Good thread. Didn't read every post, but it seems like everyone has something to say on the topic. Here's mine:
I was born in 1994, I'll be turning 25 this year. All throughout high school, whenever the topic of college came up, I had deaf ears. It never appealed to me at all.. If someone mentioned what college they were going to or what loans they were applying for, I just thought "...that sounds icky". I had no alternative grand plan, yet in hindsight I literally thank myself every day for being stubborn about it and not even considering going to college. I would in no way be able to do what I'm doing now, if I had accepted the notion that I needed to get a degree to be able to live with financial and personal independence. In fact, it is clear to me now that it's the opposite: I have no degree at all, and no debt thereof, which allows me to be completely independent in terms of lifestyle. If I had invested years of my life racking up debt in college, instead of actually learning how to manage my life, I'd be a slave to whatever degree I would've squeezed out of it.
I didn't really get my shit together until about 2016, after almost 3 years of goofing off after high school (moved across the state to chase a girlfriend, smoked a bunch of weed, didn't save a dime but also never went into debt). I then got slapped in the face with reality via a breakup and moving back in with my dad. After a few too many months of semi-depression, I got a restaurant job making decent money. Somehow, a seed of the idea of buying a house was planted in my mind, and for about 2 years I saved all the cash I was making. Literally went straight to the ATM to deposit it every night after work. At this time I had no idea about or interest in permaculture, farming, horticulture, etc., I just wanted my own space. I was starting to become educated in the real world, and realized my own conservative values, the importance of personal responsibility, and how to think and plan long term. College teaches nothing in those realms.
I ended up getting a house in the city with a tiny bit of land (.18 acres), and the mortgage for this house was my first and only major debt. I have a credit card, which I use for gas and pay in full every month. I use it as a tool to build credit. I've never had a car payment- I drive a 2001 Dodge Ram which I bought with cash.
Anyway, I was the only 23 year old I knew who owned property. Even worse- at one point, I was the only person my age (who I knew) with more than a couple hundred dollars in their bank account. I would hear friends talking about how they had to wait til their next paycheck to make a certain purchase, and I would silently think "what the hell is this person doing? They make the same amount of money as me, but I have twenty grand saved and they have zero." Intentionally or not, my friend group has certainly shifted.
So as soon as I moved into my property, I started planting fruit trees. Just a banana and a papaya to start with, but gradually my interest grew. Now, the entire property is a food forest. I started to get really into horticulture because I wanted to grow my own plants... one thing led to another, and now I am running a fruit tree nursery and edible landscaping business from my backyard. Being entirely self taught and equipped with the same stubbornness that kept me out of college, I ignored all the hoops I was supposed to jump through before starting this venture (become a master gardener! take a horticulture course at the local college! work for someone else first! start small and slow!) and just dove in and started producing. At least as important as being independent via entrepreneurship, to me, was having social status. I guess it's the same reason I wanted to buy a house- I wanted to be the only millennial who owns property, I wanted to be the only one running a tropical fruit nursery in their backyard. I wanted people to come to me to see how these things are done, because I love to share it.
I, like most men, learn by doing. What fun would it be to learn all about how to do something, before actually trying to do it? I've realized it's a fantasy, just like the idea that a college degree "gets you somewhere". YOU get somewhere by going there. It's why I have such a passion for my nursery, because I get to learn new things all the time by DOING them... not by sitting in a classroom talking theory, or taking adderall to be able to finish that paper you have no interest in. No, for me, whether that plant I'm growing lives or dies, I am learning something and developing a skill.
The thing about not having debt, is that you have freedom to fail. You don't have to settle for an unfulfilling yet guaranteed paycheck- you can actually try to do the things you've wanted to do, and if you fail, you just have to work harder. If I was living paycheck to paycheck with debt hanging over my head, I'd sure be afraid to try anything that might not work. I have incentives to succeed, rather than threats to not fail.
To summarize, I'll say that getting to the kind of place in life where you have a lot of options, comes from saying NO to many things along the way- most of which are presented as necessities. NO to college, NO to debt, NO to hedonistic spending, NO to friends who drain you, NO to expectations (specifically to this thread, your expectation of what the ideal piece of land is. Don't be afraid to buy junk and fix it up, that's what I did.) and most importantly NO to the idea that there is only one path to a successful life. There is a ton of gray area in life for you to experiment, mess up, and try again. Not so in a contract or commitment to a college degree/career. Those things are black and white, and those numbers are what they are. So I think the number one thing preventing millennials from having the option to pursue permaculture, is that they are chained to one thing or another which has drained their creativity. With a college degree, you know exactly what you're going to get, and it's usually a let down. Forging your own alternative path means you risk success or failure. The success is much sweeter, and the failures make you learn more, faster.
I hate to keep bashing college because I do believe it can be useful for some people. But it wasn't useful for me. You have to think of it in those terms, as if it's a tool. Most people think of it as a rite of passage, which it isn't. You are no less of a person for not doing it, and if you're not getting anything out of it then you're wasting your time.
I believe I'm at least 8-10 years ahead of most people my age who are just graduating college- not only due to the time actually spent there, but due to the debt they likely have and the years it will take to deprogram the mindset that they are more worthy of something just because they jumped through a hoop.
I'm so glad I opted out.