Travelling and Education
By Sangeeta Doraiswami

Travel is not merely an experience, but an education in itself. In today’s increasingly multicultural society, travel is an important means of expanding the horizons especially of young people. In that sense, it fulfils one of the most important objectives of education, in its broadest sense: expanding the dimensions of a child’s perspectives.

As all educators know, not all education can or should happen within the four walls of a classroom. Most modern curricula today are designed with some course content that involves new and extra-curricular activity. Travel is one such element that offers a new and usually memorable experience for children, especially as the very act of being out of familiar context tends to inspire children much more than any course-work experience. If carefully organized, well-curated travel experiences can help young persons acquire a range of new experiences, from learning about other cultures first-hand to personally witnessing the sites of historical events, or locations with immediate cultural relevance. Well-designed and experiential activities also help children and young adults acquire new ideas and consolidate learning activities, well beyond what is normally acquired in the classroom context. Not the least, travel provides first-hand experiences which are more important than theoretical knowledge gathered in class. And travelling helps by taking us away from the monotony of the daily routine, enabling rest and revitalization.

Historically, it is widely recognized by most cultures that travel is a great learning experience. Even in the ancient world, our ancestors travelled: on pilgrimage, for business, for study or emissaries. In the early modern age, the concept of travelling for pleasure and for experiential learning grew, as the costs and risks of travel reduced, in direct proportion to the revolution in communications and transportation. Today, a few hundred million people travel regularly–for leisure, for study, for business, for spiritual purposes, even as the traditional forms of travel (such as trade, political emissaries and diplomats etc.) also continue to grow. The travel industry is a multi-billion- dollar industry worldwide today. And it is so because our societies recognize that travelling broadens our perspective, creates opportunities and refreshes our minds.

Travellers enjoy the experience of travelling while learning about different cultures and customs: it follows as a corollary that well-travelled people are usually also very broadminded. Thus, fostering an interest in travel at an early age helps young learners develop knowledge, curiosity about the world, and a high level of tolerance to different cultures and societies.
From the perspective of students, some of the major benefits of travel include more than just excellent memories or having a good time. They include the following:

● Greater Awareness: Exposure to other cultures and lifestyles helps students see the world in a different way. Having a broad awareness of how other people live and what other cultures prioritize allows a student to think differently about their own lives.

● Self-confidence: Living, studying or working for any amount of time in a uniquely different culture helps prepare students to overcome unanticipated obstacles, grow in confidence and prepare them for life’s larger challenges.

● Broader horizons: New experiences help develop a basis to question one’s own preconceived ideas. Enriching experiences encourage students to open their minds to new food, friends, and circumstances.

● New knowledge: Travel encourages absorption of knowledge based on new contexts. Travelling while young is therefore an important investment in a student’s academic performance in future.

● A stronger basis for establishing lifelong values and priorities: Travel also helps offer situational context, and if well-organized, helps students understand the importance of core values and principles in human interactions, by defining one’s own place. And discovering a new place is also a chance to discover oneself.

● Being pushed out of one’s comfort zone helps students understand that they are capable of adapting to new situations. This helps build resilience for the future.

● International travel provides students with a global network of contacts and references. They are able to establish perspective, confidence and conviction that make it easier to gain the respect of others.

● Experiencing another place and culture is an opportunity to appreciate what they already have and realize the importance of the little things that often go unnoticed.

● Cultural immersion through travel can also help break down language barriers and open new channels of lifelong communication. Exploring a new place opens doors to establish new friendships and relationships that never would have been acquired without travelling.