People can learn from books, from the Internet, from school, but they can also learn from experience. It is because of travelling that many of us learn so much about the world and develop new skills; simple things such as how to negotiate for cheaper prices at the market, how to cook amazing dishes, dig an irrigation channel. When we travel we also learn, and the things we learn help us greatly in life, contribute to self-improvement and help us to become more desirable assets to companies and organisations. Travel also gives us adventure. We don’t look back fondly on a visit to the supermarket but after successfully navigating the alleys of Marrakech, you get a feel for what it’s like to be an active human being again. Seeing the world provides a source of education and although it is not a registered educational institution, the school of travel is constantly welcoming applications!
At our school, we have long promoted and encouraged world travel amongst the young people who have crossed the threshold, and we have supported this ethos by offering and providing a wealth of opportunities for foreign travel, especially in Europe, North Africa and America. The earlier that young people learn the lessons that foreign travel teaches, the better, since the skills and experience that are gained can provide life-long benefits. The satisfaction that is derived from reaching the top of the next peak or helping the village children to learn new games or simply getting what you hoped you had ordered at a restaurant in Marrakech, all allow access to skills you often didn’t know you had.
One of the biggest challenges that our young people face is having the courage to step outside their comfort zone. We live in a small seaside town, in rural mid-west Wales, which is a far cry from the densely-packed, walled city of Marrakech, Morocco, where its inhabitants barely pause for breath and the souks are constantly alive and buzzing. Nevertheless, for over 12 years we have been offering this to our pupils, as part of an illuminating annual visit to Morocco and Schools Worldwide have organized and provided such an amazing itinerary for the young people, rich in experiences and opportunities for self-development and for stepping outside their established comfort zone.
At home with their families, in a community where everyone pretty well knows everyone, we all become comfortable with our daily roles and the very thought of stepping out of them can seem scary and very uncomfortable. The irony is, that we tend to learn the most in uncomfortable, unfamiliar situations. In our daily lives we know how to respond to people and our surroundings but with new people and in a different environment, where the culture and values are in stark contrast to our own, that familiarity disappears and so does our confidence and feeling of security. Our message to all young people is:
Embrace the challenge and the discomfort because it will help to make you a more competent, knowledgeable and confident person; it will help you grow!
Foreign travel has also opened the eyes of our youngsters, to the importance of being culturally sensitive in a globalising world. As well as being fascinating, being aware of the cultural values of the country you find yourself in, also helps us to understand a little better some international issues and conflicts. It is a significant skill to be able to see where someone else is coming from, to see things from a new or different perspective. The confidence and cultural sensitivity that travelling helps us to develop, can be used effectively to also help us to be successful.
Before I lived abroad, I never really understood or appreciated the beauty of becoming proficient in the language of another nation. Many would argue that, living in Britain, we don’t need to know another language. However, living in Wales, many of us do appreciate the value of being at least bilingual and are well used to encouraging young people to make the most of the opportunities which present themselves, to become equally fluent in both Welsh and English. Once you travel abroad you realise that almost everyone you meet, speaks at least two languages to a good standard. Even on a relatively short visit to the Atlas Mountains, in the company of Berbers (who, like the Welsh people, have also been successful in preserving their own language) our youngsters have always returned with a pride in being able to teach us some words and phrases that they have learned from their conversations with the Berbers and which are always accompanied by fascinating stories of how the people live their lives.
This leads me to another useful benefit of travel; networking. Even if you just need a sofa to kip on in a country that you love, then you should never underestimate the value of making friends and contacts wherever you go. People are usually very friendly and enjoy telling ‘tourists’ about their home and their way of life. This networking makes the world seem much smaller and will also make us feel better connected wherever we go.
The Schools Worldwide team has most definitely helped us to provide our learners with memorable and infinitely beneficial experiences through ‘inspirational’ and ‘exotic cultural encounters’ on their expeditions through the Atlas Mountains and during their time in ‘the colourful and noisy city of Marrakech’, which will continue to provoke discussion and jovial recollections for the rest of their days. It is experiences such as these which mould and inspire our young people and which will encourage them to thrive and to make a difference.