I used to think that education only existed in textbooks and classrooms—before I started traveling. There’s so much more to learn in this world than I ever imagined, and after only 10 years of traveling, my education has just begun.
On my first international trip with my family to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, my classroom education come face-to-face with my travel education during in-depth discussions with guides about evolution and preservation. During a visit to Botswana and Zimbabwe with my family when I was in high school, I learned the importance of people and how cultures vary slightly on the surface but are vastly different on the inside. As a sophomore year in college, I spent four months studying and exploring Europe, learning many of the unique quirks and characteristics that it has to offer.
Last summer, I worked for Rustic Pathways in Southeast Asia, where I spent time exploring rice fields in Laos and the Rustic Pathways Children’s Home in Thailand. I got to the point where I learned so much about Southeast Asia and its people, that it’s impossible to think how I ever lived without them.
To me, learning isn’t just about memorization, study, practice, or other techniques students typically use to internalize something. Instead, to learn, we need the ability to do so. And that comes with hands-on learning experiences.
We aren’t just born with a natural ability to learn. I started developing this skill during my family trips. My parents and relatives taught me, through their own travel experiences, how to bridge gaps between cultures and create relationships with the people you meet.
When you travel, you learn what questions to ask, what issues are important and need attention, and how to exist in more places in the world than just your home. I learned this skill, in particular, traveling in Southeast Asia when I worked for Rustic.
After arriving in May, I was nervous. There were so many people at the Children’s Home from different cultures. It was a little overwhelming at first, but after I started interacting with people who would become close friends, I learned more about them than just the four Ws (who, what, when, and where) and instead started focusing on the why—where you truly learn about a person and their culture. When you begin to dig deeper, you discover their values, how those are shaped by their culture, and start to understand what connects us through a shared humanity.
The type of learning you experience through interactions with people, who share with you what makes their home and culture unique, is far better than anything you can learn in a book. Their culture becomes a part of your own individual culture, and it’s these in-person experiences that truly allow us to learn.
Through my exploration of five different continents, I’ve started to teach myself how to learn on my own, by absorbing everything I can from the people around me. In my textbook of life, travel and learning are synonymous. You can’t have a complete education without travel, and you can’t travel without learning at the same time.
In the spring, I’ll graduate college. While my traditional education will end, I hope to continue this education I’ve begun through travel. I’ll keep pushing myself to learn and meet more of the people who can teach me something new, not only about the world but also about myself.
Want to jump-start your teen’s learning through immersive summer travel programs for high school students? Give the gift of travel this year with Unwrap Rustic. Save 10 percent off the program cost and get a free holiday gift by enrolling before Dec. 24. To learn more, request a call from one of our global travel experts.