Traditionally, most children “learn” between the white walls of a sterile classroom, school bells interrupting their thoughts, focus shifting from one subject to another, rushing between classes. Most believe schools are the only place to receive an education and don’t consider the world around them as a natural setting to learn.
But what of far off lands, exotic fragrances filling the local markets, bells chiming for the morning prayers? What of climbing a volcano, waking through thousand year historic ruins or learning the art of weaving by watching the cracked hands of an old indigenous woman? Are these not learning experiences, rich with sights, sounds, smells and feelings the lessons that stay with us?
The world around us is our finest classroom and travel transforms into the ultimate professor. Combine travel with the eagerness to learn and you are a world schooler!
For those who are unsure if they are true world schoolers here are 10 signs that you actually are, and that will help you to easily recognize other world schoolers.
1) You are far less judgmental
Most people can admit to being judgmental, having preconceived notions about people based on their looks, first impressions and maybe even stories you were told as a child or attitudes you adopted growing up. This is one of the first problems traveling inadvertently strips you of. When you step outside of the familiar and into the world, you are firstly taught that most of the preconceived notions you had about people and places are in fact far from the truth. You learn to begin to see people, regardless of dress and first impressions, not through the eyes of what you were taught to believe, but instead for the true gems that they really are.
2) You are not afraid to try new things
For world schoolers, every new thing, no matter how daunting it appears to be, is simply a new adventure or an opportunity to learn something new. The idea that you must first be comfortable with what you are about to do and the instinct that you must get to know the process first, both go out the door. You have little to no fear when it comes to trying new ideas and things.
3) You question the status quo
When you realize that all things you grew up thinking were written in stone, is not so, then you are indeed a world schooler. There is absolutely nothing that you learnt that is indisputable- everything from hygiene to tables manners is a thing that is culturally relative. The status quo does not apply across geographical boundaries. As a matter of fact, the minute you start traveling just save your self the shock and ditch the status quo. World schoolers learn early out that there is no such thing as status quo.
4) You enjoy transient relationships
When you have mastered the art of enjoying transient interactions, you are a world schooler. As a traveler, yes there are a few lasting friends you will pick up on the way, but there are others you are meant to enjoy just for the moment. This is a useful lesson that helps in relationships in all aspects of your life- it teaches you how to let go of something when it is time to do so. Most people who have learnt life lessons from traveling will often tell you they don’t stress over things and people, they live for the serendipitous encounters in life.
5) You no longer have a comfort zone
Comfort what???? You don’t have one of those. Some of the greatest things in life you will achieve and some of the greatest experiences you will have, will come from outside of your comfort zone. When You can willing step away from the notion of having a limit to the things you are comfortable with, you have become a world schooler. Comfort zones limit both your potential and experiences, so throw it overboard.
6) You are like a chameleon
You can fit in, effectively communicate and feel comfortable in just about any environment or cultural setting. If it is a formal gala you can rock the dress code, the elegance and the lingo just as easily as if you were chewing tobacco at the side of a river in the Amazonian, wearing banana leaf skirts and seashells covering just your nipple. Like a chameleon a world traveler easily adapts to any environment they are in. You might not speak the mother tongue, but you fit in just fine.
7) You are well adapted to talking to strangers
Talking to strangers is not an awkward process for you. You find that traveling removes many communication barriers. You learn new ways of effectively communicating at all levels. Be it those lengthy layovers and connections that provide you the opportunity to talk to fellow backpackers or arguing politics with that man in the business suit beside you, or even the need to learn improvised sign language with your horrible Spanish in Peru to figure out directions. Talking to strangers comes easy to you. You learn to converse and mundane conversation fillers like, “so where did you go to school?” no longer has any place in your conversational vocabulary.
8) Your senses of objectivity and empathy are well developed
Traveling puts you on the outside of a culture looking in. You are placed on the outskirts of a society and dubbed the ‘foreigner’. You are placed in a position that you have to learn about a culture from the outside through brand new mental lenses. Preconceived notions and prejudices are torn down and stripped away. A sign that you are a world schooler is when you can now see cultures objectively, and empathize with the situations that will shape both that individual and their society at large.
9) You have learned how to relax
The art of relaxing, something the majority of us never really learn to do. Traveling forces you to slow down and forces you to be still and enjoy each moment. Everything you left at home gets placed on the back burner and you stop worrying long enough to enjoy your present moment. This then flows over into all other aspects of your life. As a world schooler in the midst of the hustle and bustle you can still find time to put your feet up and relax.
10) You can survive on far less than you thought you could.
Not only survive, but have a crazy amount of fun and still get things done. The beauty of traveling is that a budget is always in play, and even then you never really end up using half the things you packed anyway. Modern day luxuries are also nice to have, but as a traveler and world schooler you learn to spend less on material things and more on traveling and having world experiences without feeling like half your life is missing.
Traditional education has its place, but world schooling is the education we choose.