Learning Through Travel: It’s not just for the kids

Nov 18 - questions

When we took off traveling in 2008 the idea was to be gone for one year, on bicycles, through Europe and North Africa, maybe the fringe of Asia if the money held out. We were going as a family, for the express purpose of the educations of our children. We planned our trip and executed every day with that in our minds. We didn’t carry many books. They didn’t do any formal classes, but we lived and breathed education as we traveled.

We never would have guessed that the one year would turn into seven years traveling full time as a family. And we never could have anticipated the things we would learn along the way. My kids have never been to school, even when we lived a stationary life. We opted them out of the system for philosophical reasons and have never looked back. The proof is in the pudding now, as two are on to good university programs and the remaining two are hot on their heels.

BnACycling-Our Story

For my kids, the world has been their classroom and travel their primary teacher.

  • They became proficient in Spanish across Central America
  • They came to understand Buddhism in Southeast Asia & Islam in Indonesia and North Africa
  • They gained a small grasp on the horrors of genocide in Cambodia and Germany
  • They came to know conflict by looking out of bunkers in Vietnam and through barbed wires in prison camps
  • They fell in love with Shakespeare in Stratford-Upon-Avon
  • And opera in the Sydney Opera House
  • They experienced ancient history through ruin cites
  • And the great artist through museum visits in every major city we pass through
  • Their mental map of the planet has been drawn by braille, with each border we cross

People ask, regularly, “how” we managed that. There isn’t one answer. Knowing our kids. Having the goal clearly in mind. Laying out a basic plan early. Getting comfortable with our philosophy. Being willing to change. Moving forward every day. That pretty much sums it up. Of course that isn’t the answer people are looking for. They want a formula. There isn’t one.

The world will teach, if we let her. Children will learn, if we trust them to.

Creating a world class education while traveling is as simple as planning your journey carefully with an eye towards maximizing the learning potential. I can help you with that if you want. Send me an email.


I’m addicted to learning

The thing that surprised me wasn’t how much the children learned, as their whole universe is structured around learning. It was how much I learned and the profound changes wrought upon my thinking, my chosen path, and the very fabric of my soul once I opened myself to the tutelage of the world. It’s not the statistics, the languages, the cultural differences, or the history, geography, or currency conversion proficiency that we come away with as a result of our journeys that matter. It’s the ways the inner landscape is affected.

There are people who would say that I’m addicted to travel, but that’s not precisely it. It isn’t the travel. It’s the learning that happens when I’m traveling that continually calls to my soul. What I’ve learned is how little I know, and how much more there is to know. Once I opened that door and stuck my head through the frame, I could no more shut it and pretend it wasn’t there than we can live in one room of a house.

Today’s challenge is to list three places we would like to go and what we would like to learn there. Limiting it to three seems difficult, there are dozens, but here are three of my bigger ones:

Walk across Iran

I have long had the deep desire to don a burkha and walk across Iran, alone. I’ve had a love affair with Persian history. I have a deep interest in what it is like to live behind the veil in the modern world. And I enjoy doing things that other women simply don’t do. Like walk across Iran. Whether it is safe and possible to do so within my lifetime is another matter entirely. But that’s my big dream

The Great Wall & Trans-Siberian Railway… backwards

I’ve always wanted to take the Trans-Siberian Railway, but I want to do it backwards, from Beijing to St. Petersburg, in winter, because I want to see Lake Baikal frozen. But then, several months ago, it occurred to me that I’d also like to walk a long section of the Great Wall. So my thought is to walk about 500 miles of the 1500 miles of wall, then make my way to Beijing and hop that train from east to west. I’d like to allow a month for the train trip, so I can get on and off. Hang out in Mongolia a bit. Get a feel for Siberia in winter. Logistically, this trip is going to take some planning, visas to China and Russia not being among the simplest on the planet. I intend to learn history, a lot of it, and the subtle nuances of borscht and vodka, among other things.

The Long Way Down

So this plan is actually on the books: To ride a motorcycle the length of Africa. It’s a plan The Man and I have for the moment we get that last kid off the ground and out of the house. The particular bike has been selected, if not procured.

The route is in hot debate. I desperately want to go the western coast. He’s leaning more towards a the eastern and a bit more central route. We could compromise and go down one direction and up the other, I suppose.

Things I’d like to learn in the process: the constellations of the southern hemisphere. I’m only friendly with a handful of the most obvious. An understanding of the colonial legacies and tragedies. A familiarity with the people groups that are lumped into “Black Africa.” We’ve saved sub-Saharan Africa for last… because my husband has this feeling that once he goes, he’ll never come home. Or, maybe more correctly, that he will find himself home.

What about you? Where are you going? What do you want to learn?

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