“Travel is not the reward for working hard. Travel is education for living”.
I need to meet the person who spouted such wisdom and thank them. In two simple yet profound sentences they have articulated the reasoning behind my travels with a young child whilst the school term was still in progress. First in 2013 with my eldest daughter (then aged nine), and again in 2015 with my middle daughter (aged eight and a half), we embarked on a Mummy and Daughter trip to Paris. A world away, twenty-two flying hours to be exact, I removed each child from school for one week, and took to the sky for some serious memory making.
The thing about parenting is every Tom, Dick and Harry has an opinion on how it should be done. Not surprisingly many a Tom, Dick and Harry wanted to share their opinion on whether a week absent from school was responsible or irresponsible parenting. I have no intention of this being a let’s focus on the vices of parenting, or let’s lament about the inappropriateness of people. That is not the point of this post, it did however shine light on some people’s perceptions and attitudes of how they view travel, but also how education is perceived.
For a moment, let’s talk education. The subject matter, the structure, the enquiry model, the facilitator of education… whichever form it takes, it all presents an opportunity to learn. Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist and Professor at Harvard University is most commonly known for his theory of multiple intelligence. Summarising, Gardner identifies that there are seven forms (or ‘types’) of intelligence (although there is now believed to be more). Visual-Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, are the first seven identified categories of intelligence. Sadly, much of our current education model (at least in Australia) focuses heavily on Linguistic and Logical intelligence. Through personal observation and experience I have met several people throughout life that comment in passing how they were either not “real bright, I was never any good at school”. Or comments relating to their ability to write, spell, or mathematically problem solve has led them to believe that there is a direct correlation relating to their intelligence and academic success at school.
Seeing as I’m on a roll about formal education, I’ll take the liberty to quickly share an anecdote of the world-renowned choreographer from the musical Cats, Dame Gillian Barbara Lynne. “…Lynne’s gift for dancing was discovered by a doctor. She had been underperforming at school, so her mother took her to the doctor and explained about her fidgeting and lack of focus. After hearing everything her mother said, the doctor told Lynne that he needed to talk to her mother privately for a moment. He turned on the radio and walked out. He then encouraged her mother to look at Lynne, who was dancing to the radio. The doctor noted that she was a dancer, and encouraged Lynne’s mother to take her to dance school”. The rest you know, she was a huge success with her creative contribution to the performing arts world… (Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence). Her calling was never that of a Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher, Politician, Nurse (or any other white collar worker), because those professions and people demand the characteristics within the Linguistic and Logical Intelligences. The point of all this, is to highlight societal perception on how we view intelligence. Doctors, yet we constantly complain about their lack of empathy and appalling ‘bed-side manner’. It’s because that requires a high level of emotional intelligence (Interpersonal and Intrapersonal).
Honestly, I could write for hours about the differing intelligences and the impact that they have had on individuals, confidence and career choices. The impact that differing cultures contribute to this perception of success and education, but this is a blog post. Not an academic paper (thank God for that, otherwise this would only be draft 1). So, with my sixty minutes per day, allocated to ‘blogging’, in the mix of working part time, mothering to three children, running a house and all the other perfunctory demands of life, I hope you hear this simple message.
One week removed from formal education within a classroom setting, my daughter(s), immersed in another culture and country learnt the following life lessons beyond the classroom. Language; the ability to recognise French words on menues and food packaging. Bread, water, strawberries, banana, apple, raspberries, please, thank you, hello, goodbye, Madam, Sir the list goes on. They were exposed to the confronting reality of homeless people at a level not witnessed within Melbourne, Australia (we have them but not to the same extent). Interpersonal and Intrapersonal intelligence was constantly modelled, as they observed how I navigate the challenges of travel in a social context. Developing an empathy and self-awareness of the small space that we occupy in this global world, and the impact that we all have as individuals, being all connected. Navigation skills, lots of orientating oneself through airports, learning how to read maps and use landmarks. History, as she walked through the Palace of Versaille where the treaty was signed. Arts and Culture as she viewed the Mona Lisa and other artifacts and paintings. Will she remember it all? Most likely not, at least not all of it. She’ll probably recall the highlights like the view from the Eiffel Tower, and what croissants taste like and macarons at 3am in the morning. She’ll remember having a Mummy all to herself without sibling rivalry, vying for my attention.
But nothing learnt is ever lost, regardless of whether we remember it in the immediate future. New neural pathways are formed from exposure to any new learning experience. Best of all during such impressionable years, travel introduces a preview for what a great big world awaits with endless opportunity. Very best of all, there is no end to the learning. Mature-age travel is simply Mature-age learning, not a reward for working hard.