cultures. In the face of our consumption-oriented, digitalized, and fast paced world a study of this unusual tradition and the guilds that support it provides valuable insights into alternative forms of learner mobility and less institutionalized forms of learning. The paper seeks to illuminate this organized educational culture, which embraces learning focused on craft skills and learning for broader personal development, and examines the implications for today’s youths and education; about people, cultures, society, and nature.