Travel to See
(4th Character-Building Habit)
Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament! Let’s go. Chevy Chase, European Vacation
Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
– Mark Twain
If you’ve been following these last few weeks, I’m writing posts in reference to a book I’m reading – The Vanishing American Adult, by Ben Sasse (US Senator from Nebraska). The best part about the book is Ben and his wife’s desire to instill character-building habits in their kids, habits that “give them a fighting chance to become productive adults.”
Reviewing, here are the first 3 character-building habits:
- Overcome peer culture. Break free from your exclusive group and learn about life from others who have walked the trail.
- Develop a work ethic. Don’t protect them from hard work. Sweat is OK.
- Embrace limited consumption. Consumption isn’t the key to happiness; production is.
So here is the 4th habit – Travel to See. Here are some key points:
- Travel to experience the difference between “need” and “want.” (What’s it like to subsist.)
- Learn how to travel and to travel light. (Pick up an eighteen-pound backpack and go.)
- To understand your own culture better, it is essential to experience other cultures so that you can look back at yours.
- There’s a big difference between travel and tourism. (Travel with a purpose to learn and grow, not to just check off the block of tourist sites.)
- Travel to see, not just sightsee. (Everyone is in a hurry to see, without looking. OK kids – that is the Grand Canyon. Let’s go.)
Do you remember your first formative travel experiences? Do you remember the first time you saw the ocean or the mountains? Here is what I mean. I grew up in Oklahoma (and now have returned after a career of jumping around the globe). I don’t think I ever left the state until I was around 12, and then we took the iconic road trip to southern California. It was my parents, I and my sister Christy, and my grandmother. We were all together in a car with no AC. Actually, we had some type of plug-in water cooler that fit under the dashboard. It was my job to fill up the bucket with ice from the motel, which would keep us somewhat cool until about 9 am.
Here are a jumble of memories that I can readily pull up: seeing my very first Baskin-Robins ice cream store in El Paso; (after carefully looking over their 31 flavors, my sister and I got chocolate and vanilla); driving on I-10 through Yuma (don’t know why dad chose the hottest route); my dad almost getting into a fight with a guy in Yuma who had scared my grandmother; and finally crossing the mountains into southern California, and the temperature dropped from 115 degrees to around 75. It was like the whole state was air-conditioned.
And this is what we did and saw – Disneyland; Knott’s Berry Farm; California Angels baseball game; our first tacos; Hollywood; the beach and Pacific Ocean (just red lakes in OK). I don’t know how much my dad spent, but it was worth every penny. Yes, we did the tourist things, but it mainly opened a door to the world.
So I entered the military, and after a career of over 28 years, we lived overseas for 7 years, lived in 8 states, made 17 major home moves, and lived in 24 homes altogether. We have served in short-term missions in England, Thailand and China. I did a survey of our 3 sons and their families, and we have either lived in or visited around 47 countries.
One vivid memory was a 1990 trip our family took to Berlin and driving through what was then East Germany. We were stationed at a military post in West Germany at the time, and I remember it was like traveling from living color to black and white. We drove through Checkpoint Charlie. We were able to walk right up to the Berlin Wall and chip off some pieces (it would finally come down a few weeks later.) Our kids saw soldiers walking around with guns. They saw Soviet soldiers checking our car. It was a transformative experience.
In 2014, I was fortunate to take a couple of months off for a sabbatical. During a portion of that time, we did a road trip and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) along the Pacific Ocean in California. Each day, we wrote in journal about our experiences. We wrote in 4 headings: God, New, Fun, and Wow. I have written about this experience in an earlier blog, https://jimedd71.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/gnfw/ but one thing that stood out was all the chance conversations we had with people, which gave us some opportunities to share our faith as well as listen to their stories and show care. Kind of reminds me of Jesus’ words to the disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” We can do this intentionally (like in planned mission trips) or “as you go wherever”, be my ambassador.
Traveling to see changes your eyes, and you’re never the same. Parents, help your kids discover, learn, grow and experience history and their world.