Summer is finally here! It’s that time of year when teachers can find time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate—and maybe explore new places.
I learned to travel early since I was raised in a military family. Even though I was born in Wisconsin, I spent most of my elementary years in New Mexico—a totally different environment from the north. Every summer, though, we would travel as a family to either Wisconsin to visit my maternal grandparents or North Carolina to visit my dad’s side of the family. We didn’t have a lot of money, so we camped or stayed in very inexpensive motels along the way. We learned car games (such as the alphabet game or license plate game) to keep us amused during those long days in the car. We didn’t have video games or headphones to avoid talking to each other. It was a different time.
I found that exploring new places, meeting people different from me, and discovering new ways of doing things were excellent opportunities to expand my horizons. During my time as a teacher, I tried to get away each summer to explore new worlds. Now as a consultant, I find myself on the road a lot, exploring new cities and countries. I have the great pleasure of going to faraway places, experiencing what many Americans may never get to. Through my travels, I’ve learned some great lessons. You and your students can learn from these lessons as well.
From waiting in the lines in airports to struggling with delayed or cancelled flights, I’ve learned how to let go of what I can’t control. Getting angry or frustrated over such issues only wears me down. Anger won’t change the situation—it only makes it worse.
Additionally, customer service levels and expectations outside the United States are vastly different from what we are used to. Having a server at your table within minutes of sitting down to take your order is not the norm. On a recent trip to Paris, a server opined that Americans are in such a rush. I had to tell myself to slow down and enjoy every moment. Through my travel experiences (both good and bad), I’m learning and practicing how to be patient.
When talking to your students about summer travel, remind them that getting upset over delays, cancellations, or changes won’t make the situation any better. Realize that most travel professionals are trying their best to ensure you, the traveler, get to your destination safely. Patience when dealing with adversity is a great life skill.
Similarly, traveling can be a challenge. Lines are getting longer, flights are getting more crowded, and inconveniences mount. Now that I travel extensively for work, I have learned to plan for just about anything and be flexible. To ensure I make connections, I avoid booking the last flights of the day—especially on the first leg of the trip. I make sure to carry extra doses of medications in my carry-on baggage—just in case my checked luggage doesn’t make it or I inadvertently get stuck overnight due to flight cancellations.
When I travel internationally, I remind myself that accommodations may not live up to the standards in the United States. Spaces are smaller, amenities are different, and those things we take for granted (such as escalators and elevators) may not be available. Learning to be flexible with the situation can make your travels more enjoyable and also teach some great life lessons.
When students travel, they should try not to compare new experiences to what they are used to. Make each new experience a learning opportunity. Think about how to make the most out of each experience. Adapting and being flexible in new places makes for a much more enjoyable time.
The most beneficial aspect of traveling is learning new perspectives. Each time I travel to a new place, I try to learn the customs and a few words in the language. I sample the food and try to get a feel for how people live. I sometimes engage locals in conversation about their city or country, from political and social perspectives. I want to know how others view us as Americans. It’s very revealing to hear how the rest of the world perceives the U.S.A.
When they travel, ask students to look for opportunities to get a sense of the culture and language of the community. Encourage them to sample the foods to find new tastes and flavors. Have them listen to others for their views and positions on world issues. Learning to seek others’ perspectives is an essential tool in this ever-changing world.
Whether you and your students are traveling around your state or nation or internationally, take time to experience not only the natural beauty of the location but also the intellectual stimulation created by travel. From learning to deal with adversity to learning how to be flexible to understanding others’ perspectives, travel is an outstanding way to broaden your horizons.
Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.
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