It was Mark Twain who said
“Don’t let schooling get in the way of your education.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t stumble upon this nugget of wisdom until some time during college. It was then it finally dawned on me— I could learn outside the walls of a classroom or lecture hall!?
[ mind explodes ]
Now, time to catch up on 12 years of sub-par education.
My life flipped around when this idea sank in. I proceeded to go through an “awakening” you could say, with all the angst and melodrama of Edna Pontellier, but none of the New Orleans turn-of-the-century restraint.
[Literary allusion! Nerd alert]
The whole world seemed new, interesting and full of information just waiting to be stuffed into my brain. How much I learned was determined only by how quickly I could try new things, go new places, read new stuff (status: ongoing).
It was also around this time that I traveled abroad solo for the first time.
It was travel that made me realize how much education was within my own reach, all around me. I didn’t have to wait for someone white-haired, elbow patched professor to spoon feed me the great lessons of the world. I could go out and find them–no, better–experience them.
I went to Costa Rica in the summer after my Sophomore year of college. Why CR? No real explanation there. It may have come down to the email that showed up in my college inbox at just the right time. Or it could be that I had a romantic vision of:
1. Learning Spanish
2. Surfing at dawn.
Over the course of this trip that I realized how my latent little brain could adapt and consume new information in a whole new way. It was like I was suddenly speed-reading, when previously I’d been sounding things out at a third-grade level. I consider that the moment I became a junkie for travel.
Why the sudden nostalgia, Kels? Because I read this article posted by the Wall Street Journal about what makes the expat life so addictive.
It was this phrase that kind of summed up my theory of why I’m so taken with traveling and so fatigued by traditional education–
“The more challenges many expats overcome, the more they enjoy the adrenaline of feeling themselves grow. After awhile, this becomes the new normal and makes life ‘back home’ seem boring in comparison.”
If I’m addicted to anything (other than coffee, obvs. Sorry ’bout all the photos), then it’s the sensation of growing, changing and learning.
I am in love with this auto-didactic way of living, with travel as my textbook.
The feeling I get from shoving myself in a new environment and the acute awareness I get from people and life around me is like a drug. It is almost a tangible sensation watching myself change and adapt amidst foreign environments. I walk around with my eyes truly open.
On the other hand, I’m a sucker for the comforts of routine. I like my coffee in the morning before 8, and my wine in my hand by sundown. There are certain routines that I don’t wish to change. But I also love the unpredictability of a completely new day free of an in-time or an appointment…
I love this tension between the comfort of habits and the unpredictability of travel.
It makes my brain work harder, and I can actually feel it. Can you?
As I travel, I feel like I’m an intellectual superwoman. I like to think I’m making fewer poorly-informed decisions than the day before…(some have been made more than once)
The expat’s life, and the perpetual traveler’s life is a thrilling one. Full of learning about people, places, and cultures in ways that books (and even teachers) can’t quite capture.
Sometimes you are your best teacher.
Do you think 4 years of travel is just as educational as 4 years of college?