Why Travel (even just outside your own door) is the Best Education (Episode 242)
Travel is Education
As we continue to move forward despite the turmoil in the world, it might be easy to justify how travel is pretty unnecessary. Yet travel, unlike the control of a classroom, can open the doors to learning and opportunity more than anything else.
Mark Twain said that "travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness...and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts." What we've found is that travel - of any sort - whether that be walking out our own front door into a different area of our town or across the country or world - can expose us to so much. It's opened up the world of unschooling to truly be for the whole family, as we learn new perspectives, approaches, occupations, facts and experiences.
This week we sat down with the whole family and shared about some of our monumental learning experiences that were spurred on by travel.
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Our first Road Trip
When our oldest daughters were 2 and 4, we embarked on our first "big deal" road trip for fun - a two week adventure up the northeast from TN to KY to OH to Canada and back! It was a big deal - to take that time off work, and to squeeze all of this in!
The first valuable lesson learned - pacing our first trip with family visits really helped us gather ourselves along the way. Before this endeavor, our only real trips were just that - visiting family. We knew what we enjoyed, knew the people, and knew what to expect. Adding in some pop-in visits with family was wonderful, and helped us go further on our road trip than if we just aimed for the final destination.
Pairing some "old" with some "new" can really help. If you're adding in a new adventure, and you have small children, pace it accordingly.
You may aim for more stops along the way to recharge, or adding in the comfort of people or places that you already know along the way.
Nathan talked on the podcast about how it was a "bungee cord" trip - we didn't just take off to the complete unknown; we had anchors of things we knew along the way so it wasn't so scary to embark on. And we had so much fun, this was when we came up with the idea to become the "Field Trip Gypsies", which is our instagram handle!
A month-long Cultural Adventure
After that two-week road trip, we spent a lot of time talking about all the things we wanted to do. And...life kept happening anyway, and before we knew it, our travels were simply visiting family, and we were facing our ten year anniversary, with three kids, now ages 2, 4 and 8, and our hearts full of "one day" dreams.
Cue another adventure in 2015, to spend a full month in Costa Rica. When we took off, Juliet had literally turned three two weeks earlier. Clearly she wouldn't remember anything. Riiiiiiiight. What we learned was full immersion and binge learning in another culture was not only pivotal for the whole family, it became this beautiful core memory for Juliet.
This adventure placed us in new experiences we never would have imagined in our little world in Nashville, TN. We had to think on our feet, roll with the punches, and course correct as needed. We learned how to work together as a family team and all be eyes and ears to observe what's around us. We got to know locals and learn about a different culture. And we definitely brushed up on our Spanish! It prompted a love of language in Clara, who is over 700 days in to Duolingo Spanish at this point, and has already gone through all of the Duolingo Latin already.
We found other ways to communicate and connect with people when language was a barrier. We learned about the seasons that are different in Costa Rica, and we loved the afternoon siestas of the rainy season. Even now, an afternoon rain immediately transports us back to that magical time in Costa Rica, sitting in the open air houses with the rain pouring all around us, free from tech and just enjoying one another.
Travel exposed us to whole different walks of life, and reminded us of our humanity, even as we may live in different cultures and see life from different perspectives.
Our Epic Road Trip
Another big adventure is the one many of you know most about - and that was our time on the road! In October of 2016, again, just weeks after Juliet turned 4, we hit the road to RV the States full-time. We started with a 90 day trial, just to see how things would roll for us. We believe in a red-light-green-light approach to many things, especially when you're embarking on something with people of all different personality styles.
While on this trip, in the first two years, we hit all of the lower 48 States. It was epic, it was intense, and it was so valuable as a family. In my course, I talk about how you can have the most incredible trip planned, yet if you are at each other's throats, it'll be miserable. On top of ensuring you are checking in with everyone and recognizing what everyone needs for recharging and more, it's paramount you really look at what the goal of the adventure is. Is it to check off all the sights? To be more connected as a family? Those two things can result in dramatically different models.
A while back I asked in my Unschooling Families group on FaceBook, "where are you on your unschooling journey", and I saved these three responses:
- I'm in the "I want to make this work but the kids and my brain are stopping me" phase.
- My kids are very little. I know what I don't want for them...and I want to learn how to achieve the options for what they really want to learn.
- We threw away the map and we are blissfully lost in the adventure.
Oh I love that third response! Sometimes we can get so set on a specific path that we miss the serendipitous opportunities that may arise along the way.
Making Room for Serendipity
Two incredible experiences we had that really highlight this were these spontaneous moments we threw into the mix. The first one was in Harrisonburg, VA, as we were in the first stretch of our travels. To be perfectly honest, at this point we were so sick and tired of the cold (we'd started in October and headed up to KY, then WV, then VA, and it was now November), and we learned that trying to time every part of our trip around visiting all the family was a stressor that was pulling us from our ultimate goals of family togetherness and being exposed to new experiences.
And yet - we had family in Harrisonburg we really wanted to see, and I knew the place was beautiful to explore. So we booked it to Virginia after a not-so-pleasant stay in WV, and stumbled upon an incredible opportunity.
There just so happens to be a fascinating bird that comes through this area - the Saw-whet Owl. To learn more about this rare species, Dr. Clair Mellinger, a biology professor at Eastern Mennonite University, initiated a Saw-whet Owl banding station in 2001. 16 years later, here we were, here for the perfect timing of visiting as he was doing his research.
