Awhile ago when Serona and I were having a discussion about what we would do if we suddenly became independently wealthy and did not need to worry about working or money I immediately replied with travel more. There is so much of the world I want to see and experience and share with Serona and the kids. I have always treasured travelling and enjoy it so much. I am thankful for the many opportunities I have had to travel. I visited more states in the United States (42) by the time I was 26 than most people will see in their lifetime. I just recently got my first passport stamp to Ireland! I love traveling and believe I always will until it becomes too difficult for me.
During this discussion Serona asked me why I valued it so much because when it is all said and done all you have are the memories and some pictures or souvenirs to remind you of the time you were there. I guess I never viewed travel in that light, though I can see that perspective. To me travel is experience, and for me life is made up of experiences. Long-time readers of this blog will know that about my parenting and homeschooling philosophy, people who know me and my love for field trips and activities would also know that about me. To me experiences and what we learn from them make up our lives.
When we were recently sitting inside a stone beehive hut built by monks in the early 6th century or so on our trip to the Aran Islands in Ireland I put it all together. For me I value experience much more than my "stuff" my physical items. I value the time I spend somewhere and learning something far more than the items I purchase or own, even though they last longer and I use them more. I suppose there are of course exceptions. I value my wedding ring highly, the journals I write for my kids and I suppose our computer, and I am sure someone can point out a few other things. But in general experiences, even brief ones that I learn from I value higher than items I can purchase at a store.
I really believe I am one of those people who learns by experience, and can find a lesson or value in most anything I do or experience. Sitting in the huts that day I realized quite a bit about what we consider shelter to be and what people of the past considered shelter. I learned quite a few lessons about being outside more and what we have made our homes into in this day and age in our country. I took a lot away with me from those brief moments we sat inside the beehive hut listening to the wind blow, feeling the cool temperature, seeing what full daylight lighting was like, the limited space and imaging what it was used for in comparison to what our homes are used for. Thinking about how much time was spent in this shelter and how much time we spend inside ours today. A commitment to even more time outside was born in me in that brief experience I had while traveling. There are many more examples from our recent trip to Ireland and our walk through history there. There are even more examples from my everyday life and experiences and the places I have traveled over the years.
So for me traveling and experiences are more than the memories and the photos I take with me. They represent opportunities to learn, to understand, to grow and to change or reaffirm my own beliefs and values about certain things. They grow me as a person and provide more breadth to my understanding. To be sure not all travel does this for me, or anyone for that matter. There is only so much new you can see in a different cities airport, fast food place and so on. In many ways people are people wherever you go and some differences are overstated to be sure. However, some things really are different and those are experiences I tend to seek out. The unique things about a place, what makes it special, what is it known for, what is the history of the place.
I especially love finding opportunities to bring history alive to me, to try to experience it in a new and unique way. Seeing the actual Book of Kells was much more significant and shed much more light on history for me than reading about it. Walking through a 5000 year old megalithic site was much more unique than seeing it on the internet. Going to see the Ingalls Wilder sites brings home the books more. Sitting in the back of a session of Congress brings home governance more. Climbing the Statue of Liberty and visiting Ellis Island makes immigration feel much more real. Walking through a vineyard brings you closer to understanding how wine is made and what it means for families that produce it. Standing on a glacier in Alaska looking at a giant crevice caused by a candy wrapper brings home the effects we have on our environment far more than any book can. These briefs moments offer experiences that have stayed with me for a lifetime and so many others I have had and so many more I hope to one day experience. Lessons I hope to pass on to my children and hope they too can experience.
Yet I am a practical person as well and traveling is extremely expensive and at times an extravagance that many (including us) can not afford, especially once you add some kids into the mix. We save and do what we can and we try to fill in our experiences by taking full advantage of what is local and available to us and build a spirit of adventure and flexibility into our kids so when it is possible they are adaptable and excited for the opportunities. Part of our whole "One never knows what this crazy clan will do" philosophy.
Even when we can't travel to a particular location we have so much available to us now. So much has been written in books, on the internet and by individuals. Information has never been more plentiful and more accesible to so many than it is now. We have so many mediums available to us. We may not be able to stand on the site ourselves but we can get pretty good experiences from others. We can view pictures from every angle, read personal accounts and blog posts, see virtual 360 degree ours, video clips, short home movies, audio clips and the list goes on and on of so many places that were previously unaccessible to us.
As we educate our children and yes ourselves we have so much available to us that we need only locate and take advantage of. We need to think outside of the box. Yes reading is great and still a primary way to experience and understand history and information about places and people but there is so much more now to supplement and enhance that. To get us as close as possible to experience being there. We can never truly recreate and rexperience history as it was lived - but we can get a glimpse at what it might have been like, have opportunities to experience and try to get an idea of what walking in their shoes might have felt like. However imperfect it may be it is a closer experience that what we can create alone in our brains.
For me one of the most surprising rewards of homeschooling has been relearning history and science with my kids. I find that this time around I really care and want to understand what happened and why things work and are the way they are. This time around I see value in understanding history and science. I find our story and our need as humans to express ourselves and tell our stories fascinating. In many ways blogging allows us all to tell our history from our perspective and communicate to whoever cares to listen and down to the generations that follow.
I find the more I learn about history the more I yearn to travel and experience the places we read and learn about. The more I want to understand and experience. So yes for me it is more than the memories though I do treasure and cherish those. To me travel is a chance to experience history and other people and cultures in a way a book will never bring home for me. A chance to evaluate what I believe and confirm those things that are important to me and question those things that may need to change. I am not a wishy-washy person prone to change at the drop of a hat - it takes convincing but it does happen from time to time. We have so much to learn and there are so many ways to learn it. Yes travel is an expensive way to do it but a rewarding and lasting one if you have the right perspective while you do it and make wise choices about what to include and what to leave out of your travel plans.
So if we ever become independently wealthy (not likely in my lifetime) you can expect to read more travel blog posts here :)