Learning Through Stories: What Have You Learned By Traveling?
A lot of scientific research—and our own experience—demonstrates that we understand and remember material best when it’s presented to us as a narrative, or when we tell our own story about it. So, once a week, I invite you to share your stories of where and when and how you learned something in particular. And I’ll be asking you to do one additional, perhaps challenging thing that is nevertheless the key to the exercise: to draw out a generalizable lesson from your story that could apply to the learning of other things, and could be used by people other than yourself.
The question this week is: “What have you learned from traveling?” Write your answer below, and try to include as many details about when, where, and how it happened, as well as what lesson you can draw from it. I’ll start:
When I think of learning from travel, I remember a semester in college when I was studying abroad in London. I decided one weekend to travel by myself to Wales, because I was curious about the country (where some of my ancestors are from) and because I wanted the experience of traveling alone.
I say that traveling alone was something I wanted, but I think I had no sense, until that trip, of what it really meant to be alone—by yourself in a foreign place where no one knows you. I found it to be a deeply disorienting experience. I ate every meal alone, went to museums and castles alone, wandered the streets alone. I hadn’t realized until then how much the pleasure of traveling comes from sharing observations and discoveries with another person. Of course, I could have met and talked to someone there in Cardiff, another traveler perhaps, but I was too shy.
The trip only lasted 48 hours, and then I was back among the friendly, funny group of students from my college who were having a blast exploring London. Still, the experience stayed with me. I love being by myself—need it, in fact—a need I feel all the more acutely these days, amid the wonderful circus of family life with two small children.
But I have a better understanding now of the way aloneness and togetherness balance each other, and strangely enough, I feel like I have a sense of what true loneliness feels like. It’s an odd lesson to take from travel, but it’s been an important one for me in the 20 years since my solo trip to Wales.
OK, now your turn: How and when and where did you learn from traveling?