Education-Based Travel: An exploration

Travel. Why do we do it? At its worst, travel is expensive, stressful, confusing and exhausting. That wicked combination can bring even the most seasoned traveler to her knees, particularly when combined with hunger, jet-lag, and inevitable (yet always unexpected) delays. While on the road and away from home, lessons abound.

Once, while in Granada, Spain, before ATMs adorned every street corner, I waited in line at a bank for 45 minutes, only to have the teller close his window for a cigarette break, which he took while seated directly in front of me just as I reached the front of the line. Another time, while in Tel Aviv, my young children became furious on our family’s first night in Israel because my husband and I were unwilling to ask for catsup to go with the fries that accompanied their falafel. In Bangkok, I jumped out of a (slowly) moving taxi because a local couple I did not know crammed themselves into the cab just as we pulled away from the curb. On a road trip through part of Mexico, my husband and I convinced ourselves that the gas gauge on our rented car was broken, and that a Pemex attendant had attempted to swindle us. Everyone who has traveled, on both domestic and international trips, can offer similarly frustrating anecdotes, and worse. And, every traveler often laughs as she tells you what she learned from those times of adversity.

My takeaway from waiting in line at the bank? Getting angry won’t change the experience, so I might as well find the patience to endure it, or leave. And the lesson for my children when they didn’t get the catsup? That was a twofer lesson: first, they can survive catsup-less fries, and second, sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches. After bailing on the taxi in Thailand, I realized that because I didn’t speak Thai, there was no way for me to know if I had actually been in danger, but that I needed to follow my gut anyway. And the moral of the gas gauge story? Just because the system is unfamiliar (in Mexico, only gas station attendants are allowed to pump gas) doesn’t mean that everyone is trying to pull a fast one. By definition, travel is educational.

But what happens when we make the connection explicit, and put experienced educators in charge of travel programs? It is an educator’s paradise, and participants of all ages enjoy a more rich experience, returning home with greater knowledge in both expected and unexpected areas. This is not just travel, but Educational Travel or Education-Based Travel, and magic happens here.

Read a recent post from Holbrook Travel, a boutique travel company that customizes every single trip they plan. Notice the connection to measurable classroom learning. Or how about the offerings from EF Tours? Their WeShare program, encourages participants to anticipate, experience, and then reflect on both the lessons of travel and the content learning they came away with. Watch this video from Road Scholar, a company offering educational adventures for participants of all ages, and try to convince me you aren’t inspired.

Comment to tell me what you think about Educational Travel / Education-Based Travel. Feel free to share similar programs that explicitly connect travel and education.