Travel and Learning


I read a blog post on The Huffington Post today that had a provocative title: "All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Travel." I'm sure that the writer doesn't really mean this, but is simply trying to convey the importance and value of travel in understanding yourself and the world. Still, it got me thinking. There was a lot to comment on. Some things that I agree with, and some that I disagree with. I'll spend my next few posts responding.

First, a few general thoughts. Travel is much more rewarding with a foundation to work from. Language for example. Knowing a language creates opportunities to penetrate a culture that are unavailable to those who don't. Of course, you can learn a language by living in a country, but that will take a few years and isn't an option for most of us. That's why learning a language in school can be one of the most worthwhile parts of those many years we spend in classrooms. History, anthropology, literature, philosophy, political science, all can contribute to a foundation that will make travel a richer learning experience. Book learnin' has its place!

Another observation: travel can make you a better, more well-rounded person, but it can also make you an arrogant jerk. Hopefully, one of the lessons of travel is that you are not superior to others. If you feel that you have learned this lesson, and that's why you're superior to those who haven't, oh the irony, you haven't learned a thing! Anyway, many of the lessons learned abroad can be learned at home by experiencing the diversity - economic, cultural, racial - that surround us. The fact that we have the luxury to travel abroad and experience this means nothing if we don't apply the lessons learned when we return home.

Back to the blog post. The blogger divided her discussion into 5 separate points. The first, which stresses that travel is all about meeting people is titled "It's the people, stupid." Ouch. I agree, but let's lose the superior attitude! People form many of our most memorable experiences when we travel, but don't forget that museums, monuments, even shopping centers, tell us something about the world. Gazing on the wonders of nature teaches us important lessons as well. She writes: "Meeting Hank and his cat, Poop Deck, who live on Hank's sailboat in St. Croix's Christianstead Harbor was far more enlightening than visiting the island's bioluminescent bay." Maybe she needed to visit the bay with an oceanographer!

Ok. Back to work. I'll dive into the article more tomorrow."

By Kevin O'Neill


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