During our two-year home school adventure we had the opportunity to take a few trips. What we discovered and learned on these trips we integrated into our lessons when we arrived home.
One of our biggest adventures took us to Boston where after walking across the cobblestones of American history, we took advantage of being on the east coast to fly to England where we journeyed by rail to York (where both Romans and Vikings lived). We walked atop the old Roman wall that encircles the city and then had fun traversing York’s snickelways (narrow alleys and walkways) to uncover numerous historical sites and stories. We traveled to the west coast of England to Bath, where it took little imagination to travel back in time to Jane Austen’s late 18th Century. We traveled thousands of years back in time when we wandered around the fascinating and mysterious stone circles of Avebury & Stonehenge.
In the first issue of “The Applewood Quarterly” Natalie wrote an essay about what it means to be inquisitive, a wonderful word to apply to travel, learning & life. Here’s an excerpt from Natalie’s essay about feeling inquisitive at Avebury:
As a writer and someone who enjoys reading, I believe myself to be an inquisitive person. I always feel a need to have all of my questions answered. Most of the time I enjoy being inquisitive, but for me being inquisitive can also be frustrating. Sometimes I don’t want to know the answer to a question, but my thoughts don’t seem settled until I do. On a trip to England, we were at an ancient stone circle, Avebury. There was an incredibly wide and long ditch – one mile in circumference – around it. Having not had a chance to run in weeks, I ran down a path into the ditch and up the slope on the other side. At the time, I thought I was just having fun, but now that I think about it, I was being inquisitive too. I was eager to learn what was on the other side.
One thing we’ve noticed about travel is that it has a way of nurturing our inquisitiveness. Although I appreciate the wisdom in Marcel Proust’s famous quote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes,” I do think new landscapes help us see with new eyes. And one does not necessarily have to travel far. One thing we like to do living in Los Angeles is to travel to a different neighborhood and walk along the sidewalks, see the different kinds of markets and shops, sit down to have a meal in one of the local restaurants, and step into the local library (because we adore libraries).
I recently read an interesting interview in a travel magazine with Hillary Clinton, who is described in the article as “the most traveled secretary of state in history.” She has traveled to more than one hundred countries during her time as secretary. She says, “In the modern world, we’re all interdependent, we’re all interconnected. You can’t just say that you’re only going to deal with your own kind of person, or you’re only going to meet your own kind of person, or you’re only going to listen to your own kind of person. That’s not the way the world is going to work. And we’ll either figure out how to be more integrated, or we will disintegrate.”
In discussing world relations, she says, “I think where there has been more travel, there is greater understanding. There may not be agreement—we may still believe that the political system of another country is wrong or the way women are treated is not acceptable—but we get closer to seeing the world through somebody else’s eyes, and I really believe that’s an essential step not only for diplomats and other government officials but for business people and for American citizens, because it helps us get perspective. It’s also reinforcing that, despite the differences, there are fundamental human similarities. We cry over tragedies, we yearn for freedem, we want our dignity respected. So I think travel is both broadening and opening.”
Another quotation for you – “Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.” These wise words from that great English scientist, philosopher, statesman, author, (genius?) Francis Bacon. I’m not about to disagree with such a great mind, but I think travel is as much a part of education for elders as for youngers – after all, we should never stop learning, never cease from educating ourselves. And what an enjoyable and rewarding way to learn is to do so through travel. In some ways it’s the ultimate “learning is fun” experience. It has generally been my own experience that those who travel are more tolerant, more open to change, more considered and balanced in their views and opinions.
Recently, while visiting Nancy, France we had dinner one evening prepared by our amazing hostess, Martine. There were nine of us at table – Martine, French; Mary Jo & I, Scottish; a young Frenchman; a couple from Alabama; a German couple and a young Japanese woman. We all used a variety of languages, as best we could, as the evening progressed and a most convivial evening it was. Our different nationalities, languages, ages and cultures did not divide us because we were all people used to travel and we were all travellers under the same roof sharing food round a table, so we had much in common. Also, to touch on Natalie’s point, inquisitiveness played a part – we were all interested to learn about each other’s experiences and opinions. Inquisitiveness and travel brought us together and made a memorable evening for us. We sat down to dinner together as strangers but certainly did not feel so at the end of the evening. Travel? I can’t recommend it highly enough – after all, you meet such interesting people!
Andy, Such a nice scene to imagine at Martine’s around the dinner table. Of course I now want to meet Martine! I also want to know what she prepared for dinner. Inquisitive people make the best kinds of companions, at home and out in the world. Each day holds the promise of discovery. My favorite days are when I can say, “Today I learned something new about the world or people or myself…” When I’m traveling I seem to say that at least 10 times a day, more even when I have the benefit of traveling with inquisitive companions!