I don't exactly recall when I first heard the the German aphorism 'Reisen Bildet', which is generally translated as 'Travel educates the mind'. I know that it was sometime in my teens, when I had not yet sated my wanderlust.
The saying came up again during breakfast in Barcelona early last month while sitting next to a lovely German couple. They struck up a conversation with our daughters, and asked them why they were not in school as they should be this time of year. My eldest daughter responded that travel was it's own sort of education.
And it really is. Think about the major events of your life, and how many of those were experiential versus 'I acquired new stuff''? I think about the 30+ years I planned to purchase my first Porsche, and pick it up from the factory. I yearned for that day. When it finally came, timed to coincide with our honeymoon in Europe, it was the experience of picking up the car and the unbelievable trip around Europe that followed that are permanent imprints on my memory and life, long after the car has made it's exit.
In the last month or so, our daughters have watched the sunset and sunrise over the Atlantic, experienced cultures and history on a level that were new even to a veteran traveler like myself, and have noticeably changed as a result. They view the world through a different lens than they had at the end of October. Their worldview (and culinary tastes) have expanded far beyond anything I could have imagined at 30, much less 20 or 10 years old. While her classmates were in a classroom learning about Christopher Columbus in preparation for American Thanksgiving, Emma was standing in the very room in the Alhambra where Isabella gave Columbus his final permission (and monies) to launch the journey.
I received a letter from Emma's school this weekend with a note saying that she had been absent for over 14 days this school year. She is ahead on her homework (she does homework diligently whilst traveling), and is in the top of her class, however they are legally obligated to track her attendance and report us to the proper authorities should it exceed a certain number.
What do you think the odds are that these 'proper authorities' know any German aphorisms?