Probably not a surprise to my readers, but school is definitely not the only or best way to become educated. Schools encourage sticking to routines and following arbitrary rules. In school you learn to…go to school: to take tests, choose between multiple choices, memorize disconnected words and dates, and ask permission for everything. You’re taught to obey, to submit, and you’re taught a special version of history that glorifies the same institutions you’re supposed to obey and submit to. You walk in lines and salute inanimate objects. In government school you’re taught that knowledge only comes from authority figures and accredited, licensed professionals. Independent thought is not encouraged. You’re told to be wary of what you read on the internet. It’s implied that the only way to achieve success is by doing good on tests, then going to college and doing good on more tests, all while taking on massive student loans. As a student in school, you’ll take civics and government, and get plenty of instruction on how to get into college, but there is very little information available on alternative education models or entrepreneurship. School does not provide an opportunity to express individuality, unique goals, or for each person to study what they want. It is obviously the opposite of natural self-directed learning.
As a method of encouraging genuine learning and success, public school is generally a very poor option. The obvious response to school these days is the internet. You can learn and discover anything on here. You can take classes, start businesses, network, and interact with the entire world. But, there is an older, and I think even more powerful learning tool, we all have at our disposal. This is the real world. Out in the real world, children can experience, ask questions, try things, fail, succeed, test their ideas, and simply see reality in action. And there is one thing – a practical application, crash-course in the real world that is an excellent way to learn: Travel.
You really can learn everything you need to know by traveling. You use math with schedules, dates, departures, arrivals, counting change, exchanging money, budgeting, etc. You practice languages, sometimes multiple languages, and translating between them. At a bare minimum you can become exposed to different accents and dialects within your own region. You get to develop your communication skills as you talk and converse with people from all walks of life. You learn about transportation systems and engineering projects first hand as you are out in the world seeing the network of subways, airports, taxis, highways, and how cities all over the world design these things differently. When we travel we get to see various forms of governance and business in action. We see first hand how the outcomes of policy, business environment, and tax rates compare in different regions.
My favorite subject: We get to see the natural beauty of the world in action. We see how rivers and weather carve out gorges. We see valleys and lakes long ago scraped out by glaciers. We see mountains uplifted by tectonic plate movement. You can observe animals in their natural habitats.
Every Time you fly in a plane or turn on a pair of skis, you’re experiencing physics in action. I find that even just going to grocery stores in different places is a wonderful learning experience. You see what is available; what the local specialties are; what the locals eat, how things are packaged and priced, and how it all compares with what you know at home. Travel also affords the time to pursue personal interests. On trains and planes, and in hotels you can get a lot of reading, studying, or writing done – in a peaceful environment outside of home life – encouraging new thoughts and perspectives. In fact, journaling specifically is a great activity to make part of any trip. It allows the opportunity to record your daily thoughts, feelings and experiences that could otherwise become forgotten with time. It really is limitless. Travel is a fantastic brain exercise.
The most important point and why all of those different “subjects” pack such a punch, is that travel is like an intensive crash-course. You are forced into situations where you must think, act, learn, try new things, push your boundaries, and experience being you, in new ways. Obviously here I’m talking about real independent travel – where you handle your plans, arrangements, bookings, food, etc. Travel, where everything is arranged and planned, involves a lot less thinking and learning, but I still recommend it. My first exposure to international travel was through a big guided tour, and it sparked a lifelong interest to see the world.
Travel can also be an affordable form of learning. Traveling might seem expensive, especially if you’re only thinking of luxury cruises, resorts, guided tours, etc. First, it doesn’t have to cost a lot. It is all about how you’re willing to travel. You and/or your children will learn the most and get the most bang for the buck if you’re willing to rough it a little bit. I saw a social media post recently from the alternative education/entrepreneur training program called Praxis – saying essentially that – you should be willing to sleep in your car if you had to, to achieve your goals and live the life you want. This is the same principle.
You can go anywhere you want affordably. There are options to stay in hostels, to work as you go, to camp, etc. Years ago I traveled to Europe for 38 days as a college student, financed with my own savings and small gifts from family, for a total expense of around $3500. I even slept outside on a bench one night. I made it happen, no matter what, and it was an amazing learning experience.
Second thing on cost; compare whatever you spend on travel for yourself or your kids to what you would spend on traditional educational models. Summer camps, guided tours, tutors, tuition to fancy schools, useless textbooks, language courses, and so on. It isn’t even close. You get a much better value by traveling.
Travel can fit in perfectly with anyone’s situation. No matter your family’s location or income level – you can incorporate these concepts. If you don’t have a huge budget – try camping, weekend trips to nearby cities, etc. If you have a little more time and money try a road trip, catch a cheap flight, explore your world. This fits in particularly well with the homeschooling/unschooling models. Independent travel is the ultimate self-directed learning that, in the tradition of unschooling, provides learning in all of the “subjects” without actually splitting life into neat little compartments and time slots. Travel is natural learning.
The love of travel is a beautiful thing to foster in young children. When you show a child that the world is theirs to explore and thrive in, I believe it sets them up for success. Show them at a young age not to be afraid of other cultures and foreign places. Show them they can go out there, meet people, immerse themselves, and explore the world while becoming successful and staying safe. By the way, tell yourself the same things, if you’re still questioning this. It is possible. The picture of the world we get from media and government is not entirely true. Break out of the mold. Be yourself. Learn, educate, and inspire yourself and others.
Travel and Education Resources
A World Of Opportunity with Jeff Berwick
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