We’re back from 16 days in Europe, having arrived on Sunday shortly before NYC began its’ shut down in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Good timing, for sure. And good to be home. And dry.
Over the next few days, I’ll be writing a lot about this trip; about different events and things that happened, but for today I want to talk in general about why we travel.
“The World is my Classroom” is a quote you see a lot in regards to unschooling. It’s one of those things that people say, it brings a smile and then you move on without truly considering what it means. It’s a kind of throw away line you use when talking about why your kids don’t go to school. But if you think about it and give it a try, you’ll see that there is no better education than the one you receive when you leave your everyday life and go somewhere new.
I’m not talking in regards to standard academic subjects, although that type of learning happens as well. (Spend a couple of weeks converting dollars to Euros in your head; great for exercising those math muscles!) What I’m really talking about is the type of learning that happens when you go somewhere new and realize with amazing clarity that your own way of doing things is not the only way. Maybe not even the best way.
In the U.S. this type of exposure to other cultures is even more vital, in my opinion. Our country is so vast that we can drive for days and never cross a border. We are never far from the comforts of home, no matter where we go. That said, if overseas travel is not an option there is still a ton to be learned from traveling to another state or region of the country. But there are ways to afford trips overseas without breaking the bank. And it is completely worth it.
When you enter a place where the language is different, the food is different, the types of beds and showers and blankets are different, you look at your own customs from a new perspective. And then what happens is you grow accustomed to the things that seemed so odd at first, and you find that underneath all the trappings we are remarkably the same. All those little things (and from showers to beliefs about child-rearing, they are all little things) don’t really matter. People laugh and cry and love, no matter what kind of coffee they drink or food they eat.
We travel because it makes us less “self” centered; less focused on our own tiny corner of the world and the events in it. It gives us a refreshed perspective and lets us come home with a renewed appreciation of the world and its’ wonders.
Just before we left I wrote a post titled “Where the Hell is Matt”. In case you didn’t watch the video (or even if you did), I’m adding it here again. Matt goes everywhere, to countries all over the world; to places we consider dangerous or just strange. But look at all the people; they are all dancing, laughing and having fun. It’s the greatest lesson the world as classroom can teach; that our similarities far outweigh our differences and that some of the things we hang on to so tightly don’t matter that much in the end.