To put even more icing on the cake, I happen to know Clair, as he's a distant cousin of mine! He completely enthralled us and other observers with educating us on these beautiful creatures, and letting us hold them! They are extremely docile, and it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
So sometimes, we get an opportunity we hop on. We looked at owl ears - who knew? We learned so much, and it was a truly hands-on experience. We stumbled upon crazy places, like Gillette Castle in East Haddam, CT, where we learned all about crazy architecture as well as Sherlock Holmes, and the original Meow Wolf Art Immersion experience in Santa Fe, NM. We went on the most incredible whale tour off of Plymouth Rock that resulted in seeing more sharks than whales in an experience that left the boat caption speechless with how rare and monumental it was.
Play with Boredom
And sometimes, we just got flat-out bored, and something magical happened. During our travels, Clara started getting excited about creating videos. While in Washington, we had a few weeks of down time with nothing to do. We also happened to be in a spot with minimal cell service, so all of those super "connected" things were off-limits. What to do with all our time? Well, the girls had just heard about this interesting story called "Romeo and Juliet" as we were talking about Juliet's name. Actually, she's named that because Clara named her! (Clara's top three options for baby names: Legs Magoo, Vanderbilt Gus, or Juliet. Clearly it was a hard decision).
When I was pregnant with Jules, we'd watched "Gnomeo and Juliet", and I'm sure that's what made it fresh in her mind, and, as we brought all of this up, we dug into the original Shakespeare play.
One thing led to another, and these girls launched into a major "#kickinitunschool" project: making their own version of Romeo and Juliet...
Instead of two weeks of nothing to do and mounting frustration, they created their own mission and purpose, and it became a beautiful team effort that resulted in a 30 minute movie. The amount of education lumped into this one thing - from the research, the line memorization, learning about acting, directing, videography, creating the music, editing, and teamwork...this was worth the boredom and is a priceless memory in our home.
Remember the Seasons
For five years, we've lived in this amazing adventure of RVing the States full time. Yet 2020 hit us, like everyone else, and caused us to course correct and determine if this was the path we still wanted to do. We slowed our pace and stayed more stationary. And, last year, we explored a new opportunity by volunteering with the Florida State Parks.
This wasn't anywhere near giving up our RVing life; it was a serious shift in focus. Instead of our goal being where all we'd travel to, we stayed put in one location for 4 months straight. We experienced what it's like working with state government agencies, what it's like being a volunteer for the parks, trying out real jobs that people have as well as interacting with and cleaning up after the public.
Boy did we learn a lot - about the nature of work, workplace politics, and the ups and downs of a tourist and destination place. And we fell in love with a whole different vibe and experience than what we've encountered before.
Being open to other ways of travel allowed us to create a pivot when 2020 slowed our plans down. With each new discovery came a new experience and opportunity.
This is it right here - travel isn't just some "reward" we have for all our hard work. Traveling - even just beyond our front doorstep - exposes us to things we may not yet know. It's our education to gain perspective, empathy, and insight into our humanity as a whole, and not just our simple reality in it. And we've found that, through travel, we've gotten to step into worlds completely foreign to us, like learning all about the company workflow and engagement as we toured the DropBox headquarters in Austin, TX, or staying with a family in Howell, Utah as they won grand prizes in their county fair, and taught us all about 4-H and FFA.
Every experience opens the door to conversation
The number of powerful, meaningful conversations we've had with our kids due to what we've seen and been exposed to on our adventures is incredible.
Being together all the time gives us plenty of opportunity to share our life experiences in real time - where our children watch us question, learn, pivot and create right along with them.
What adventures do you dream of? Do you have a bucket list?
Sit down with your family and create your family "bucket list" of things you think would be a blast to do.
Have fun just imagining all the crazy things you can do...and then look at one thing that really makes sense. Oftentimes we can negate a big dream because it seems so monumental, yet a tiny step in that direction is one step closer to making it happen.
You may be surprised what people want to do. Maybe it's being a tourist in your hometown or finally going to that one place or doing that one thing you've talked about forever yet never acted on. It'll always remain "one day" until you put a date on it - so what adventure will you create with your family? How will you explore and learn about what you don't yet even know? It helps to be open to serendipity, and appreciate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
- Mindset with Let's Travel Family (Episode 106)
- Travel Lessons Learned (Episode 103)
- How to keep your sanity on Travel Days (Episode 54)
- Travel Gift Ideas
- Get "10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Hitting the Road"
- Check out Ashley's "90 Day Family Road Trip" Course
- 3 Essential Secrets To Make Your "One Day" A Reality (Episode 49)
- Focus, Awe, and not waiting for "One Day" - What Is Your Word?
- Costa Rica – The How, The Why, The What (Episode 132)
- Florida State Parks Volunteer Spotlight on the Logsdon Family
- Our Experience as Camp Hosts - Ashley Interview on the Workamper Show
- Working with Families as Camp Hosts on the Park Leader Show (Logsdon Family Interview)
- Adventure is a Mindset (Episode 52)
- When Adventures Go Awry (Episode 51)
- Family Dreams – Seek Adventure Together! (Episode 48)
- Thankful for The Life I Don’t Want To Escape From (Episode 226)